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Understanding the function of NFXL1: a transcription factor implicated in speech and language development.

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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Dr D Newbury , Dr B Jennings No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Oxford Brookes University
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences,
Department of Biomedical and Medical Sciences

3 Year, full-time PhD studentship

Project title: Understanding the function of NFXL1: a transcription factor implicated in speech and language development.

Eligibility: Home UK/EU and International students
Closing date: 11 December 2020
Start date: September 2021
Bursary p.a.: Bursary equivalent to UKRI national minimum stipend plus fees (2020/21 bursary rate is £15, 285)
University fees and bench fees at the UK rate will be met by the University for the 3 years of the Studentship.
Supervisors: Dr Dianne Newbury ([Email Address Removed]), Dr Barbara Jennings, Prof Esther Becker
Fees: Tuition fees up to UK level will be paid by the University. Any EU and international students awarded the studentship would need to cover the difference between international, EU and UK fees. Please note, fees increase by 4% annually.


Language acquisition is a critical developmental milestone that is related to educational outcomes and mental well-being. Yet, we understand surprisingly little about how the brain learns and processes language. Recently, a number of genes have been identified that are mutated in language disorders (Deriziotis & Fisher 2017). Many of these encode transcription factors and are highly expressed in the cerebellum; a key brain region for language and cognition (Becker & Stoodley, 2013). This PhD will focus on one specific gene, NFXL1. A coding variant in NFXL1 was previously shown to be associated with language disorder in an isolated population on the Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile (Villanueva et al., 2015, Nudel, 2016). The NFXL1 protein is a conserved transcription factor but its potential targets and cellular function are unknown.
You will work with a multi-disciplinary team from Oxford Brookes University, including our Centre for Functional Genomics, and Oxford University to generate a multi-dimensional picture of NFXL1 in early brain development. Dianne Newbury will supervise bioinformatic analyses of the temporal and spatial expression of NFXL1 in developing brain. Barbara Jennings will direct functional studies in Drosophila, taking advantage of exiting genetic tools to allow a lifespan view from neurogenesis through to adulthood. Esther Becker will lead functional investigations in the developing mouse cerebellum providing mammalian insights at the organism and cellular level.
This project will provide training in essential molecular techniques; cell culture, PCR, cloning, in situ hybridization, quantitative PCR and immunostaining, and the application of a wide range of cutting-edge techniques including RNAi, CRISPR and RNAscope.

Deriziotis P & Fisher SE (2017). DOI:10.1016/j.tig.2017.07.002
Becker EB & Stoodley C (2013). DOI:10.1016/B978-0-12-418700-9.00001-0
Villanueva P, et al (2015). DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004925

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree from a Higher Education Institution in the UK or acceptable equivalent qualification in biological science or related discipline. EU Applicants must have a valid IELTS Academic test certificate (or equivalent) with an overall minimum score of 7.0 and no score below 6.0 issued in the last 2 years by an approved test centre.

How to apply:
Applications should be sent to [Email Address Removed] and should include the following application form:
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