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WR DTP project: ‘Eating habits matter’ - Cargo-dependent phagocytosis orchestrates cellular memory and physiology.

Department of Biology

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Dr I Kourtzelis , Dr M van der Woude No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
York United Kingdom Cell Biology Immunology Microbiology

About the Project

Specific recognition and removal of ‘foreign’ materials through phagocytosis represent fundamental processes that maintain tissue integrity and shape cellular physiology. Interactions between phagocytic receptors and specific ligands coordinate phagocytosis. Of note, phagocytic cells switch their phenotype including alterations at cellular metabolism. Despite major advances in recognition and engulfment processes during phagocytosis, the role of specific types of cargo in the differential regulation of phagocyte activity and their impact in the induction of phagocytosis-dependent memory are currently unknown. In accordance with the concept that ‘you are what you eat’, this project aims to investigate whether cargo-dependent phagocytosis induces specific type of alterations in phagocyte activity and whether cell behaviour/memory is driven by its ‘diet’. To this end, you will work on primary cell cultures that will be exposed to different phagocytic signals. You will assess phagocytosis and phagocyte cell function. You will have access to cutting-edge live cell imaging equipment, including computational image analysis, allowing real time monitoring of phagocytosis and alterations in cell architecture. Bioinformatic analysis of the transcriptomic profile of phagocytic cells will allow characterization of molecular networks governing phagocytic activity. Cell surface phenotyping including cell activation markers will be performed using FACS. Given the central role of metabolism in phagocytosis, bioenergetic analysis (extracellular flux) in phagocytic cells under the outlined experimental conditions will be determined. The proposed research will follow an integrated approach that will enable the identification of rules and mechanisms that govern phagocytosis-dependent memory.

Importantly, stimulating research environment and synergism in labs of supervisors provide a critical mass for maximum support of the student. Supervisors give emphasis in student mentoring and encourage broader skill development. Applicants should be cellular biology and immunology enthusiasts and should be motivated to perform live cell imaging approaches.

The White Rose DTP in Mechanistic Biology is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC WR DTP in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and 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.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

START DATE: 1st October 2021
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