UCL Institute of Ophthalmology


3-year Moorfields Eye Charity PhD Studentship

We are welcoming applications for a 3-Year PhD studentship: 'Targeting the lysosome in the retinal pigment epithelium to limit accumulation of debris in the back of the eye'. Closes: 21 April

UCL Department / Division: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Application deadline: Friday 21 April 2023 
Duration of Studentship: 3 years, available to start from 25 September 2023
PhD Title: Targeting the lysosome in the retinal pigment epithelium to limit accumulation of debris in the back of the eye 
Supervisor(s): Professor Clare Futter and Dr Emily Eden

We are offering a full-time, 3-year PhD studentship to study how lysosome function can be regulated to promote clearance of material that accumulates with age-associated loss of vision.
Lysosome function declines with age and has been implicated in the development of early age-related macular disease (AMD), as well as multiple age-related neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Cells can respond to lysosome dysfunction by upregulating lysosomal gene expression and generating new lysosomes, providing a new potential avenue for upregulating lysosome activity and limiting the accumulation of toxic material in the eye and the brain. Of all cells in the body, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) probably has the largest degradative burden due to the daily phagocytosis of spent photoreceptor outer segments and with age, and particularly in AMD, debris accumulates at the back of the eye. This project will shed new light on phagosome processing in the RPE and the cellular response to lysosome dysfunction and may identify new therapeutic targets for the treatment of early AMD. 

The project will use a combination of cellular and zebrafish models to analyse phagosome:lysosome interactions in the RPE in health and when phagosome degradation is compromised. State of the art imaging techniques will allow these processes to be followed in real time, followed by correlative high resolution electron microscopy. The importance of transcriptional regulation of lysosome biogenesis in phagosome processing will be established and whether this may be exploited to limit accumulation of toxic POS-derived material in the retina. The student will gain experience of genetic manipulation and maintenance of cell culture and zebrafish models, advanced microscopy and image analysis, transcriptomic analyses and current molecular cell biological techniques. 

Applicants should hold or expect to receive, a minimum upper-second degree or equivalent in a relevant Biosciences subject. A Master’s degree or previous lab-based research experience is desirable.

Duties and Responsibilities 

The successful candidate is expected to: 

  • Maintain current knowledge of relevant literature
  • Develop expertise in advanced imaging techniques and image analysis
  • Establish cell and zebrafish models and maintain them
  • Develop expertise in up-to-date molecular cell biological techniques
  • Have input into project direction and experimental design
  • Organise the data of the project and maintain appropriate laboratory records 
  • Prepare progress reports 
  • Participate in lab meetings.
  • Work in collaboration with other researchers 
  • Prepare presentations
  • Travel for collaboration and other meetings or conferences 
  • Prepare manuscripts for submission to international peer-reviewed journals 
  • Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies

Person Specification 

  • A good degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or MSc in a relevant Biosciences subject
  • Knowledge of cell biology 
  • Interest in learning advanced imaging techniques 
  • Experience of lab-based research
  • High proficiency in written and spoken English is required 
  • Very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively and work both individually and within a team 
  • Commitment to UCL’s policy of equal opportunity and the ability to work harmoniously with colleagues and students of all cultures and backgrounds 
  • Informal enquiries should be made to Professor Clare Futter (c.futter@ucl.ac.uk).

How to apply
Applicants should submit an application to the Research Degrees Manager ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk. You will be required to submit a CV, a covering letter outlining motivation, interest, and suitability for this project, and contact details for two academic referees.

Enquiries relating to the application process should be sent to the Research Degrees Manager (ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk).

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for an interview. 

The successful candidate is expected to start on 25 September 2023, but flexibility with respect to the start date is possible.

Funding Notes
This studentship is funded for 3 years by the Moorfields Eye Charity and includes UK UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual salary stipend starting at £22,000.

The full studentship (tuition fees and salary stipend) is eligible to all UK nationals and some EU nationals depending on their settlement status.

Application deadline: Friday  21 April 2023 
Proposed interview date: To be decided