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UCL School of Pharmacy

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Studentships and funding

The UCL School of Pharmacy offers funded studentships throughout the year. Interested applicants should check this page regularly for new opportunities that arise.

Studentships at the UCL School of Pharmacy

Project title: Optimising the structure of modified EGFR aptamers for treatment of lung cancer

Project description
Aptamers are single-stranded oligonucleotides which adopt folded structures resulting in binding to a variety of therapeutically useful targets. In particular, an aptamer for the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has potential to inhibit overactivity in that protein, reducing cell proliferation in lung cancer. However, there are a number of questions regarding aptamer binding chemistry, formulation, and pharmacology which must be answered before such therapies can progress. 

This project is a PharmAlliance collaboration between Dr Christopher Serpell (UCL), Prof Rihe Liu (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and Dr Jie Tang (Monash University). This PhD studentship in the Serpell lab will focus on aptamer chemistry, while the Tang lab is examining formulation and the Liu lab is performing in vivo and in vitro tests.

In this studentship at UCL, the student will extend and improve the previous modified EGFR aptamer (Chem. Sci., 2023, 14, 9517-9525) through non-enzymatic selection experiments which will identify optimisations for stability, selectivity, and binding strength using a wide range of modifications (Figure 1). The binding between the hit aptamers and EGFR will be measured using biophysical techniques, while structural insights will be sought using crystallography, NMR, and molecular modelling.

The outcomes of the project will contribute towards the development of therapeutic applications of aptamers, which could become more versatile, sustainable, and cost-effective alternatives to antibodies.

As an international collaboration, the student is likely to be required to travel to UNC Chapel Hill and/or Monash for placements as part of this project.

The supervisor for this studentship is Dr Chris Serpell.

Main methods and techniques
Organic synthesis, automated solid-phase synthesis, flow cytometry, mass spectroscopy, biomolecular characterisation, biophysical methods.

Person specification
Applicants are expected to hold a first degree in pharmacy or chemistry (minimum 2.1). Other relevant skills will be taught during the project.

Applicants will also need to meet UCL MPhil/PhD entry and English Language requirements.  See here for further details.

The student stipend will be paid at UCL normal rates (stipend rate for 2023/24 is £ 20,622).

This studentship is open to Home applicants only. 

How to apply
Applications must include CV, personal statement, and the contact details of two referees.  Applications should be emailed to Ms Michelle Ward at sop.pgr@ucl.ac.uk 

The deadline for applications is 6pm on Monday 30th June 2024 and interviews will take place shortly thereafter.


Project title: Uncovering how toxic Ab and tau stresses astrocyte-neuron communication during Alzheimer’s disease

Project description
This project falls under the strategic priority focused on neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms and models. 

In this project we will use a novel model that consists of human induced pluripotent stem cell culture (iPSCs) developed by building a “cortical-astrocyte co-culture” from patient-derived human stem cells. This model will be used to validate whether the neurons successfully mimic human AD, enabling us to investigate the impact of AD causative mutations on astrocyte-neuronal communication to be investigated in human neurons and the implications of the causative mutation on pathological spread of the disease so that we can postulate hypothesis to intervene at an early stage to prevent/delay or halt the disease. We will achieve this by combining various expertise, including cell biology, electrophysiology to measure synaptic physiology, and transcriptomic profiling of tissue from human AD patients.

The supervisor for this studentship is Prof Afia B. Ali

Main methods and techniques
This PhD program will be co-supervised by Prof Afia B. Ali (primary supervisor, UCL School of Pharmacy, UK), as well as 3 other subsidiary supervisors; Prof Selina Wray (Institute of Neurology), Prof Kirsten Harvey and Dr Claudia Manzoni, (UCL School of Pharmacy), and takes advantage of complimentary expertise within the teams, including electrophysiology/neuropharmacology, cell and molecular biology, genetics and bioinformatics. The student will be provided training in cell culture work, high-resolution electrophysiology, pharmacology with detailed neuroanatomy and bioinformatics. 

Person specification
Applicants are expected to hold a first degree in Pharmacy, pharmacology, biology, neuroscience or biomedical sciences (minimum 2.1). Experience in cell culture (primary, recombinant or iPSC) would prepare you well for this PhD. The ideal candidates for these projects will have BSc or BPharmSci Honours degree (or equivalent) and prior experience with animal handling, and/or cell culture (primary, recombinant or iPSC).

Applicants will also need to meet UCL MPhil/PhD entry and English Language requirements.  See here for further details. 

The student stipend will be paid at UCL normal rates (stipend rate for 2023/24 is £20,622). This studentship is open to Home applicants only. 

How to apply
Applications must include CV, personal statement, and the contact details of two referees.  Applications should be emailed to Ms Michelle Ward at sop.pgr@ucl.ac.uk 

The deadline for applications is Monday 30th June 2024 and interviews will take place shortly thereafter.

 

For all UCL funding opportunities, please see Scholarships Finder and funding for students on postgraduate research courses