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Ultrastructure-function properties of central synapses: characterizing synaptic transmission at nanoscale and millisecond-order resolution

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, April 17, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Neurons communicate by the release of transmitter-containing vesicles at presynaptic terminals. Our recent work suggests that properties of vesicle populations (their size, physical positioning in the terminal, docking characteristics and kinetics of use and retrieval) are key substrates for setting and storing synaptic performance changes. Deciphering this synaptic vesicle ‘code’ is therefore of significant interest - relevant to synaptic plasticity and disease-related synaptic dysfunction - but remains poorly understood. We wish to recruit a PhD candidate to tackle this exciting issue, combining powerful imaging methods alongside approaches for labelling functional vesicle pools for electron microscopy. In particular, we will use the latest high-pressure freezing (HPF) technology (LEICA-EM-ICE) to instantaneously ‘snapshot’ synapses before and during signalling, allowing us to reveal key moments in neurotransmission with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution. We will also exploit the latest automated serial EM approaches (eg. FIBSEM, 3VIEW) to reveal how synaptic properties are organized through tissue volumes. Together these approaches will allow us to elucidate key parameters that set synaptic vesicle properties and determine how these contribute to the tuning of synaptic strength. Our focus will be on central circuits in hippocampus and visual cortex. This project will suit a student with good technical skills and an interest in neuroscience and computation. The successful applicant will join Sussex Neuroscience, a consortium of ~50 research groups carrying out research on all aspects of brain function, providing a stimulating and supportive training environment. Further information about our research can be obtained from our website at

Rey et al. (2020) Cell Rep. 30:2006-2017
Rey et al. (2015) Nature Comms 6:8043
Marra et al. (2012) Neuron 76:579-89

For enquiries about the project contact Professor Kevin Staras

Funding Notes

Funding covers Home / EU tuition fees and a stipend at standard UKRI rates.

Ideal candidates will have a strong background in neuroscience and cell biology. Eligible candidates will have recently received an MSc and/or a First or high 2:1 BSc in a relevant subject. Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section.


How to apply:
Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest and two academic references. On the application system select – PhD Neuroscience

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Sussex in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.61

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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