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PhD opportunities

BSMS > Postgraduate > Research degrees > PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities

All our current PhD opportunites are listed on this page. If you would like to undertake a PhD at BSMS, please contact potential supervisors directly.

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.

Inhibition of Toll Like Receptor pathways as a potential therapeutic strategy for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia

Supervisors: Dr Andrea Pepper, Prof Chris Pepper, Dr Sandra Sacre

Project Description: Applications are invited for a 3.5-year PhD studentship to join a new Leukaemia Research group at BSMS on the University of Sussex Campus. The group is led by Professor Chris Pepper and Dr Andrea Pepper (née Buggins) who have recently joined BSMS from successful CLL research groups based at Cardiff University and King’s College London respectively. 

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a common B-cell malignancy that follows a remarkably diverse clinical course. It is characterised by an accumulation of mature B-lymphocytes in the peripheral blood, bone marrow (BM) and secondary lymphoid organs such as the lymph nodes (LN). We have recently shown that LN-CLL cells manifest a distinct phenotype to those in the PB and demonstrate an enhanced capacity for T-cell activation and immunological synapse formation1. Data from our novel in-vitro circulation model2 implies that, within a patient, a small but aggressive subset of CLL cells with a distinct phenotype (identical to that manifest by CLL cells in the LN) are inherently more capable of migrating and are primed for pro-survival and proliferation interaction with T-cells. 

Most previous investigations into CLL have focussed on signalling through the B-cell receptor (BCR). However, we have data that strongly supports a role for Toll Like Receptor signalling, particularly in cells which possess a LN-CLL phenotype. Therefore, we are collaborating with Dr Sandra Sacre, who has an expertise in TLR signalling, and the aim of this studentship is to study and dissect the role of TLR signalling in primary CLL cells using activating and inhibitory oligonucleotides3 as well as naturally occurring CgG-rich autologous serum from patients. We also plan to investigate whether inhibition of TLR signalling has the potential to synergise with new drugs currently being used for the treatment of CLL. These drugs, targeting Bruton Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) and phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase delta (PI-3Kd) induce a striking tissue redistribution elicited by inhibiting CLL cell lymphoid tissue homing. However, despite extremely positive effects these agents are not curative and some patients remain refractory or relapse following initial response. Therefore, investigations into the potential for therapeutic synergy by targeting multiple signalling pathways are both a timely and relevant. 

The project will involve extensive and complex tissue culture techniques including use of our novel circulation system. In addition, the student will acquire analytical skills as well as experience in tumour modelling, molecular biology and flow cytometry. We fully anticipate that this studentship will yield important new insights resulting in high impact papers. It will therefore provide an excellent opportunity for the right candidate to gain critical skills and experience that will provide a springboard into the next stage of their career. Committed candidates with a particular interest in translational oncology are particularly encouraged to apply.

Funding Notes: Applications for this 3.5-year Chowen funded PhD studentship 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 and EU citizens. 

Please apply via University of Brighton application portal, and include a personal statement and CV. 

Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Andrea Pepper ( or Prof. Chris Pepper (


Phenotype and immune function of lymph node and peripheral blood CLL cells are linked to transendothelial migration. Pasikowska M, Walsby E, Apollonio B, Cuthill K, Phillips E, Coulter E, Longhi MS, Ma Y, Yallop D, Barber LD, Patten P, Fegan C, Ramsay AG, Pepper C and Buggins* AG. Blood. 2016 Jul 28;128(4):563-73. 

Development and characterization of a physiologically relevant model of lymphocyte migration in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Walsby E, Buggins* A, Devereux S, Jones C, Pratt G, Brennan P, Fegan C, Pepper C. Blood. 2014 Jun 5;123(23):3607-17 

Oligodeoxynucleotide inhibition of Toll-like receptors 3, 7, 8, and 9 suppresses cytokine production in a human rheumatoid arthritis model. Sacre S, Lo A, Gregory B, Stephens M, Chamberlain G, Stott P, Brennan F. Eur J Immunol. 2016 Mar;46(3):772-81 

*A Buggins is now A. Pepper

Application deadline: Friday 30 June 2017

On application, please enter the following text in the ‘Research Proposal’ field: Supervisor defined project, followed by the project title.


