PhD Studentship: Combining analogue and digital genetic control

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Start Date:  1st October 2017

No. of positions available: 1

Supervisor: Prof. Martin Howard

Project description:

How gene expression is quantitatively regulated is one of the most fundamental questions in molecular biology, yet one where our understanding is far from complete. Genes can be regulated in an analogue fashion, where their output can vary continuously, similar to a molecular dimmer switch. However, it is also possible for the output of a gene to be digital; either on or off. In the digital case, strong positive feedback is required to force the system into one of the two possible states. Such digital regulation is often found at epigenetic target genes, where it enables the transcriptional status of the gene to be “remembered” for long periods. In this project, the student will study how these two fundamentally different types of regulation can co-exist at a single target, the repressor gene FLC. The work will combine stochastic mathematical modelling, together with the latest experimental results. The dual analogue/digital regulation at FLC, together with a wealth of mechanistic experimental studies from our experimental collaborators, makes this an ideal system in which to test our ideas. The student would join a group at the interface between molecular/cell biology and mathematical modelling/biological physics. This interdisciplinary project would suit a student with a background in theoretical physics/applied mathematics but with a passion to apply these ideas to uncover fundamental mechanisms in biology. The student will be actively encouraged to attend the monthly Cambridge Epigenetics seminar series and participate in national and international conferences.

Person specification: Minimum entry 2:1

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,296pa – 2016/7), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website: 

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