PhD Studentship in Biomedical Sciences

A Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol PhD Studentship in the Biomedical Sciences is available tenable from October 1st 2012. An aim of the scheme is to enable academics at the start of their career to qualify as credible applicants for Welsh medium academic posts. The emphasis is on researching for a PhD qualification, but training in learning and teaching is also an essential part of the scheme.

The PhD research will be in an area of laboratory-based biological science directly relevant to human health, or employing an appropriate model system.

The principal supervisor will be drawn from the staff of the School of Biological Sciences at BU: see ( for details of potential supervisors and their research interests) and the project may involve collaboration with staff from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

Final decisions over the nature of the project will be made by the School research committee, in consultation with the successful applicant.

Short-listed projects are listed below:

The studentships will cover fees and a maintenance allowance for 4 years (candidates without an M Level degree) or 3 years (candidates with an M Level Degree).
A further year will be funded during which the successful candidate will be an employed member of staff to undertake teaching duties in the field of Biomedicine through the medium of Welsh.

Applicants must have a first or upper second-class honours degree in Biomedicine and/or an MSc in similar or related subjects. The ability to communicate verbally and in writing in the Welsh language is essential.

Informal enquiries: To Professor A D Tomos. Tel: 01248 382362. Email:

Application:  By curriculum vitae (including the name and contact details of TWO referees) and a covering letter to: Prof A D Tomos, School of Biological Sciences, Thoday Building, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW.

Deadline: 15 April 2012.

Full details of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol Research Scholarships Scheme 2012/13 here:

Deciphering the genetic code of neuronal circuit formation

Supervisor: Dr Torsten Bossing

Neurons have to recognize their targets and form synapses with it to create neuronal networks. Neuronal networks form the basis of any behaviour, from simple movements to self-awareness. The analysis of RNA expressed in a single neuron, its transcriptome, at the time when the neuron recognizes its target, will help us to understand how neuronal networks are formed and may result in new models to study the origin and treatment of human mental disorders. To achieve this goal, we remove single identified neurons from living Drosophila embryos shortly before and after synapse formation. The loss of function of transcripts, which are expressed differentially and have orthologues in vertebrates, will be studied in mutant backgrounds or by depletion of RNA using RNA interference. The gain of function will be studied by generating expression constructs and transgenic animals. We use various genetic, immunohistochemical or morphological techniques to label small subsets of neurons and follow their development in the loss- or gain-of function in the embryonic CNS. In addition, depletion or ectopic expression of transcripts throughout the CNS will allow us to study larval movements during hatching, the first movement controlled by neural networks formed in the embryo. In summary, we combine the old but rare skill of micromanipulation with new sequencing analysis techniques, bioinformatic tools, modern genetics and software development to get a unique insight into the generation of neuronal circuits, which drive movement. The functional analysis of a list of transcripts with expression changes around synaptogenesis will help scientists to understand how neuronal circuits are formed.

An analysis of transcripts with human orthologues may result in new models to study origin and treatment of human neural diseases.

We recently have been awarded a Royal Society Research Grant for this project, which will help to cover most of the research expenses.

Candidates should have at least an upper second degree, an interest in molecular biology, micromanipulation, advanced microscopy and some basic knowledge in the development and function of the central nervous system.

Pdx genes in pancreas development and function

Supervisor: Dr John Mulley

The Pdx1 (Pancreas and duodenal homeobox 1) gene is well known to be important for the correct formation of the pancreas during embryonic development and for the regulation of insulin production in the adult pancreas. This gene has been implicated in a number of human diseases including pancreatic agenesis (failure of the pancreas to form), Diabetes Mellitus Type II and Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young, Type IV (MODY4). The Pdx1 gene is being investigated for its ability to convert other types of cells into insulin-producing cells for transplantation and as a target for drugs to control insulin production. Whilst humans have only one Pdx gene (Pdx1), all vertebrate animals used to have two copies (Pdx1 and Pdx2), one of which has been lost independently in the lineages leading to fish (including animal models such as the zebrafish) and again in the lineage leading to ourselves (a group which also contains common animal models such as frogs, birds and mice). The development and function of the pancreas is therefore independently derived in these groups, complicating comparisons between them.

The student will investigate the role of Pdx2 in pancreas development and function (particularly regulation of insulin gene expression) using quantitative PCR, analyses of protein:protein and protein:DNA interactions and RNA-seq using next-generation sequencing technology to shed light on the role of this gene and to provide a fundamental insight into the different mechanisms that exist to make functional (insulin-producing) pancreas tissue.
Brachyury in colorectal cancer

Supervisor: Dr Jane Wakeman

Colorectal cancer is one of the main causes of cancer related deaths in the western world. In order to understand this disease, and how we can most effectively treat it, we must have an in depth understanding of the molecular events which drive the formation and subsequent spread (metastasis) of these tumours. Furthermore, knowledge of the molecular components involved in the development and differentiation of the specialized cell types which form the gut is a fundamental start point of our understanding of how these events go awry in the formation of cancer.

The overall aim of this project is to determine the role of a gene known as Brachyury which is aberrantly expressed in cancer cells. In normal cells, this gene is only expressed during development and wound healing, but is not normally present in adult cells. We will determine the role of Brachyury in cell differentiation in the developing colonic crypt and how alterations in this process might lead to cancer.

We will use the following techniques:
•    Molecular biological techniques such as cloning, PCR, siRNA knockdown
•    Mammalian cell tissue culture
•    We will establish the growth of in vitro gut like structures (organoids) from human embryo stem (ES) cells to recapitulate the growth and differentiation of colonic crypts.
•    Immunohistochemistry (IHC) in normal and diseased tissue.

Publication date: 10 March 2012