UCL Institute of Ophthalmology


Institute of Ophthalmology 3-Year PhD Studentship

We are welcoming applications for a 3-year PhD studentship funded by the Institute of Ophthalmology. Closes 6 June.

UCL Department / Division: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

Duration of Studentship: 3 years to start September 2023

PhD Title: Using Spatial Biology to assess Ganglion Cell subsets and their interactions with Macroglia in Glaucoma  

Supervisor(s): Dr Colin Chu & Dr Ryan MacDonald

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness Worldwide. The processes leading to the death of ganglion cells which result in vision loss from Glaucoma remain unclear. In this PhD studentship we will apply cutting-edge ‘spatial biology’ technologies that allow us to image geographic changes and identify rare cell types that has not been previously possible. We will also focus on the involvement of supporting cells within the retina called macroglia and the therapeutic effects of neurotrophic molecules they express.

Using these technologies established in our lab, we plan to image retina from experimental models of glaucoma, where we can simultaneously visualise nearly all identified subtypes of ganglion cell, using highly multiplexed RNA-level probes and protein-level markers, with a technique called IBEX. We will be able to answer questions such as which subtypes of ganglion cell are affected in glaucoma models and how the macroglia and their involvement either protects or facilitates ganglion cell loss. We will use different approaches including drugs and gene transfer to alter macroglia behavior and identify if it prevents ganglion cell death.

This work will greatly improve our understanding of the cell changes in Glaucoma and can lead to wider work on modulating macroglia as a treatment approach. The student will gain skills in advanced imaging platforms including adaptive optics enabled imaging of the retina in mice and highly multiplexed immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy and other required spatial biology techniques. 

Duties and Responsibilities 
The successful candidate is expected to: 

  • Take ownership of the research project employing spatial biology techniques in the retina, glaucoma models and therapeutic approaches.
  • To contribute to research and refining experimental mouse models and spatial biology techniques.
  • 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 neuroscience, vision science or related experience.
  • Experience in histology, spatial biology techniques, gene therapy and vision research will be advantageous.
  • Experience or willingness to work in experimental research involving mice and imaging.
  • Experience of writing or contributing to published research.
  • Excellent analytical and methodological skills. 
  • 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

Radtke, Andrea J., Colin J. Chu, Ziv Yaniv, Li Yao, James Marr, Rebecca T. Beuschel, Hiroshi Ichise, et al. 2022. 'IBEX: an iterative immunolabeling and chemical bleaching method for high-content imaging of diverse tissues.' Nature Protocols 17 (2): 378–401.
Wu, Jiahui, Oliver H. Bell, David A. Copland, Alison Young, John R. Pooley, Ryea Maswood, Rachel S. Evans, et al. 2020. 'Gene Therapy for Glaucoma by Ciliary Body Aquaporin 1 Disruption Using CRISPR-Cas9.' Molecular Therapy 28 (3): 820–29.

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr Colin Chu at (colin.chu@ucl.ac.uk) and see www.colinchulab.com and http://zebrafishucl.org/macdonald-lab 

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 at ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for interview. 

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

Funding Notes
This studentship is funded for 3 years and includes UK 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. Only UK Home rate tuition fees can be covered.
Applicants who will incur international fees are welcome to apply but they must show that they can supplement the difference between UK and international fees (currently £26, 240 per year) in their application.

Application deadline: Tuesday 6 June 2023
Proposed interview date: To be confirmed