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University of Exeter funding: Characterising the functional homol

Characterising the functional homology of drug targets in aquatic animals, Biosciences PhD-funded Studentship Ref: 3938

About the award


Academic Supervisors

Professor  Charles Tyler, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Dr Matthew Winter, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

About the Award

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences, in partnership with AstraZeneca, is inviting applications for a 4-year fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in January 2021 or soon thereafter. The student will be based in Biosciences in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

The studentship will cover a stipend of £15,285 in 2020/21, research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the BBSRC. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend. Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding. Further information can be found here.

Project Description

Pharmaceutical action is mediated through specific drug targets, and in many cases these targets are highly genetically conserved between humans (the intended recipient) and other ‘non-target’ species. Many organisms are exposed to human pharmaceuticals in the environment, and as such their health may be affected. We have identified a number of drug targets that show particularly high levels of genetic conservation (see:, but what we don’t know is whether this similarity includes conservation of drug action. This studentship will seek to understand this relationship. 

Focussing on pharmaceuticals that act on the central nervous system, the student will use cutting- edge genetic, microscopic imaging, behavioural tracking and molecular techniques to assess the effects of neuroactive drugs  principally in, but not necessarily limited to, vertebrate (e.g. zebrafish) and invertebrate (e.g. Daphnia magna) species. This work will help increase our understanding of whether these drugs are likely to cause an effect in the aquatic environment.

The student will join a large and vibrant research team at Exeter and will work as part of a wider European project focussed on understanding the effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment. The student will also have access to exceptional facilities and expertise at Exeter, and will receive extensive training in ecotoxicology, bioinformatics, molecular biology, imaging. The student will also benefit from working with industry experts from AstraZeneca, thus greatly enhancing their long term career prospects.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have/be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or non-UK equivalent, in an appropriate area of science.  Ideally the candidate will have some practical experience in (eco)toxicology, imaging methods and/or bioinformatics, but this is not essential.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents as follows: 

• 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)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number 3938.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on  30th  October 2020.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus the week commencing 9th November 2020.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone 0300 555 60 60 (UK callers) +44 (0) 1392 723044 (EU/International callers) quoting the studentship reference number 3938.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor


Application deadline:30th October 2020
Value:£15,285 per annum in 2020/21
Duration of award:per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions