PhD Studentship in the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology

University of Leeds - Faculty of Medicine and Health

Using Big Data and Statistics to Understand Melanoma Skin Cancer

Funding: Alan and Joan Webster Studentship

Supervisors: Professor Tim Bishop, Professor Julia Newton-Bishop

A PhD studentship is available for UK and EU citizens only. The studentship will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £14,296 for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress and will cover the UK/EU tuition fees.

You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject. This project would suit a student with a strong background in computational statistics/bioinformatics and an interest in the application of genomics to the benefit of human health.

The Faculty minimum requirements for candidates whose first language is not English are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

Research Project:


Melanoma is an increasingly common form of cancer. While surgical removal cures the majority of melanoma, a significant proportion relapse and have advanced disease which has poorer prognosis.

We have shown that the major genetically determined risk factors are skin pigmentation, the genes associated with increased numbers of moles and germline telomere length. As a result of the sun exposure, melanoma tumours show overall the highest mutation prevalence of all cancers and in particular a mutational profile indicative, as expected, of UV exposure. Although this work has contributed considerably to understanding causation, there remains much to be understood. Further, understanding how risk is determined would inform preventative strategies.

Aims and Objectives

  • Determine the best genetic predictors of pigmentation, nevus count and telomere length available from the literature and via collaborations (already in place)
  • Investigate how pigmentation, nevus count and telomere length jointly determine a person’s risk of melanoma
  • How does the actual pattern of sun exposure influence the genetic determinants of risk?


This project will involve the application of state-of-the art statistical techniques to investigate the joint effects of genetic factors and patterns of sun (UV) exposure. The data are available and combine locally generated data with complementary information obtained colleagues worldwide and also from publically available sources to determine how a person’s genetic profile and their behaviour in the sun influence the risk of developing melanoma. The project involves the statistical analysis of genome-wide SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) data over at least 15k cases.

How to apply:

To apply for this studentship applicants should complete a Faculty Scholarship Application form and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates to the Faculty Graduate School

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to by no later than Wednesday 16 November 2016

Potential applicants are welcome to contact Professor Julia Newton-Bishop with informal enquiries about this research project or Professor Tim Bishop

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to

Closing date for this studentship is Wednesday 16 November 2016

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Northern England