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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

PhD opportunities

BSMS > Postgraduate > Research degrees > PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities

All our current PhD opportunites are listed on this page. 

In order to apply, please visit the University of Brighton website by clicking the “Apply Now” link below, and select “Doctoral College” as the School, and “Medicine” as the keyword. You should then select the project that you wish to apply for. There is no need to supply your own research proposal, unless you are submitting a speculative application. 

Apply for your PHD here >

If you are applying for a specific project that is advertised below, there is no need to write a research proposal. Simply give the details provided in the advertisement in the Research Proposal section of the online application form.

If you require entry clearance to study in the UK, please see the ATAS information.

BACKGROUND IMAGE FOR PANEL

Non-tuberculous mycobacteria: From water source to lung

An exciting collaborative research project between the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Department of Global Health and Infection at the University of Sussex. Non-tuberculosis mycobacterial (NTM) infections are resistant to many antimicrobials, are difficult to treat and are on the rise in the UK and across the globe. NTM have traditionally been associated with conditions of host impaired immunity meaning that hospitals and other healthcare facilities are high-risk environments. Nosocomial cases have become increasingly prevalent yet, an increased incidence of NTM infections in the otherwise healthy population has also been observed, highlighting an increasing public health concern.

NTM disease most often affects the lungs and the inhalation of particles small enough to enter the alveoli is a likely route of transmission. Numerous case reports of NTM pulmonary disease have implicated water as the source of infection. The aerosolization of NTM (e.g. through showerheads) may represent a significant risk factor for onward transmission. However, given the hypothesis that aerosols are a primary route of exposure, little is known about how exposure correlates with risk of infection.

In high-resource countries, disinfection of the public water supply has played a major role in reducing the incidence of waterborne disease. However, NTM are relatively resistant to chlorine and other water treatment strategies and their ability to attach to environmental surfaces exacerbates their tolerance to disinfection. This selective advantage allows NTM to survive, persist and colonise building water systems highlighting an urgent need to understand which water treatment strategies are effective in minimising risk of infection.

This project will bring together microbiology, biofilm-modelling, aerobiology, and bacterial transcriptomics to identify environmental factors that influence the presence of NTM in building water systems and to better understand how the adaptations of NTM drive their survival, transmission and control. 

Supervisory Team

This project is a collaboration between the Biosafety, Air and Water Microbiology Group and the Drug Discovery Group, at UKHSA, and the Waddell lab (www.bsms.ac.uk/dr-simon-waddell) at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

The supervisory team brings together a range of complementary skills to benefit the project. At UKHSA, there is substantial expertise in environmental microbiology and utilising model systems and simulated real-world settings to assess contamination and control of waterborne pathogens (Dr Ginny Moore; primary supervisor/main contact), culturing mycobacteria as biofilms to model NTM biofilm formation within the environment (Dr Joanna Bacon) and carrying out specialist aerobiology experimental studies to inform microbial exposure risks from aerosols (Dr Simon Clark). At BSMS, Prof Simon Waddell specialises in using whole genome technologies to understand mycobacterial pathogenicity specifically, in terms of this project, to determine transcriptional adaptations of NTM species sampled from biofilms and from aerosols.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work at both institutes. They will be based at UKHSA Porton Down where they will be part of the Biosafety, Air and Water Microbiology Group. The student will be registered for their PhD in the Department of Global Health and Infection at BSMS; a department with a vibrant research programme and academic links around the world. The student will benefit from support, training, and research opportunities at both institutions.

Funding

The project is funded by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), an executive agency of the UK Department of Health and Social Care. These funds cover the tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for three years (currently at £18,062 for 2022-2023). 

How to apply

Applicants should have a minimum of a 2:1 undergraduate degree and desirably hold or expect to achieve excellent grades in a Master's degree in a relevant subject. The ideal candidate will have practical microbiology experience and some understanding of water systems and biofilms. They should be self-motivated and have good communication skills with an interest in applied scientific research.

The studentship is expected to start on 1st October 2022. To apply or to make informal enquiries, please email Dr Ginny Moore (ginny.moore@phe.gov.uk). Please attach a CV, covering letter explaining your interest in the project and the names and email addresses of two academic referees to your application.

Funding notes

The project is funded by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), an executive agency of the UK Department of Health and Social Care and is open to UK students only.

Find out more here >

BACKGROUND IMAGE FOR PANEL

Stratification and selective targeting based on anti-apoptotic gene expression and NFκB signalling in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

Applications are invited for a fully funded 3.5-year PhD studentship to join Haemato-oncology team at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. This studentship is funded by a Paul Stanforth PhD scholarship.  

