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University of Exeter funding: Understanding plasticity and the ec

Understanding plasticity and the ecological relevance of behavioural responses in fish to neuroactive pharmaceutical, Biosciences PhD-Funded Studentship Ref: 3939

About the award


Academic Supervisors:

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

Dr Ross Brown, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Location: Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter.

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

Wildlife are exposed to a wide range of human pharmaceuticals at low (part per billion or trillion) concentrations, which in the case of neuroactive pharmaceuticals have been shown to induce changes in behavioural phenotypes in fish and invertebrates. These findings are generally based on short-term laboratory studies that focus on detecting a behavioural response and it is unclear if responses are transient, permanent or impactful on growth, reproduction or survival. This studentship will aim to characterise and link neurological responses to changes in behavioural phenotypes and phenotypic plasticity in zebrafish driven by key pharmaceuticals. Partial and full life-cycle exposure studies will be used to evaluate the molecular mechanisms, behavioural effects and fitness impacts of different pharmaceutical exposures, at different life stages, on different genetic strains.

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 training in animal behaviour, molecular biology, imaging, bioinformatics and toxicology. 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, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or equivalent qualifications in an appropriate area of science or technology.  Ideally the candidate will have some practical experience in (eco)toxicology, imaging methods and/or bioinformatics.

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

Upload the following documents in the application process. 
• 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 (submit an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work.
• 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 ref 3939.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor


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