PhD Studentship in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

University of Reading - School of Pharmacy Research

Project title: Investigation of the functional effects of auto-immune related NMDA receptor antibodies in representative CNS preparations.

Supervisors:  Professor Gary Stephens and Dr Angela Bithell

Background: Epilepsy is a CNS disease with a large unmet clinical need, in that ~30% of patients are resistant to existing pharmacological therapy. Here, we will test the hypothesis that a number of epilepsies have an associated auto-immune component by investigating the potential role that auto-antibodies (AAb) play in epilepsy and so develop novel treatments. Thus, we will characterise the functional consequences of exposure of AAb (including to the glutamatergic N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor) to in vitro and ex vivo neuronal networks.

Outline of proposed PhD project: This fully-funded 3-year project is jointly sponsored by the University of Reading and the industrial partner, UCB Pharma. The proposed work exploits expertise and established technologies developed by Prof Gary Stephens & Dr Angela Bithell (School of Pharmacy, University of Reading) and UCB (Dr Christian Wolff & Dr Rafal Kaminski, Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium and Dr John Silva, Slough, UK). In this PhD project, the student will primarily use multielectrode array electrophysiology and immunohistochemical techniques to assess the functional consequences of: a) acute AAb exposure in acute, murine brain slices and, subsequently, b) longer term AAb incubation in rodent organotypic or primary neuronal-glial cultures and/or 3D induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cell cultures. Patch clamp electrophysiology may also be employed if early results in acute brain slices warrant the use of this technique. An important part of the project will involve the opportunity to undertake research placements with UCB Belgium and UCB Slough, predominantly, but not restricted to, the first year of the project.

Application process

Interested parties should address informal queries to Professor Gary Stephens ( and/or Dr Angela Bithell ( Applicants should submit a covering letter together with a current CV with details of 2 professional referees by email to Catherine Hale, School of Pharmacy Research Secretary (


  • Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree or equivalent in an appropriate biomedical-related science
  • Due to restrictions on the funding this studentship is open to UK/EU students.

Funding Details:   

  • Starts Oct 2017
  • 3 year award
  • Tuition fees plus stipend

How to apply:   

To apply for this studentship please submit an application for a PhD in Pharmacy by clicking the 'apply' link below. 

*Important note* Please quote the reference ‘GS17-115’  in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your on-line application.

Application Deadline:  31st July 2017

Further Enquiries:  

Please note that, where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter; this will be provided separately from any Offer of Admission and will be subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria. 

For further details please contact:

Prof Gary Stephens:

Dr Angela Bithell:

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South East England