UCL Institute of Ophthalmology


Moorfields Eye Charity Three-Year PhD Studentship

We are offering a full-time, three-year PhD studentship to develop new in vitro models of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) using induced pluripotent stem cells created from patients.

PhD Description

UCL Department / Division: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

Duration of Studentship: 3 years, available to start from 1 October 2022

PhD Title: Developing an in vitro model of macrophage/RPE interactions in age-related macular degeneration using induced pluripotent stem cells

Supervisor(s): Dr Amanda Carr and Professor Virginia Calder

We are offering a full-time, three-year PhD studentship to develop new in vitro models of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) using induced pluripotent stem cells created from patients.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a complex disease and the leading cause of blindness in the western world. Over time, changes in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) leads to the damage of light-sensing cells in the retina and central vision loss. There is strong evidence that the immune system plays an important role in the development of AMD. Ageing and stress cause RPE cell damage and the build-up of debris in and around the RPE, resulting in chronic inflammation and an immune response in the macular region. Investigating the events that lead to local tissue inflammation and an immune response in AMD will provide us with a greater understanding of early AMD pathology and could allow us to develop new therapies to treat or prevent vision loss.

This project will develop a new cell culture-based model system to examine the behaviour of key cell types involved in AMD.  Using stem cell-based approaches, we will create RPE and from patients with AMD and study their interactions with macrophage cells. We will then use this new model system to examine the effects on new immunomodulatory medicines.

The successful candidate will use cutting edge technology to develop skills in stem cell culture, cell differentiation, disease modelling, molecular biology and immune cell profiling.

The successful candidate is expected to:

  • Establish a model system to study early AMD pathology using induced pluripotent stem cell-derived RPE and macrophages.
  • Investigate cell responses to early AMD pathogenesis within the model system, using cell co-culture and by encouraging disease pathology
  • Study the effects of immune system modulators on RPE and macrophage interactions.
  • Maintain current knowledge of relevant literature
  • Organise and analyse data from the project, maintain laboratory record and prepare progress reports/presentations
  • Prepare manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed journals.
  • Participate in lab meetings
  • Travel for collaboration and meetings/conferences
  • Have a very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively to develop their project and work both individually and within a team
  • Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies

Personal specification

  • Hold, or expect to receive, a minimum upper-second degree or equivalent in an associated subject such as biology, neuroscience, biomedicine or life science. A Master’s degree or previous lab-based research experience is desirable.
  • Interest in degenerative disease and developing new model systems to study disease pathology.
  • Experience/interest in cell biology including stem cells, eye cells and immune cells
  • Interest/understanding of molecular biology
  • Ability to work collaboratively and as a member of 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 Dr Amanda Carr (a.carr@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 interview.

The successful candidate is expected to start on 1 October 2022, but flexibility with respect to the start date is possible

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded for three years by the Moorfields Eye Charity and includes UK UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual salary stipend starting at £20,000 for salary and living expenses.


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

Applicants who will incur international fees are welcome to apply and must show that they can supplement the difference between UK and international fees (currently £26,680 per year) in their application.


Application deadline: Monday 27 June 2022

Proposed interview date: Week beginning 11 July 2022