UCL Cancer Institute


PhD Studentship - Towards Single Cell Proteomic Characterisation of Quiescent Cancer Cells

This project focuses on investigating the proteome of therapy-resistant quiescent cancer cells, focusing on leukaemia and glioblastoma.

  • Primary supervisor: Prof Tariq Enver
  • Secondary supervisor: Dr Silvia Surinova

Applications are now closed (10 January 2020).

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

Project description

Although most cancer cells actively proliferate, a rare subset of cells with stem-like properties and increased tumourigenic potential can remain quiescent for extended time.  Since most cancer treatments only target dividing cells, quiescence represents a major therapeutic challenge. Indeed, in many tumour types quiescent cells are the key substrate of relapse and further disease evolution. The mechanisms controlling quiescence remain largely unknown, and transcriptomic analysis of quiescent cells has yielded only limited insights. This might be at least partly due to i) quiescent cells having globally reduced transcriptional activity, ii) poor overall concordance between transcript and protein expression, and (iii) the importance of post-translational modifications in signal transduction, particularly in processes such as the cell cycle.

The successful candidate will investigate the proteome of quiescent cancer cells, focusing on leukaemia and glioblastoma, to provide new insights into quiescence regulation and guide the development of new therapeutic strategies aimed at their eradication. They will employ and further develop: (i) techniques for isolating cancer cell subsets, (ii) sample preparation methodologies for ultra-low protein input, (iii) sensitive discovery and targeted mass-spectrometry techniques, and (iv) computational data analysis workflows. Proteomic findings will be integrated with available genomic, transcriptomic, epigenetic, and metabolic descriptions of quiescence.

More detailed information about the research project is available on request from t.enver@ucl.ac.uk and s.surinova@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.
  • Knowledge of life sciences, as required for this project. 
  • Preliminary knowledge of research techniques.
  • 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.


  • Relevant laboratory research experience.
  • Experience of analytical techniques such as liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. 
  • Experience applying computational techniques to data analysis.

Students will also 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