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common leukaemia in the UK. Although major advances have been made in both the diagnosis and management of this disease, it remains incurable. Disease progression and subsequent response to treatment is highly variable between patients. So, there is an obvious need to understand what causes these differences and then exploit this knowledge to identify the best treatment for every individual patient. Upregulation of anti-apoptotic genes and increased NFκB signalling are both features of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), particularly in patients with aggressive disease. Although inhibitors of anti-apoptotic proteins are now used to treat CLL, clinical responses are variable and attempts to directly target NFκB have failed due to high toxicity. This project will investigate how the anti-apoptotic genes MCL1, BCL2 and BCLXL are regulated by NFκB signalling and establish which NFκB components control their expression. The project will use primary patient samples and cell lines, and a combination of techniques including flow cytometry and molecular/cellular biology assays, to find promising drug targets for CLL.

The principal purpose of this project is to establish if we can identify patient-specific druggable targets that can be exploited to maximise clinical responses. 

The successful candidate will be integrated into the rapidly expanding haemato-oncology team at BSMS led by Professors Chris and Andrea Pepper (pepper.science) working closely with the computational biology team led by Dr Simon Mitchell (mitchell.science). The project offers a wide range of training opportunities and the student will be able to acquire essential skills from a variety of areas including cell biology, cell signalling, drug targeting and translational haemato-oncology. This should provide the successful candidate with critical skills and substantial experience to make them a highly competitive candidate for a postdoctoral research position, especially in the field of translational oncology.

Funding notes

Applicants for this 3.5-year Paul Stanforth funded PhD scholarship, starting in October 2022, are invited from candidates with a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in biological, cancer sciences or a related discipline. As a minimum, you should hold, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class undergraduate degree or equivalent, in an appropriate subject, from a recognised academic institution. This studentship is only open to UK citizens or EU citizens who have pre-settled or settled status.

To apply, please download an application form and referee forms from (bsms.ac.uk/postgraduate/research-degrees/phd-opportunities) or contact the BSMS Research Degrees Administrator on researchdegrees@bsms.ac.uk is you have any problems. Informal enquiries should be directed to Professor Andrea Pepper (a.pepper@bsms.ac.uk).

Apply for the PhD here >

Stratifying and targeting apoptosis in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) using a systems biology approach

Applications are invited for a fully funded 3.5-year PhD studentship to join Haemato-oncology team at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. This studentship is funded by a Paul Stanforth PhD scholarship.  

Upregulation of NFκB signalling is commonly seen in Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) and is known to upregulate anti-apoptotic proteins that promote cancer cell survival and lead to resistance to treatment. Different DLBCL patients likely have different NFκB dimers and different levels of these anti-apoptotic proteins, which may lead to their distinct responses to therapies.

The Mitchell lab have developed computational simulations of these signalling networks that enable us to predict how cells might respond to treatment. Using a combination of experiments characterising the links between NFκB and apoptosis, along with computational modelling, the student will find new interdisciplinary approaches to get the right drugs into the right patients. 

This project combines molecular/cellular biology with computational biology. 

The principal aim of this project is to establish if specific druggable targets can be identified to maximise clinical responses in specific subsets of DLBCL cells.The successful candidate will join an interdisciplinary research team lead by Dr Simon Mitchell (mitchell.science) be integrated into the rapidly expanding haemato-oncology team at BSMS led by Professors Chris and Andrea Pepper (pepper.science). The project offers a wide range of training opportunities and the student will be able to acquire essential skills from a variety of areas including systems biology, cell signalling, drug targeting and translational haemato-oncology. This should provide the successful candidate with critical skills and substantial experience to make them a highly competitive candidate for a postdoctoral research position, especially in the field of systems oncology.

Funding notes

Applicants for this 3.5-year Paul Stanforth fully funded PhD scholarship, starting in October 2022, are invited from candidates with a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in biological, cancer sciences or a related discipline. As a minimum, you should hold, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class undergraduate degree or equivalent, in an appropriate subject from a recognised academic institution. Education including computational sciences or mathematics is desirable but not required, and computational biology training can be provided. This studentship is only open to UK citizens and EU citizens who have pre-settled or settled status.

To apply, please download an application form and referee forms from (bsms.ac.uk/postgraduate/research-degrees/phd-opportunities) and if any problems please contact the BSMS Research Degrees Administrator on researchdegrees@bsms.ac.uk. Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Simon Mitchell (S.A.Mitchell@bsms.ac.uk). 

apply for this phd here >

Stigma towards dementia in young people: The impact of media

Supervisors: Dr Nicolas Farina, Prof N Tabet, Dr Alys Griffiths 

Applications accepted all year round 

Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to join the internationally recognised Centre for Dementia Studies, Brighton and Sussex Medical School at the University of Sussex Campus. 

The aim of the project is to better understand what dementia-related media young people engage with but also interrogate the relationship between various national and international media messages about dementia (social media, ad campaigns, movies) and how they affect attitudes towards dementia. 