Interoception and preventative intervention for anxiety in adults with autism

Supervisors: Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Prof Hugo Critchley
Application closing date: Friday 14 July 2017

Project Description: Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to the Neuroscience (Psychiatry) team at Brighton and Sussex Medical School based at the University of Sussex to work on a collaborative project with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (Mental Health) to understand the relationship between anxiety and interoceptive experience in adults with autism through the perspective of an interventional study (clinical trial of interoceptive training), autonomic psychophysiology and experimental neuroimaging. We are a leading laboratory in the field of interoception and its contributions to emotional and cognitive symptoms. 

The studentship centres around a three year project entitled ‘Aligning Dimensions of Interoceptive Experience (ADIE) to prevent development of anxiety disorders in autism’, funded by the charity MQ Transforming Mental Health. The work builds upon theoretical advances and fresh experimental evidence about the interaction between anxiety and the signalling and perception of bodily arousal. We identified a specific psycho-physiological mechanism for anxiety as a promising treatment target for people with autism spectrum disorders. We will also use state-of-the-art neuroimaging to quantify brain signatures relating to emotional and interoceptive processing and their development over the course of the therapy. 

The project offers opportunities to develop experience and skills in patient research, clinical interventions and neuroimaging within a vibrant collaborative environment. 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 clinical neuroscience, autonomic psychophysiology and neuroimaging.

Funding Notes: Applicants for this 3 year PhD, jointly funded by Brighton and Sussex Medical School (based at the University of Sussex) and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, should ideally possess a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) and a Masters Degree (or equivalent) in Neuroscience or Psychology or a relevant biomedical related subject. Both UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply (UK/EU fees will be paid). Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Sarah Garfinkel ( or Prof Hugo Critchley ( Please apply via the University of Brighton's website.


Garfinkel SN, Tiley C, O'Keeffe S, Harrison NA, Seth AK, Critchley HD. Discrepancies between dimensions of interoception in autism: Implications for emotion and anxiety. Biol Psychol. 2016 114:117-26. 

Garfinkel SN, Critchley HD Threat and the Body: How the Heart Supports Fear Processing. Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 20:34-46.

Application deadline: Friday 14 July 2017

On application, please enter the following text in the ‘Research Proposal’ field: Supervisor defined project, followed by the project title.

Wellcome clinical PhD programme in global health research

Open for applications from 19 November 2016

The Wellcome Clinical PhD Programme in Global Health Research is a partnership between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, St George’s University of London and Brighton and Sussex Medical School bringing together their expertise in global health research. The Programme provides postgraduate training opportunities to clinicians committed to undertaking research on the health problems of low and middle income countries.

The Programme will support up to four clinical PhD fellowships each year over the next five years. The first intake will commence in the academic year 2017/2018.

The aim of the Programme is to support the most promising clinicians who wish to undertake rigorous research training and complete a research project in the field of global health. The Programme will focus on the following six key areas:

  • HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria
  • Neglected tropical diseases
  • Maternal and child health
  • Mental health
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Non-communicable diseases.

The Programme has a large pool of potential-supervisors who have a breadth of clinical specialities and experience in these areas.

Successful applicants will develop their potential to become academic clinicians within a structured and mentored training environment. They will, usually, spend up to two years overseas in a low or middle income country based in well-established research groups.

Financial support is for three years and includes a clinical salary, research expenses, general training funds and travel costs.

Applicants must be fully-qualified medical doctors (with no more than 10 years’ whole time equivalent [WTE] career experience after full medical qualification at the time of applying), have a right to work in the UK, be eligible for home/EU PhD fees and should be currently engaged in a specialist training programme and not yet awarded a CCT or equivalent. They must demonstrate academic excellence and a commitment to pursuing a career as an academic clinician with an interest in global health.

more about the programme and how to apply >

PhD studentships now recruited

  • 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, Dr 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)