Potential projects for self-funded applicants

If you are considering self-funding your research degree, or bringing funding from a sponsor, browsing through our available projects may give you some insight into the type of research we do in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. You may want to apply directly to one of these projects, using the link below.

The Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry are seeking to appoint self-funded PhD candidates of outstanding ability to join their exciting and rapidly expanding programme of internationally rated research. The faculty is committed to research excellence with a recent £25 million investment in staff and facilities. Medical research here was ranked first for outputs in REF2014.

Project title: EphrinA-EphA5 signaling regulates macrophage clearance in the injured peripheral nervous system

Reference: 18-19-004

Earliest available start date: 01 October 2019

Direct of Studies: Dr Xinpeng Dun

2nd Supervisor: Professor David Parkinson

Project information

The rapid response of the peripheral nervous system after trauma injury provides an excellent research model to study gene function that is important for regulating the process of nerve regeneration and tissue repair. This PhD studentship will use gene knockout mouse models to study the functions of the axon guidance receptor EphA5 and the transcription factor Runx2 in peripheral nerve regeneration. The project will give successful candidate a very wide range of training on both in vitro and in vivo research techniques such as nerve crush injury, functional recovery analysis, whole nerve staining, fluorescent and confocal microscopy, genotyping, mRNA purification, cDNA synthesis, real-time PCR, western blot, immunohistochemistry and primary cell culture. The student will also be trained to obtain a Home office personal licence for using animals for research. Other training opportunities include weekly journal clubs, the medical school seminar series and the annual PhD research events. 

We are looking for candidates with the following experience and qualifications:

  • Applications with a first degree at 2:1 level or above in life science or biochemistry.
  • Experience in using molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry techniques.
  • International applicants must also have the required academic IELTS score (at least 7.0 overall with no less than 6.5 in each component test area)
  • Proof of financial of assurances.

Paper references (Development, 2017, 144: 3114-3125; The Journal of cell biology, 2017, 216:495-510; PloS one, 2017, 12:e0172736; PloS one, 2015, 10:e0119168).

For further information regarding the project, please contact Dr Xin-peng Dun. However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.

Project title: Identification of a novel signalling pathway triggering abnormal mitosis and neuronal death in Alzheimer brains

Reference: 18-19-005

Earliest available start date: 01 October 2019

Direct of Studies: Dr Torsten Bossing

2nd Supervisor: Dr Claudia Barros

3rd Supervisor: Dr Jon Gil-Ranedo

Project information

In healthy brains mature nerve cells never divide. In contrast, brain damage caused by Alzheimer Disease forces mature nerve cells to divide, leading to their death. If we can understand what causes these nerve cells to divide, we may be able to prevent their death.

The fruitfly is a favourite animal model to study the molecular causes of Alzheimer symptoms. In fruitflies the expression of defective human Tau proteins, the cause of family related Alzheimer cases, results in disruptions of microtubules, molecules that are major building blocks of every cell. Our findings indicate that this damage drives division in nerve cells by activating the NfkappaB signalling pathway. This pathway exists in humans and has been implicated in Alzheimer disease. We also found that NfkappaB signal is abnormally active in dividing mature nerve cells in post-mortem brains of Alzheimer sufferers. Our findings strongly suggest that defective Tau in the brains of Alzheimer patients disturbs microtubules, which abnormally activate the NfkappaB signal forcing nerve cells to enter into division and to die. Yet, the link between Tau, microtubules destruction and NfkappaB signalling is unknown. We propose to use fruitflies and postmortem human brains to identify the molecules abnormally activated by aberrant Tau. The identified molecules may serve as future drug targets allowing prevention or at least amelioration of neuronal death in Alzheimer diseased brains.

The prospective postgraduate student will have daily guidance from the Director of Study and will be encouraged to develop his/her scientific ideas to actively contribute to the development of work directions and priorities. He/She will also be in constant interaction with other groups that share the main open-spaced research laboratories at Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (FoMD). He/ She will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with students and staff in open space postgraduate offices, participate in a variety of seminar programmes (e.g. weekly research progress seminar series; monthly departmental PhD student-led journal club) and will be encouraged to attend at least 1 international scientific meeting. The student will be trained in a wide range of molecular and cellular laboratory techniques, spanning in vivo Drosophila work to human tissues. He/she will also be trained by the supervisors towards enhancement of presentation skills and public speaking (e.g. via lab meeting presentations and preparation for other oral presentations). In addition, the student will participate in courses from the Plymouth University Graduate Skills Program promoting the development of postgraduate academic and transferable expertise such as scientific writing and critical thinking. In summary, the prospective postgraduate student will be in a high quality scientific and educational environment and will have the support to successfully complete his/her doctoral studies and progress in his/her career.

