PhD Studentship: Gene Regulatory Networks In Human Scalp Homeostasis

University of Southampton

Lead Institute / Faculty: Faculty of Medicine/CES

Main Supervisor: Dr Marta E Polak

Other members of the supervisory team:

Dr Rebecca Ginger (Unilever)

Dr Michael Ardern-Jones (CES)

Prof Mahesan Niranjan (ECS)

Duration of the award:  4 years commencing before 30th Sept 2017

This PhD project is a BBSRC CASE studentship, in collaboration between the University of Southampton and Unilever,

This is a fully-funded PhD, with stipend in the range advised by the BBSRC (£14,500.00 a year). Additionally the Student will receive a stipend enhancement with funding provided by the Industrial Partner.

Project overview

Accurate regulation of cutaneous immunity is fundamental for human health and life quality with inflammatory disorders affecting 40% of the population. Keratinocytes (KC) constitute the majority of cells in the skin’s epidermis, forming the first line of defence against percutaneous pathogens. Our previous studies have shown that KC signalling critically contributes to maintaining immune homeostasis in the skin, programming the function of immune cells resulting in immune activation or tolerance in the skin. The molecular mechanisms underpinning such programming need to be elucidated.

The project aims to apply data-driven systems immunology approaches, leveraging external and bespoke omics big data sets to build and refine predictive in silico models which could revolutionise the discovery and evaluation of novel therapeutic approaches for improved scalp and skin immune health.

Training offered

The student will join a team of interdisciplinary researchers. Training in immunology, cell culture, including 3D organotypic models, microscopy, flow cytometry, systems immunology, including bioinformatics and computational modelling will be provided to fit student’s background.

In addition, the student will be integrated into the cohort-based training programme offered by the Unilever-BBSRC Collaborative Training Partnership. This includes training in business-relevant skills and a 3-month placement at Unilever’s R&D site in Bedfordshire.

Required qualifications:

  • A 1stor 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters

The suited candidate is expected to have either excellent qualifications in biological sciences (cell biology, immunology, molecular biology, biochemistry) or firm mathematical background, with a degree in a quantitative discipline such as mathematics, physical sciences, bioinformatics or computer sciences. The project encompasses elements of both “wet lab” experimentation and computational modelling. A genuine excitement for, and interest in mathematical modelling of biological processes to address complex biomedical questions is essential for this project.

Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University's online application form, which you can find at

You should enter Dr Marta E Polak as your proposed supervisor. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date).

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to Dr. Marta E Polak, (email address).

Interview date:  22th February 2018

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