Combatting stigma and raising awareness towards dementia is an international policy priority. As it stands, we know that negative attitudes towards dementia already exist from a young age, and that based on existing theories, attitude change might be easier during these younger years. Young people already have experiences of dementia, despite receiving little formal education about the condition. Whilst there is a significant minority that have provided support for a family member with dementia, many have experienced dementia only through the media (i.e. movies, news) and online sources. Previous research has identified that media messages of dementia can often be negative or stigmatizing, which could be in part responsible for attitude formation. However, it is unclear how young people engage with such media content about dementia and how this ultimately shapes stigma towards dementia. Such stigma ultimately influences how individuals engage with dementia, both now and in the future, and might ultimately determine career preferences. The research builds upon an existing theme of work led by Dr’s Farina, Tabet and Griffiths. 

The project provides a wide range of training that includes quantitative, qualitative and review methodology. The project, will also provide an opportunity to work with both young people and people living with dementia. This should provide the successful candidate with critical skills and substantial experience to make them a highly competitive candidate for a postdoctoral research position within applied health research, particularly in the field of dementia.

Funding Notes

Applicants for this 3-year PhD should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology, health sciences, public health, or related subject. Both UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply. Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Nicolas Farina (n.farina@bsms.ac.uk). Please contact the Brighton and Sussex Medical School Doctoral and Research Officer (researchdegrees@bsms.ac.uk), with any other queries.

References

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease International. World Alzheimer Report 2019 : Attitudes to dementia. Read the report here. Published April 10, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2019. 
  2. Cheng TY-M, Liu L, Woo BK. Analyzing Twitter as a Platform for Alzheimer-Related Dementia Awareness: Thematic Analyses of Tweets. JMIR Aging. 2018;1(2):e11542. doi:10.2196/11542 
  3. Farina N, Hughes LJ, Griffiths AW, Parveen S. Adolescents’ experiences and perceptions of dementia. Aging Ment Health. 2019;0(0):1-7. doi:10.1080/13607863.2019.1613343 
  4. Farina N. What is taught about dementia in secondary schools? A survey of schools in Sussex, England (Innovative Practice). Dementia. July 2017:1471301217720016. doi:10.1177/1471301217720016 
  5. Isaac MG, Isaac MM, Farina N, Tabet N. Knowledge and attitudes towards dementia in adolescent students. J Ment Health. 2017;26(5):419–425. 
  6. Parveen S, Farina N, Shafiq S, Hughes LJ, Griffiths AW. What do adolescents perceive to be key features of an effective dementia education and awareness initiative? Dement Int J Soc Res Pract. 2019.

PhD studentships now recruited

  • Detection and characterisation of non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM)
  • Development of a new treatment for osteoarthritis
  • Substance use in relation to the mental and sexual heath of vulnerable adolescents and young adults under 25 in coastal areas of Kent and Sussex 
  • The mental health and wellbeing needs of looked after and displaced children in southeast England 
  • Helping young people to live successfully with long-term health issues
  • Resourcing Resilience: Positive psychology among adolescents living with HIV 
  • Widening access to psychological interventions for diverse communities: exploring the potential of community-led interventions 
  • Co-producing stigma-proof mental health interventions with and for newcomers (asylum seekers, refugees and migrants) in southeast England 
  • Defining Mycobacterium tuberculosis in lung tissue – a novel discovery platform for new vaccine and drug targets
  • Epidemiology of cancer in the elderly (aged > 65 years) in England
  • The roles of oxidative stress and redox regulation in chronic inflammatory disease (Supervisors: Dr Lisa Mullen, Prof Pietro Ghezzi, Prof Kevin Davies)
  • Pillars of Expertise: Visual Perception & Memory (Supervisors: Dr Natasha Sigala, Prof Mara Cercignani
  • Investigating the genetic basis of osteosarcoma in children & dogs (Supervisors: Prof Sarah Newbury, Dr Peter Bush, Dr Chris Jones)
  • The embodiment of unconscious knowledge in maladaptive behaviour (Supervisors: Prof Hugo Critchley, Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Prof Dora Duka)
  • Can simulation clarify diagnostic skills for newly qualified doctors? (Supervisors: Dr Inam Haq, Dr Wesley Scott-Smith)
  • Impact of oxytocin on emotional regulation in binge drinking and alcoholism: behavioural, physiological and fMRI investigations (Supervisors: Prof Hugo Critchley, Prof Dora Duka)
  • Developing an algorithm for predicting children with severe asthma (Supervisors: Prof Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Dr Katy Fidler)
  • Development of a refined model of neuropathic pain: a model without frank nerve injury (Supervisors: Dr Andrew Dilley, Prof Pietro Ghezzi)
  • Role of secreted oxidoreductases in osteoarthritis, rheumathoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (Supervisors: Prof Pietro Ghezzi, Dr Manuela Mengozzi)
  • Measuring quality of life in severe dementia: validation of DEMQOL-Proxy in family and professional carers of people with severe dementia (Prof Sube Banerjee, Prof Naji Tabet)
  • Stigma in health care: Does it influence the way general practitioners record consultations? (Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Ford, Prof Helen Smith, Prof Flis Henwood)
  • Interoception and preventative intervention for anxiety in adults with autism (supervisors: Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Prof Hugo Critchley)