UCL Institute of Ophthalmology


3-year Moorfields Eye Charity Studentship

We are welcoming applications for a 3-Year PhD studentship funded by Moorfields Eye Charity. 'Role of Galectin-1 in vascular dysfunction and leakage associated with retinopathies'. Closes 21 April

UCL Department / Division: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Duration of Studentship: 3 years to start October 2023 (negotiable)
PhD Title: Role of Galectin-1 in vascular dysfunction and leakage associated with retinopathies
Supervisor(s): Prof Patric Turowski & Prof Christiana Ruhrberg 

We offer a full-time 3-year PhD studentship to study the role of the lectin LGALS1 in mediating VEGF-independent vascular dysfunction in the retina; with a specific focus on the microvessel leakage seen in a variety of sight threatening retinopathies. 

Blood supply within the retina is of key importance to ascertain the high metabolic demand required for perception, integration and amplification of visual cues in our eyes. Many retinopathies are characterised by dysfunctional retinal blood vessels, with blood vessel leakage contributing significantly to various blinding disorders including diabetic retinopathy (DR) and neovascular age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD). Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is targeted therapeutically with considerable success to improve and normalise damaged blood vessels in the clinic. However, anti-VEGFs are only effective for around half of the patients with retinal disorders. This means that factors other than VEGF drive or have taken over to drive the disease in these patients. 

Our pilot data indicates that LGALS1 (Glaectin-1) may be one of the factors that drives vascular retinal dysfunction in addition to VEGF. In this project, the student will study the expression of LGALS1 in human retinal specimen and representative pre-clinical animal models. Secondly, the major glia cells in the retina will be investigated as the source of pathogenic LGALS1. Thirdly, receptors and signalling cascades that mediate the endothelial response to LGALS1 will be analysed biochemically. Finally, the student will investigate how LGALS1 contributes to blood vessel dysfunction in pre-clinical models of DR and AMD.

The student will gain skills in histological methods and confocal microscopy, molecular cell biology, protein biochemistry, signal transduction analysis and work with relevant, pre-clinical rodent models. The student will receive animal handling and surgery training necessary to obtain a personal licence. Other general skills to be gained will be in data analysis and retinal biology. Importantly, the retinal vasculature is increasingly used as a paradigm to image and understand basic blood vessel processes such as angiogenesis and barrier behaviour.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a minimum upper-second degree or equivalent in an associated subject such as biochemistry, cell biology, neuroscience, or vision sciences. A Master’s degree or previous lab-based research experience is desirable.

Duties and Responsibilities 
The successful candidate is expected to: 

  • Continue to build on and help extend our work on defining mechanisms of LGALS1-driven vascular dysfunction in the retina 
  • To contribute to research using in vitro and in vivo models of retinal vascular dysfunction
  • Develop an expertise in the histology, labelling and advanced imaging of fixed human and rodent retinal specimen 
  • Carry out pharmacological neutralisation in rodent models of retinopathies
  • Work in collaboration with other researchers and develop towards research independence
  • Prepare progress reports and presentations 
  • Travel for collaboration and other meetings or conferences 
  • Prepare manuscripts for submission to international peer-reviewed scientific journals 
  • Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies 

Person Specification 

  • An undergraduate degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or MSc in a life or medical science area is essential.
  • Experience in histology, molecular cell biology, or retinal research will be advantageous.
  • Experience or willingness to work in experimental research involving cell culture, rodents and imaging is essential.
  • Experience of writing or contributing to published research is desirable.
  • Excellent analytical and methodological skills are essential.
  • High proficiency in written and spoken English is required. 
  • Strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively, and work both individually and within a team is also essential.

How to apply
Informal enquiries should be made to Prof Patric Turowski at (p.turowski@ucl.ac.uk).

Applicants should submit an application to the Research Degrees Manager at ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk 

You will be required to submit a CV, a cover 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 interview. 

The successful candidate is expected to start by October 2023.

Funding Notes
This studentship is funded for 3 years and includes UK national rate UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual stipend starting at £22,000 per year, rising to £24,000 by the final year.

The full studentship (tuition fees and salary stipend) is eligible to all UK nationals and some EU nationals depending on their settlement status. Whilst we welcome applications from international students, only UK Home rate tuition fees can be covered.

Application deadline: 21 April 2023
Proposed interview date: late April/early May 2023