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Understanding the relationship between type 2 diabetes, genetics and obesity to improve patient outcomes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Brown
    Prof E Pearson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a common metabolic disease, characterised by high blood sugar, which can lead to severe medical complications. The causes of T2D are complicated, involving a mix of genetic and environmental factors. On the environmental side, obesity is the major causal risk factor for developing T2D. The aim of this studentship is to combine our knowledge of genetic factors that increase risk of T2D with how obesity affects cellular phenotypes in different tissues to produce better genetic models of the disease. Using transcriptomic, metabolite and proteomic data from multiple tissues, with genotype information, the successful candidate will identify genomic regions affected by obesity in multiple tissues, and use statistical methods to quantify their predictive value for disease development. The successful candidate will mainly, but not exclusively, use data from two diabetes cohorts, one where a majority of individuals were obese at time of diagnosis and one where this is a minority.

Requirements

The candidate should have:
A strong desire to work on disease related questions using high dimensional data and computational methods.
A willingness to interact with people from many specialities, including biologists, clinicians, computer scientists and statisticians.
Keenness to present their research findings within consortia and at international meetings.

Some background in the following areas would be an advantage, but are not necessary, as attaining a level of fluency in these areas is expected over the course of the PhD:

Genetics of gene expression, protein levels or Type II diabetes.
Computer programming with either high or low level languages.
Statistics and knowledge of a statistical programming language.

Benefits of pursuing a PhD in the University of Dundee
The University of Dundee aims to become Scotland’s leading University in all it chooses to do and be recognised internationally for the quality of our graduates and the impact of our research. These research and teaching strengths have led to the University being named as Scottish University of the Year in both 2016 and 2017 in The Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide, and named the 16th best university in the world under 50 years old (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 150 under 50 2016). The “thriving, creative” city of Dundee was rated one of the best places in Europe to visit by Lonely Planet (2018). Dundee, the Lonely Planet said, deserves its place in the top ten because of its head-turning transformation and “nationally important museums and attractions”.

Future prospects
This project involves the analysis of a number of different data types, all with their own challenges. The student will become experienced in building models of disease risk from genetic data, and correctly interpreting and communicating the results. These will become crucial skills within the NHS as the use of genetic data in clinical practice becomes routine. The expression and molecular datasets used in this project are high dimensional, with complex structure between genes and across tissues. The ability to extract patterns from these types of data should be highly valuable to the student, no matter what field they choose to subsequently enter. Finally, many of the methods we will apply and develop are currently being incorporated into the drug development pipelines of major pharmaceutical companies. This means that the student would also be ideally placed to enter this industry. In short, this studentship would form an ideal training ground for someone who wants to subsequently continue working in the field of healthcare, whether that lies within the pharmaceutical industry, in genetic consultancy within the NHS, or in data analysis roles in industry or academia.

Apply
Applicants wishing to apply should submit a one-page covering letter which describes your background, your reasons for applying, and your future career aspirations and also a full CV and contact details for two referees to Dr. Andrew Brown, [Email Address Removed].

Start Date
1/10/2019

Funding Notes

This is a 3 year fully-funded PhD studentship which covers fees, a stipend at Research Councils level (£15,009 for 2019/2020) and a budget for consumables and travel.

For an informal discussion about this position, please contact Dr Andrew Brown, [Email Address Removed].

References

Brown et al. Predicting causal variants affecting expression using whole genome sequence and RNA-seq from multiple human tissues. Nature genetics, 2017.
The GTEx Consortium. Genetic effects on gene expression across 44 human tissues. Nature, 2017.
Brown et al. Genetic interactions affecting human gene expression identified by variance association mapping. eLife, 2014.



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