UCL Cancer Institute


PhD Studentship - Single-Cell Signalling Analysis of CRC Tumour Microenvironment Organoids

This 3-year Rosetrees Trust project will fund and exceptional UK/EU PhD student to study cell-cell communication in CRC microenvironment organoids using a custom mass cytometry platform.

  • Primary supervisor: Dr Chris Tape
  • Secondary supervisor: Prof Daniel Hochhauser
  • Predicted start-date: September 2019

Closing date: Monday 1 July 2019 (17:00 BST)

Project description

Tumours are complex heterocellular systems comprising cancer cells, stromal fibroblasts, and multiple immune cell-types. To investigate how these cells collaborate to drive cancer, The Cell Communication Lab at UCL Cancer Institute have developed a organoid model of the Colorectal cancer (CRC) microenvironment comprising epithelial cancer cells, stromal fibroblasts, and macrophages.  In parallel, we have developed a custom mass-cytometry technology to measure single-cell signalling in CRC organoids. This technology enables us to measure ~30 post-translational modifications (PTMs) in single epithelial, stromal, and leukocyte cells across multiple experimental conditions from 3D CRC microenvironment organoids.

This 3-year Rosetrees Trust project will fund and exceptional UK/EU Ph.D. student to study cell-cell communication in CRC microenvironment organoids using our custom mass-cytometry platform. The student will investigate how microbial cues (e.g. colibactin-expressing Escherichia coli and enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis (ET-Bf)) deregulate CRC signalling and how CRC microenvironment cells respond to cancer therapies (e.g. chemotherapies and immunotherapies). The student will analyse high-dimensional single-cell PTM data using advanced computational techniques to understand cell-cell signalling networks in the CRC tumour microenvironment. 

The successful application Twill be supervised by Dr Chris Tape and co-supervised by Prof Daniel Hochhauser. Predicted start-date: Sept. 2019. More detailed information about the research project is available on request from c.tape@ucl.ac.uk (Twitter: @christophertape). 

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.
  • Knowledge of cell signalling, cell culture, and single-cell analysis.
  • Evidence of motivation for and understanding cell-signalling in cancer. 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.


  • Experience of flow/mass-cytometry.
  • Experience of 3D cell culture (ideally organoids).
  • Experience of large-scale biological data analysis using R, Python, and/or other appropriate programming languages. 

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

To apply for this studentship, please submit only two documents:

1. Your full CV including a short summary (<500 words) detailing how your experience and ability matches the project and the person specification.

2. A single PDF file containing scans of two reference letters, one of which must be academic, and the award certificate and transcripts showing your unit/module marks for all of your degrees, undergraduate and postgraduate. If any of your original documents are not in English you must submit an official English translation with them.

These two documents should then be emailed to CI.Scholarships@ucl.ac.uk with the studentship code 'Tape01and your surname both in the subject line of the email.

Complete applications must be received by Monday 1 July 2019 17:00 (BST). Incomplete applications will not be forwarded to the Shortlisting Panel. Queries about the application procedure or recruitment process should be directed to: shoukia.bhatti@ucl.ac.uk