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Exploring the link between signalling and mechanics with optogenetics in Cell monolayers

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  • Full or part time
    Dr G Charras
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We are inviting applications for a 3-year interdisciplinary studentship in the general area of Cell Biology and Biophysics to commence in September 2016. The student will be physically based within the state-of-the-art London Centre for Nanotechnology on UCL’s Bloomsbury Cell biology and Cell Biophysics infrastructure. Strong collaborative links with the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology at UCL and the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University will make this project truly multi-disciplinary.

The proposed research project aims at understanding the link between signaling and the mechanical properties of epithelial monolayers. The project will use live cell imaging, optogenetics, molecular cell biology techniques, and custom-designed mechanical testing equipment.

Epithelial monolayers are amongst the simplest tissues in the body, yet they play fundamental roles in adult tissues, where they act as physical and mechanical barriers to separate the internal environment from the external environment, and in development, when the intrinsic forces they generate drive morphogenesis. During development, tissue morphogenesis arises from the combination of a variety of individual cell behaviours such as oriented cell division, apical contraction, and cell intercalation. Similar cellular-scale behaviours also underlie the adaptation of tissues to changes in their mechanical environment. However, little is known about how molecular scale organisation and dynamics dictate tissue-scale mechanical properties and adaptation. We propose to explore these questions using optogenetic tools to control signalling. Changes in mechanics will be detected using a novel mechanical testing system.

We are in search of a student to work towards the goals of this project. Candidates should have a high grade point average Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in subjects such as Molecular Cell Biology, Biophysics, Physics, or Engineering. This project involves a significant experimental component and previous experimental research experience relevant to the research project is desirable.

The stipend is £18000/pa and tuition fees will be covered. Funding is available to UK and EEA candidates.

Suitably qualified candidates interested in performing cutting edge research in a dynamic multidisciplinary scientific environment in order to understand tissue mechanics from the bottom-up should send their CV to Dr Guillaume Charras ([email protected]).


Harris A, Peter L, Bellis J, Baum B, Kabla A, Charras G. “Characterising the mechanics of cell monolayers”, PNAS, 2012 Oct 9;109(41):16449-54.

Wyatt T, Harris A, Lam M, Bellis J, Dimitricapoulos A, Chen Q, Kabla A, Charras G*, Baum B*. “The emergence of homeostatic packing and cell stress dissipation through divisions oriented along the cell long axis”, PNAS,May 5;112(18):5726-31. * corresponding authors

Harris A, Bellis J, Khalilgharibi N, Wyatt T, Baum B, Kabla A, Charras G. “Generating suspended monolayers for mechanobiological studies”, Nature Protocols, 12:2516-2530, (2013).

Harris A, Daeden A, Charras G. “Formation of adherens junctions leads to the emergence of a tissue-level tension in epithelial monolayers”, J Cell Sci, 127:2507-17 (2014).

Kuipers D, Mehonic A, Kajita M, Peter L, Fujita Y, Duke T, Charras G*, Gale J*. “Epithelial repair is a two-stage process driven first by dying cells and then by their neighbours”, J Cell Sci, 127(Pt 6):1229-41, (2014). * corresponding authors

How good is research at University College London in Biological Sciences?
(joint submission with Birkbeck College)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 172.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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