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Understanding psychiatric outcomes in children born with cleft lip and/or palate using genetics

Faculty of Health Sciences

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Dr E Stergiakouli No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This multidisciplinary project will integrate expertise across cleft, genetic epidemiology, psychiatry, and epidemiology. The candidate will have the opportunity to develop into one of few experts globally with in depth understanding across these fields. The project will include training in advanced epidemiology, genetic epidemiology, bioinformatics and a mini-MD in the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff. The PhD will result in high impact journal articles, and results being presented at national/international meetings and conferences.

Cleft of the lip and/or palate is a common birth defect worldwide and occurs at a rate of one in 650 live births in the UK. Being born with cleft places a significant burden on children, their families and the health system as they require surgery (multiple times depending on cleft type), and other interventions to improve appearance, speech, hearing, dentition and other adverse outcomes. They are also at increased risk of psychological, psychiatric and cognitive problems [1]. The UK-based Cleft Collective is a unique resource comprising the world’s largest cohort study of individuals affected by cleft and their families [2]. Rich longitudinal information is collected on the children’s mental health, parental, prenatal and early life factors as well as genetic data, providing unique opportunities to study genetic as well as environmental influences on risk of development of mental health conditions over time.

The PhD project will provide the first detailed description of neurodevelopmental and mental health outcomes in children with cleft and examine the contributions of genetic and environmental factors. We will use two unique genetically informative clinical cohorts of children; the University of Bristol Cleft Collective and the Cardiff University longitudinal ExperiencCes of people witH cOpy number variants (ECHO) study. Control samples will consist of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALPSAC) and the Millennium cohort which are deeply-phenotyped cohorts of typically developing children. [1] doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2018.06.024 [2]

Full project details can be found here:

Candidate requirements:
Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in genetics, mental health, psychology, statistics, epidemiology or other biomedical subject. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

How to apply
Student applications can be made via the GW4 BioMed website: The closing date for applications is 5pm on Monday, 23rd November 2020. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an informal interview (over the phone, on Skype or Zoom) with the lead supervisor (Dr Evie Stergiakouli) between Monday 4th and Friday 15th January 20201. The formal interview will be held virtually on 20-21 January 2021.

Funding Notes

The studentship is based at the Bristol Medical School and the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU). For further information please see the websites below.

A GW4 BioMed MRC DTP studentship includes full tuition fees at the UK/Home rate, a stipend at the minimum UKRI rate (£15,285 for 20/21), a Research & Training Support Grant (RTSG) valued between £2,000-£5,000 per year and £300 annual travel and conference grant based on a 3.5-year full-time studentship. These funding arrangements will be adjusted pro-rata for part-time studentships.
The GW4 BioMed MRC DTP studentships are available to UK, EU and International applicants. International students (including EU applicants) are now eligible to apply for these studentships but should note that they may have to pay the difference between the home UKRI fee and the International student fee.

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