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White Rose BBSRC DTP studentship: Using structural biology to understand the formation of cilia, key organelles involved in inherited disorders, viral infections and cancer


   Faculty of Biological Sciences


Leeds United Kingdom Cancer Biology Cell Biology Structural Biology

About the Project

What do COVID-19, cancer, and inherited disorders have in common? They all target cilia, essential cellular organelles that play key roles in human health and disease. The cilia that line the airways are targeted by respiratory viruses, whilst the cilia of tumour cells play important roles in cancer progression. Furthermore, mutations that impair cilia cause inherited disorders such as Joubert syndrome, characterized by blindness, kidney failure, central nervous system malformations, obesity and infertility. CEP290 is the largest protein in cilia and plays essential roles in the formation and maintenance of ciliary membranes. Although CEP290 is a promising gene therapy target, this potential is currently limited by a severe lack of knowledge about CEP290 molecular function.

In this project you will gain the first mechanistic insights into how CEP290 works at the molecular level, how this contributes to cilium function, and how these are affected by disease-causing mutations. You will use cutting-edge structural biology techniques such as X-ray crystallography, cryo EM and high-speed atomic force microscopy in combination with cell biology approaches. This will provide a major step forward in our understanding of the cilium, a universal organelle of central importance to fundamental biology, human health and disease.

Funding Note

This studentship is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. (https://www.whiterose-mechanisticbiology-dtp.ac.uk/). Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,609 for 2021/22 starts. Awards increase every year, typically with inflation).

UK tuition fees (Around £4,500 per year)

Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG)

Conference and Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) allowances

We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from inside and outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.

Not all projects will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process.

How to apply

Applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).

To help us identify that you are applying for this studentship project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert
  • For source of funding please state you are applying for a White Rose BBSRC DTP funded studentship

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