PhD Studentship: Optogenetic Reprogramming of the Anxiety Circuit, Medicine

University of Exeter - University of Exeter Medical School

The University of Exeter Medical School is seeking to attract a PhD candidate of outstanding ability to join their exciting and rapidly expanding programme of internationally rated research.

One unresolved question in neurobiology is how emotions are formed and controlled. Better understanding of the neural basis of emotions would not only open new possibilities to cure mood disorders, but also would advance fundamental understanding of how organisms cope with the environment and interact with each other.

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric diseases, with a lifetime prevalence of about 25%. They are often co-diagnosed with depression and various addictions in combination representing the third leading cause of the global burden of disease. Anxiety and mood disorders affect 180 million people worldwide, leaving more than 120 million disabled, exceeding the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The knowledge of brain mechanisms underpinning anxiety is currently inadequate, mainly due to lack of tools sophisticated enough to probe the brain’s extraordinary complexity. In order to address this, a successful candidate will use an innovative combination of psychology, optogenetics and matrix biology in mice to investigate and eradicate symptoms associated with anxiety.

Entry Requirements
Experience with in vivo models of brain disorders would be an advantage. The candidate will perform stereotaxic surgeries, molecular and behavioural studies in mice.

Applicants are expected to have a first or upper second-class degree in experimental biology or neuroscience and a relevant Masters qualification (if European-based), and/or a strong GPA from a 4 year undergraduate degree with some research experience (if North American/Australasian-based). International applicants must also have IELTS [International English Language Testing System] score of 7 and above (or equivalent qualification).

Applicants should have excellent organizational skills, be highly motivated and creative, enjoying being a part of a vibrant, multidisciplinary and collaborative research environment. The candidate will be expected to communicate effectively, with evidence of strong scientific writing skills particularly important. Moreover, previous experience with animals (mice, rats) and basic statistical analysis skills are desirable.

Academic Supervisors:

Professor Robert Pawlak, University of Exeter Medical School

Funding Notes:

The studentship will be fully-funded for 3 years for UK/EU students, including a stipend of £14,553 per annum (based on the full-time 17/18 rate).   Tuition fees will be paid at the UK/EU rate.  International students who are ineligible for UK/EU fee levels are welcome to apply, but must have certified and guaranteed means to fund the additional fees required (please see our website).

How to apply

Click the 'apply' button below and please upload the following:

  • CV
  • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project.
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English (see entry requirements)

General enquiries: please email

Project specific queries: please email Professor Pawlak

We regret that only candidates shortlisted for interview will be contacted.

Share this PhD
  Share by Email   Print this job   More sharing options
We value your feedback on the quality of our adverts. If you have a comment to make about the overall quality of this advert, or its categorisation then please send us your feedback
Advert information

Type / Role:



South West England