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The impact of carbon monoxide on the human brain

Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre

About the Project

We are looking for a PhD candidate to work on an exciting project using medical imaging to study the human brain.

Imaging is at the forefront of medical research. In this project, you will be using two powerful types of imaging – magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and transcranial Doppler ultrasound - to investigate how carbon monoxide exposures affect the human brain. This is an excellent opportunity to learn how to use both of these imaging techniques and receive training in data analysis, coding, and laboratory methods.

Most people are exposed to carbon monoxide every day through air pollution. We know that carbon monoxide in air pollution is linked to health conditions such as dementia and stroke at a population level. We also know that moderate exposure in the laboratory can affect brain function and brain blood flow (1). However, we do not yet know what the low levels of carbon monoxide found in the normal air that we breathe do to our brains. Finding this out will be an important step towards understanding why and how carbon monoxide can cause disease, and how it may be avoided or treated.

To investigate this, you will study the effect of these very low ‘normal’ levels of carbon monoxide exposure on healthy human volunteers. You will test if acute exposure to pollution-level carbon monoxide changes human brain function and blood circulation, and if its effect is linked to oxidative stress and nitric oxide levels (from blood samples). You will also study what happens in the brains of people who have been exposed to carbon monoxide long-term (smokers), what changes if we stop the exposure, and if we can use nitric oxide to manipulate the effect of carbon monoxide on the brain. Together, these studies will answer how pollution-level carbon monoxide changes brain physiology and if it can be reversed or treated. The project is expected to produce high-quality data suitable for publication in leading journals in the field and presentation at national or international conferences.

The candidate will be based in the Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre (BMRC, Sheffield Hallam University), and will be supervised by Dr Mari Herigstad (BMRC) and co-supervised by Dr Caroline Dalton (BMRC) and Dr Deborah Jarvis (Academic Unit of Radiology, University of Sheffield).

Further information on the studentships and how to apply can be found here: BMRC GTA Studentships

The Biomolecular Research Centre conducts research activity in several key areas:

• Disease mechanisms

• Bioanalytical Science

• Molecular Microbiology

• Chemistry

• Biomaterials

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 staff from the BMRC were returned in the Biological Sciences unit of assessment (UoA5) with 46 per cent of our research being rated as world leading or internationally excellent (4* or 3*).

In 2012 the BMRC was awarded an Athena SWAN Silver Award, which was renewed in 2016 then again in 2019, for 3 years. Athena SWAN is a charter to advance women’s careers in STEM subjects. The award recognises and celebrates good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in STEM subject areas within higher education.

As a research centre we offer a vibrant community in which postgraduate researchers work closely with academics to develop their knowledge and expertise. We have a community of approximately 45 postgraduate students in BMRC who are at the heart of contributing to our research output. All doctoral students are supported by a comprehensive programme of doctoral training and encouraged to present their research at national and international conferences.

To apply, or for queries regarding the application process and eligibility, please contact . For specific details about the project or for help with your proposal contact

To view the GTA homepage with full details of the studentship please follow this link:

Funding Notes

This GTA studentship provides UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21) for 3.5 years. International applicants please note that the shortfall between the Home and Overseas fee must be covered by the student.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate. You should have good communication, organisation and interpersonal skills, and have (or expect to achieve) a minimum 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a life science (medical or non-medical subjects) or imaging-related field. Experience with human/medical research, participant recruitment or any of the techniques mentioned above is valuable, but not essential, as training will be provided.

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