PhD studentship in the School of Life, Health and Chemical

The Open University - Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Based in Milton Keynes

Three years from 1st October 2018

Stipend: £14,553 per year. No tuition fees

Investigating the neural underpinnings of individual variation in conditioned and motivated behaviour associated with substance use disorders

Laboratory Objective

Effective treatment options and long-lasting recovery from substance dependence have been elusive because of the propensity of drug abusers to relapse into drug-seeking and -taking. The reinstatement of these behaviours is often precipitated by re-exposure to conditioned stimuli (CS), or cues, associated with drug use. Importantly, there is considerable individual variation in the degree to which cues exert motivational control over behaviour. Accordingly, the student’s research will address one of the following:

  • Does variation in dopamine neurotransmission1,2 and dendritic signalling3 contribute to how strongly cues motivate behaviour?
  • Can we develop new translational animal models of substance use disorder that reflect how people procure and take drugs, and how variation in these patterns of drug-use impact potential for relapse4?


  • Behavioural investigations in both animals and humans.
  • Fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (enables recording of dopamine in animals).
  • Dendritic spine analyses (electron and confocal microscopy).
  • Optogenetics
  • Photometry
  • Pharmacology
  • Biochemistry

Further information
This project is fully funded for 3 years. The funding covers tuition fees (for UK/EU applicants) and provides a stipend of £14,553 per year. Applicants will be expected to have a degree (classification 2:1, or higher) in neurobiology, psychology, physiology or cell biology, biochemistry, or a relevant subject. Candidates with backgrounds in behavioural neuroscience or biological psychology are particularly invited to apply. Further details about the project are available here.

Supervisory team: Dr Bryan Singer, Dr Christopher Heath, Dr Claire Rostron and Dr Kerry Murphy, School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

How to Apply
Please send an email with your CV, a completed application form and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date) to

Interviews will be arranged promptly after the closing date, and can be conducted via Skype if appropriate.

LHCS holds Athena Swan Bronze Status.

Equal Opportunity is University policy

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