For further information regarding the project, please contact Dr Torsten Bossing. However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.

Project title: Role of ubiquitin protein ligase Nedd4.1 and Nedd4.2 in the mouse dopaminergic midbrain and its crosstalk with alpha-synuclein

Reference: 18-19-006

Earliest available start date: 01 October 2019

Direct of Studies: Professor Edgar Kramer

2nd Supervisor: Professor Robert Fern

Project information

In many Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Parkinson's disease (PD) patients alpha-synuclein is accumulating in neuros such as dopaminergic neurons of the midbrain as Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites. Alpha-synuclein oligomers have been shown to lead to neuron degeneration, a hallmark of DLB and PD. Currently, it is still unclear by which mechanisms the amount of alpha-synuclein is controlled in vivo and which degradation machinery normally reduces the alpha-synuclein protein level. Nedd4.1 and Nedd4.2 are two related E3 ubiquitin protein ligases widely expressed in the brain and present during development and adulthood in midbrain dopaminergic neurons. In human brains, Nedd4 is present in pigmented neurons and expressed strongly in neurons containing Lewy bodies. Previous studies by other groups have already shown that Nedd4.1 promotes alpha-synuclein degradation in cell culture.

Here we will address the physiological function of Nedd4.1 and Nedd4.2 in vivo in conditional knockout mice specific for the midbrain dopaminergic system. We will also investigate in these loss-of-function mutant mice the effect on endogenous alpha-synuclein and transgenic human alpha-synuclein protein levels and aggregates. These data will help us to conclude if loose of Nedd4.1 and Nedd4.2 can cause or enhance neurodegeneration and increases Lewy bodies and Lewy neurite formation. In addition, this project will allow us to indicate if Nedd4.1 and Nedd4.2 are good targets for therapeutic approaches to prevent or slow down the disease progression in DLB and PD.

The prospective postgraduate student will work in the recently opened state-of-the-art Derriford Research Facility with open-plan office and laboratory space and an animal facility. He/She will be part of the University of Plymouth graduate school and the Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine, which provide high-quality scientific research and educational environment with many training options, seminars, and career development programs.

We are looking for candidates with the following experience and qualifications:

  • Degree in a life science subject, biochemistry or similar with above average grades.
  • Experience in using molecular biology, cell biology, genetics and/or biochemistry techniques.
  • Proof of financial assurances and English language skills.

Paper references:

  • Drinkut et al. (2018), Cell Death Dis., doi: 10.1038/s41419-018-0636-4.
  • Tillack et al., (2015), PLoS One, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136203.
  • Meka et al., (2015), J.Clinical Invest. doi:10.1172/JCI79300.

For further information regarding the project, please contact Professor Edgar Kramer. However, applications must be made in accordance with the details shown below.

Access the application form and further information on the admissions process on our applicant and enquirers page. Please mark the application with the reference number, for the attention of Francesca Niedzielski. A project proposal is not required if applying for a project listed on this page.

If you have any questions contact meddent-pgradmissions@plymouth.ac.uk  

The University of Plymouth is committed to equality of opportunity, promoting a diverse and inclusive culture, demonstrated through our commitment to the gender equality Athena SWAN Charter and as a Stonewall diversity champion. All applications will be judged solely on merit; however, we particularly welcome applications from currently under-represented groups.

Further information on our ResMs

In order to be awarded a ResM degree, candidates need to achieve a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 120 credits via taught modules, plus successful defence of a ResM thesis.  For those applicants interested in lab based or bioscience projects, the modules listed against MSc Biomedical Science would be of interest to you.

Applicants interested in clinical or education type projects can find modules of interest against programmes in the School of Medicine.

ResM students also have access to modules from other faculties, for example the School of Health Professions run a MClinRes Clinical Research with many modules of relevance.

A timetable of modules will be agreed between you and your supervisory team ahead of your start date.

The research component of a ResM includes execution of an extended research project. The ResM degree examination involves writing-up a thesis about the project undertaken and a viva voce (thesis defence examination).