Optogenetic reprogramming of the anxiety circuit, Medicine – PhD (funded) Ref: 2627

About the award

The University of Exeter Medical School is seeking to attract PhD candidates of outstanding ability to join their exciting and rapidly expanding programme of internationally rated research.

One unresolved question in neurobiology is how emotions are formed and controlled. Better understanding of the neural basis of emotions would not only open new possibilities to cure mood disorders, but also would advance fundamental understanding of how organisms cope with the environment and interact with each other.

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric diseases, with a lifetime prevalence of about 25%. They are often co-diagnosed with depression and various addictions in combination representing the third leading cause of the global burden of disease. Anxiety and mood disorders affect 180 million people worldwide, leaving more than 120 million disabled, exceeding the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The knowledge of brain mechanisms underpinning anxiety is currently inadequate, mainly due to lack of tools sophisticated enough to probe the brain’s extraordinary complexity. In order to address this, a successful candidate will use an innovative combination of psychology, optogenetics and matrix biology in mice to investigate and eradicate symptoms associated with anxiety.

Entry Requirements
Experience with in vivo models of brain disorders would be an advantage. The candidate will perform stereotaxic surgeries, molecular and behavioural studies in mice.

Applicants are expected to have a first or upper second-class degree in experimental biology or neuroscience and a relevant Masters qualification (if European-based), and/or a strong GPA from a 4 year undergraduate degree with some research experience (if North American/Australasian-based).   International applicants must also have IELTS [International English Language Testing System] score of 7 and above (or equivalent qualification).

Applicants should have excellent organizational skills, be highly motivated and creative, enjoying being a part of a vibrant, multidisciplinary and collaborative research environment. The candidate will be expected to communicate effectively, with evidence of strong scientific writing skills particularly important. Moreover, previous experience with animals (mice, rats) and basic statistical analysis skills are desirable.


Lead Supervisor:

Professor Robert Pawlak, Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science, University of Exeter Medical School


Funding Notes:

The studentship will be fully-funded for 3 years for UK/EU students, including a stipend of £14,553 per annum (based on the full-time 17/18 rate).   Tuition fees will be paid at the UK/EU rate.  Candidates from countries outside the European Union will be liable for the difference between 'home student fees' and 'international student fees' which was just over £14,500 in 16/17 but is likely to increase slightly each year. Non-EU students who wish to be considered must confirm their ability to pay the international portion of the fee. If selected, financial assurances will be required.



Application deadline:31st August 2017
Value:Stipend of £14,553 per annum plus UK/EU fees for eligible students (at the 2017/18 full-time rate)
Duration of award:per year
Contact: UEMS Graduate AdminUEMS-graduateresearch@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

Click here to apply

Please be aware you will be asked to upload the following documents:

•        CV

•        Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project.

•        Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)

•        If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English (see entry requirements http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/)


If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email UEMS-graduateresearch@exeter.ac.uk  Project specific queries should be directed to the lead supervisor.

We regret that only candidates shortlisted for interview will be contacted.