PhD Studentship: Building the Nervous System: How Integration of Positive and Negative Signals Guides Synapse Formation in c. Elegans

Oxford Brookes University - Faculty of Health and Life Sciences,Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

3 Year Full Time studentship

Eligibility: Home UK/EU applicants who must be permanently resident in UK/EU

Closing date: 12 January 2018 (midnight UK time)

Start Date: September 2018

Value p.a.: Bursary £14,500 and fees.

Main supervisor: Dr Maike Kittelman

Supervisor: Dr Maike Kittelmann


The formation of synapses between specific pre- and postsynaptic partners and in the correct location is crucial to ensure correct signal transmission. Although many genes driving synapse formation have been described, only few negative regulators that prevent ectopic synapses or overgrowth are known. Characterising these negative signals is not only essential to understand how the nervous system with its highly complex network of synapses develops, but could give new insights into why some neurons fail to regenerate after injury.


In this project, we aim to challenge the system by creating double and triple mutants of genes with a known phenotype in synapse number, size or location and/or known involvement in synapse formation. We will analyse effects using fluorescently labelled markers for a variety of pre- and post-synaptic components by imaging the nerve cords with Confocal Microscopy. In addition, we will analyse how these changes affect the ultrastructure of the neurons and synapses and their ability to recruit vesicles for neurotransmission using Electron Microscopy tomography, serial section EM as well as Serial Block Face SEM. Therefore this project will help to better understand the genetic regulation of nervous system development and neurotransmission.


Training in C. elegans genetics, bioimaging using the state-of-the-art facilities available in our department, image analysis and EM sample preparation will be provided.

As part of their Studentship, any successful applicant will be required to undertake up to 6 hours undergraduate teaching/demonstrating a week during semesters on undergraduate practicals without further remuneration. Training will be given.

Contact: Dr Maike Kittelman (

Requirements: Applicants should be of the highest quality and capable of submitting a PhD thesis within 3 years. Applicants should have a first class or upper second class (minimum 2.1) honours degree from a Higher Education Institution in the UK or an acceptable equivalent qualification. EU Applicants must have an IELTS Academic test certificate with an overall minimum score of 7.0 and no score below 6.0 issued since 12th January 2016 by an approved test centre. We will consider alternative acceptable evidence of English Language ability.

Application procedure:

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