Postgraduate Research Studentships Section

Department of Biochemistry Studentships

In collaboration with the Medical Sciences Division and Colleges, the Department awards a number of Postgraduate Research Studentships each year. These are full awards that will cover University and College Fees and funding for living expenses. All applicants that apply by the early January deadline will automatically be considered for one of these awards.


Group Leader and Project-specific Studentships

In addition to Department of Biochemistry Studentships, we occassionally advertise studentships that are associated with a specific Group Leader or Project. Details about these studentships are given below.

There are two Group Leader/Project-specific Studentships currently available in the Department:

4-Year MRC ITTP Studentship: Novel genetic approaches to predictive developmental and reproductive toxicology

Main academic supervisors: Prof. Catherine Pears and Prof. Alison Woollard

Industrial Collaborator: Syngenta

Project Description:

The project explores the use of invertebrate model organisms for toxicity testing of compounds destined to be released into the environment and exploits their genetic tractability to faciliate product design while minimising toxic effects. Toxicity testing of chemicals released into the environment is an essential component of risk assessment that prevents adverse effects on human health. It is particularly relevant in the agrochemical sector, where crop protection chemicals (for plant disease, pest and weed control) are used in the environment and low levels of pesticide residues may be present in the edible crop at harvest. Developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) is particularly challenging to assess because a whole organism approach is required, standardly involving cost-and time intensive tests in rats and rabbits, and knowledge of mechanisms of toxicity is limited. This project will exploit the genetic tractability of two prominent invertebrate model organisms, the social amoeba Dictyostelium and the nematode worm C elegans , to optimise a promising alternative testing platform in which the use of vertebrate animals is avoided. The platform will be used to probe the molecular basis of DART for selected compounds, ultimately presenting important opportunities to design better products combining high efficacy with low toxicity. This studentship, based in Oxford, is a collaboration between Catherine Pears and Alison Woollard based in the Department of Biochemistry and Kathryn Wolton in Syngenta, Jealott's Hill. The proposed work combines the disciplines of developmental biology and toxicology, exploiting recent advances in genetic analysis and biomaker development. This is an interdisciplinary project aligning a large variety of experimental and bioinformatic techniques in developmental biology, genetics and toxicology. It offers unique training opportunities for the student in the use of both C. elegans and Dictyostelium as model organisms for developmental biology, including systems approaches, genetic manipulation, biomaker imaging and bioinformatics. Training will include attendance at an annual residential course to interact with other relevant scientists. In addition, the student will gain expertise in toxicology in an industrial setting, including experimental approaches such as large scale screening and comparative data mining. Overall, the work aims to address this emerging challenge in predictive toxicology of particular relevance to the agrochemical sector, due to the pressing need to develop new crop protection products in an increasingly demanding regulatory environment.

Students with a biology, toxicology or biochemistry background, ideally with some  relevant undergraduate experience, would be preferred.

Informal enquiries are welcome:

The project is supported by a 4 year MRC PhD studentship covering fees at Home/EU rate plus a living cost allowance of not less than £14,777 per annum.

To apply for this studentship, please submit an online application to the University of Oxford for admission to the D.Phil. in Biochemistry (course code RD_BC1) by the deadline noon (UK time) 25th May 2018. No research proposal is required as part of the application. Instead you are required to upload a personal statement of no more than 1000 words, describing yourmotivation and aptitude for this position, and your CV. Please arrange three referees directly submit references for you.

Eligibility: ONLY students who have established UK residency are eligible to apply. For further details of about residence requirements follow link:

Admission policy and requirements


4-Year PhD Studentship: Structural analysis of cell guidance receptors in cortical development

Main academic supervisor: Dr Elena Seiradake

Project description:

Background. Brain development depends on the concerted actions of cell guidance receptors that act as context-recognisers by forming functionally distinct cell surface assemblies. Adhesion GPCRs are particularly good examples, as these contain large extracellular domains that act as platforms for diverse ligand interactions. Acting as hubs for receptor interactions, they perform key roles in guiding cell migration, polarisation and synapse formation, the process underlying brain wiring. How these receptors bind their multiple ligands and how signals are generated in the cell is just beginning to emerge.

Project. The project involves X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy to determine the structues of adhesion GPCRs and their ligands, and cell biology to investigate how structurally distinct complexes determine neuronal cell functions. We will provide training in the required techniques such as protein expression and purification from large-scale mammalian expression systems, biophysical analysis, and use of our advanced microscopy and crystallography facilities. The project also involves collaborations with the groups of Mark Sansom (Oxford Biochemistry),who has expertise in multiscale modelling of complex cell membranes, Carol Robinson (Oxford Chemistry), who investigates protein-protein and protein-lipid complexes using mass spectrometry and Ruediger Klein (Max-Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Munich), who uses advanced genetic tools to investigate nervous system development.

Outcomes. The project will provide the student with training in protein biochemistry, structural biology and basic cell biology. There will also be opportunities for exposure to and collaboration involving molecular modelling, mass spectrometry and specialised experiments to study protein function in situ. The primary outcome will be a molecular level insight into the currently unknown structures and functions of the target receptors in brain development. The results will underpin the development of new drugs and treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders that caused by malfunction of these receptors.

Further information and background reading:

Students with molecular biology, cell biology or biochemistry background,ideally some relevant practical undergraduate experience, would be preferred.

The project is supported by a 4 year PhD studentship covering fees (at the Home/EU rate) plus a living cost allowance of not less than £14,777 per annum.

To apply for this funded studentship, please submit an online application to the University of Oxford for admission to the DPhil in Biochemistry (course code: RD_BC1) by the deadline 12.00 noon (UK time) 25th May 2018. No research proposal is required as part of the application. Instead you are required to upload a personal statement of no more than 1000 words, describing your motivation and aptitude for this position, and your CV, plus including official transcripts of your undergraduate marks and degrees. Please arrange that three referees directly submit references for you.


College Scholarships

College Scholarships include:

E.P. Abraham Scholarship in the Chemical, Biological/Life and Medical Sciences at St Cross College






























Page Last Updated: 17/05/2018 by Erol Canpunar
© 2018 Department of Biochemistry