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The biophysical role of the tumour microenvironment in pancreatic cancer progression

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Stephen Thorpe
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This research project will address the biophysical role of the tumour microenvironment in pancreatic cancer progression. Despite its relatively low prevalence, pancreatic cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer-related mortality and will claim approx. 130,000 European lives this year. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common form, characteristically presents a dense fibrous tumour-associated stroma which is much stiffer than the surrounding pancreas. This dense stiff stroma promotes cancer aggression and metastasis. Therapeutic approaches toward disrupting the stroma in pancreatic cancer have so far been unsuccessful. This interdisciplinary project will assess the role of the fibrous stroma in the biophysical regulation of cancer cell behaviour using in vitro and in vivo pancreatic cancer models alongside primary tumour tissue.

This project provides the opportunity to acquire extensive expertise in a wide range of cutting-edge bioengineering and cell biology techniques while developing models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Techniques used in this project will include some or all of the following: biomaterials development, biophysical characterisation, 3D cell culture, live cell imaging, confocal microscopy/immunofluorescence, RNA extraction and analysis, western blotting, gene editing, immunohistochemistry, and in vivo mouse models. This project will be based in the UCD Conway Institute

The successful candidate will also gain invaluable skills and experience as a Medical Trainee in Human Anatomy, teaching functional and clinical anatomy to medical and allied health students. The trainee will be enrolled onto the UCD School of Medicine Translational Research programme which includes some taught elements and transferrable skills training, providing an excellent foundation for a research career.

Applicant Requirements
• Minimum of an Upper Second-Class Honours (2.1) Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, in anatomy, medicine, biomedical science, biomedical engineering, materials science, biophysics, or a related discipline. For conversion of grades, see:
• Excellent written and oral communication skills and a high level of competence in the English language.
• Competence in Anatomy.
• Basic laboratory skills.
• Ability to work independently, to take initiative and discuss/develop and communicate own ideas.

• Experience in any of the following research areas: biomaterials, 3D cell/organoid culture, in vivo mouse models, and/or atomic force microscopy.
• Anatomy experience or prior clinical training.

Further Information
UCD Anatomy advertisement:

Informal enquiries
For any enquiries relating to project or applicant requirements, please contact Dr Stephen Thorpe, Assistant Professor in Anatomy, UCD School of Medicine, UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular & Biomedical Research, University College Dublin, Ireland. ([Email Address Removed])

Application Details
To apply: Send (1) a full CV, (2) a covering letter outlining your interest in both the project area and anatomy detailing any relevant experience, and (3) the names and contact details of two referees, to Mr Steven Masterton ([Email Address Removed]). Please indicate the project title of the studentship in your cover letter. Closing Date: Monday 4th May 2020 (5 pm).

Funding Notes

This is a PhD or MD/MCh studentship. The one year (or possible extension for the duration of research degree) full-time scholarship programme offers an €18,000 tax-free stipend along with payment of 100% of student EU fees. Scholarships are reviewed on an annual basis and may be extended based on satisfactory progression in teaching and research. Successful candidates will undertake a graduate research degree while gaining skills and experience teaching functional and clinical anatomy to medical and allied health students.

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