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PhD Studentship: On the Road to Precision Medicine in Autoimmunity: Characterising Type 1 Diabetes in the Human Pancreas (Funded PhD)

University of Exeter - Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £18,622 If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 26th February 2024
Closes: 22nd March 2024
Reference: 4909

The University of Exeter’s Department of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship by the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences to commence no later than 23 September 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible candidates the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £18,622 for 3 years full-time.   

Project Description:

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) confers a huge burden of self-care upon those who live with the condition. Furthermore, the severity, progression and ease with which individuals manage their condition varies. Our group (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32172310/) has recently shown that at least two distinct forms of T1D can be distinguished in the pancreas. These differ immunologically, in hormone processing profiles and rates of beta-cell loss. Understanding these differences may be critically important for the development of truly personalised therapeutic interventions.

This PhD project will employ multiplex, whole-section fluorescence imaging of rare, human, archival and/or donor pancreatic samples to study the phenotypic and spatial nuances of pancreatic pathology in both forms of T1D, and in Type 2 Diabetes, in long and short-duration disease.

This PhD studentship would suit an aspirational, creative, data-driven biologist, or a curious computational scientist with an interest in developing quantitative methods and approaches in the emerging field of spatial biology (and AI-driven image-analysis). In either case, you can expect to make seminal contributions to our understanding of T1D. This work will provide the global diabetes research community with information that will impact their understanding of what makes people the same or, critically, will show where we must consider differential treatment options for people living with T1D.

You will create large, complex data sets by employing state-of-the-art AI-driven image analysis to generate rich, nuanced RNA and protein expression profiles. These data will facilitate detailed phenotyping of cell types and allow for each cell to be investigated in the context of its neighbours and the organ itself. You will build expression profiles to characterise endocrine cells in relation to their pancreatic environment and the different immune cell populations implicated in beta-cell destruction. Discovering how these parameters vary between individuals will pave the way to a deeper understanding of T1D and to better-personalised care.

You will join the wider Islet Biology Exeter group which currently consists of 8 PIs and their teams, each focussing on different aspects of diabetes pathology and employing a large array of techniques. You will also be encouraged to attend seminars in genetics, neuroscience, immunology, pathology, cell biology and islet studies, providing a rich environment for enhancing your scientific communication skills, idea development and multidisciplinary collaboration amongst other PhD students, early career researchers, and more senior academic staff. 

This award provides annual funding to cover Home tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay Home tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £18,622 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. 

International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to study for a PhD. 

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