UCL Cancer Institute


PhD Studentship - Oncogene-induced replication stress - cancer's cause and cure

The PhD project will focus on how cancer associated mutations cause replication stress and identify proteins involved in the tolerance to replication stress.

  • Primary supervisor: Prof Robertus de Bruin
  • Secondary supervisors: Dr Cosetta Bertoli

Applications are now closed 10 January 2020.

Funding: Candidates will need to qualify as UK/EU fee payers.

Project description

Cancer is initiated by mutations in the DNA that allow cells to continuously divide. Cell division involves the duplication of the genetic material, the DNA, and the subsequent segregation of the duplicated DNA to produce two genetically identical cells. However, continuous cell divisions, the hallmark of cancer, cause problems during the replication of the DNA, which is known as DNA replication stress. Replication stress, in turn, causes additional mutations in the DNA allowing further development of cancer. An important consequence of this is that cancer cells become increasingly dependent on mechanism to tolerate replication stress. The PhD project will focus on how cancer associated mutations cause replication stress and identify proteins involved in the tolerance to replication stress. Understanding these processes in cancer cells will allow us to specifically target cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

During the project the student will develop skills in a wide range of molecular and cellular biological techniques, including extensive microscopy work and potential drug discovery. Insight into the role of replication stress in causing and curing cancer will help guide the use of existing cancer treatment and identify novel cancer drug targets, providing better cancer treatment, which will benefit patients and their families.

More detailed information about the research project is available on request from r.debruin@ucl.ac.uk

Duties and responsibilities


  • To apply highly specialist scientific skills and expertise to lead in the delivery of high quality research and the preparation of high-impact research publications.
  • To keep abreast of current developments in this research area.
  • To report research progress to the supervisory team, the Cancer Institute, and at scientific conferences and meetings.
  • To work with other Scientists within the team as necessary.
  • To work safely by adhering to all University policies and practices, including preparing and following laboratory risk assessments, and complying with Health and Safety policies, ethical approval processes and Human Tissue Act guidelines.

Analytical and Judgement Skills

  • To demonstrate a high-level of technical and analytical skill to resolve highly complex scenarios, requiring analysis, interpretation and expert judgement to find the most appropriate solutions.
  • To identify, interpret and integrate information from a wide variety of sources, and critically evaluate the quality and assumptions of these data.
  • Show initiative and the ability to make decisions in areas where no previous work has been undertaken.
  • Show awareness of your own developmental needs and undertake appropriate training where appropriate.
  • To comply with professional codes of conduct.
Person specification


  • Minimum upper second class Honours Degree in an associated discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.
  • Master’s degree in molecular/cell biology, biochemistry or a closely related field.
  • Knowledge of fundamental cell/molecular biology, as required for this project.
  • Proven experience of working in a laboratory research environment.
  • Previous experience with genetics and with molecular and cell biological techniques such as PCR, western blotting, cloning, fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry and immunostaining would be highly desirable.
  • Previous experience with gene knockdown using siRNA. 
  • Evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.
  • Ability to develop understanding of complex problems and apply in-depth knowledge to address them.
  • Potential to develop expertise in new areas of the subject.
  • Potential for innovation and initiative, and evidence of an ability to work independently.
  • Effective communication skills in both written and spoken English.


  • Evidence of scientific contribution including publications in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Experience with other model organisms studied by the lab (e.g. yeasts).

Students will need to qualify as UK/EU fee payers and meet UCL general admissions criteria.

Research environment

The UCL Cancer Institute is a state-of-the-art institute to consolidate cancer research at UCL and promote links with our partner teaching hospitals, in order to support excellence in basic and translational studies. The Institute draws together talented scientists who are working together to translate research discoveries into developing kinder, more effective therapies for cancer patients. It is a Cancer Research UK and Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, and contains approximately 580 staff, including 80 PhD and MD (Res) students and 30-40 MSc students. Core facilities within the Institute include: Genomics Facility (gene expression microarrays); Proteomics Facility; Imaging and Cell Sorting (confocal, time-lapsed microscopy, MoFlo FACS); Pathology Suite (laser capture microdissection, tissue arrays); Experimental Imaging (with UCL Institute of Child Health); and Transgenesis. 


Students will need to qualify as UK/EU fee payers and meet UCL general admissions criteria

Application Procedure

Applications are now closed (10 January 2020). Details of this project are for reference only. 

Queries should be directed to: ci.pgeducation@ucl.ac.uk