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An illustration depicting a cancer cell attached to tissue within the body

Systems biology emphasises a multi-level, integrative approach to understanding how living organisms work. With our close links to the Polyomics facility, we apply a full range of post-genomic technologies to aid our understanding.

PhD Research Projects

Comparative functional genomics for insect control

Outline & aim

Insects are the most successful class of life on earth, with more species than all other organisms combined. It’s inevitable that insects impinge on human life in both positive (e.g. pollinators) and negative (disease vectors, destroyers of crops) ways. The availability of genomes for ever increasing numbers of insects allows us to understand insect function more generally than has ever been possible, and may allow us to devise new, more specific –and thus greener- methods of insect control for food security.

This project will draw on our established skills in insect physiology and genomics (e.g. flyatlas.org) to increase our understanding of fundamental processes, like renal function, that are mission-critical to survival. The student will join a large, vibrant research group, funded by the BBSRC, NIH and Horizon 2020, and will be trained in a wide range of contemporary skills, listed below.

Techniques

  • Functional genomics: transcriptomics, microarrays, RNAseq, metabolomics, informatics.
  • Genetics: Drosophila genetics, transgenics, crosses, conditional expression.
  • Physiology: microdissections, functional assays
  • Imaging: microscopy, confocal microscopy, immunofluorescence, reporter genes 

References

  • Beyenbach et al. "The developmental, molecular, and transport biology of Malpighian tubules." Annual review of entomology 55 (2010): 351-374.
  • Robinson et al. "FlyAtlas: database of gene expression in the tissues of Drosophila melanogaster." Nucleic acids research 41, no. D1 (2013): D744-D750.
  • Cabrero et al. "Chloride channels in stellate cells are essential for uniquely high secretion rates in neuropeptide-stimulated Drosophila diuresis."Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111.39 (2014): 14301-14306.
  • Efetova et al. "Separate roles of PKA and EPAC in renal function unraveled by the optogenetic control of cAMP levels in vivo." Journal of cell science 126, no. 3 (2013): 778-788.
  • Cabrero et al.. "A biogenic amine and a neuropeptide act identically: tyramine signals through calcium in Drosophila tubule stellate cells." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280, no. 1757 (2013): 20122943.

Contact

Julian.Dow@glasgow.ac.uk

Drosophila models of human disease

Outline & aim

To cure human disease, models are needed to provide better understanding, and to identify possible treatments. Although the standard lab model is the mouse, labs around the world have found that many human diseases can be modelled cheaply, quickly and ethically in the simple genetic model fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This can provide huge advantages, and can bring real research advances within the scope of a PhD project. 

Nowhere is the need for models greater than in the study of kidney (renal) disease, as the human kidney is hugely complex and surrounded by a dense, opaque sheath. Our lab has shown that we can model serious kidney disease in Drosophila, and so this project is to study such diseases, like inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs) and kidney stones, in this simple organism. he student will join a large, vibrant research group, funded by the BBSRC, NIH and Horizon 2020, and will be trained in a wide range of contemporary skills, listed below.

Techniques

  • Functional genomics: transcriptomics, microarrays, RNAseq, metabolomics, informatics.
  • Genetics: Drosophila genetics, transgenics, crosses, conditional expression.
  • Physiology: microdissections, functional assays
  • Imaging: microscopy, confocal microscopy, immunofluorescence, reporter genes

References

  • Beyenbach, Klaus W., Helen Skaer, and Julian AT Dow. "The developmental, molecular, and transport biology of Malpighian tubules." Annual review of entomology 55 (2010): 351-374.
  • Robinson, Scott W., Pawel Herzyk, Julian AT Dow, and David P. Leader. "FlyAtlas: database of gene expression in the tissues of Drosophila melanogaster." Nucleic acids research 41, no. D1 (2013): D744-D750.
  • Dow, J. A., & Romero, M. F. (2010). Drosophila provides rapid modeling of renal development, function, and disease. American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology, 299(6), F1237-F1244.
  • Hirata, T., Cabrero, P., Berkholz, D. S., Bondeson, D. P., Ritman, E. L., Thompson, J. R., ... & Romero, M. F. (2012). In vivo Drosophilia genetic model for calcium oxalate nephrolithiasis. American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology, 303(11), F1555-F1562.
  • Al Bratty, M., Hobani, Y., Dow, J. A., & Watson, D. G. (2011). Metabolomic profiling of the effects of allopurinol on Drosophila melanogaster. Metabolomics,7(4), 542-548.

Contact

Julian.Dow@glasgow.ac.uk

Synthetic biology for enhancing crop water use efficiency

Outline & aim

Stomata are pores that provide for gaseous exchange across the impermeable cuticle of leaves. Stomata exert major controls on the water and photosynthetic carbon cycles of the world and can limit photosynthetic rates by 50% or more when water demand exceeds supply. Guard cells surround the stomatal pore and regulate its aperture. Our deep knowledge of guard cells – much arising from this laboratory – gives real substance to prospects for engineering stomata to improve crop yields under water-limited conditions.

This project will engage the synthetic tools of optobiology with the aim of accelerating stomatal responses to environmental drivers, especially light and water availability, both important for crop production. The project will draw on optobiological switches – notably LOV domain peptides – and will use these to control the gating of key ion channels at the guard cell membrane that are known to drive stomatal movements.

Techniques

The student will gain expertise in synthetic and molecular biological methods, and a deep grounding in the concepts of membrane transport, cell biology and physiology. Skills training will include in-depth engagement in synthetic molecular biology, protein biochemistry and molecular genetic/protein design, single-cell imaging and fluorescence microscopy and analysis. Additional training may include single-cell recording techniques in electrophysiology and membrane transport.

References

  • Wang, et al. (2014) Plant Physiol 164,1593-99
  • Lawson & Blatt (2014) Plant Physiol 164, 1556-70
  • Eisenach, et al. (2012) Plant J 69, 241-51

Contact

Michael.Blatt@glasgow.ac.uk

Overview

Systems Biology draws on the strengths of molecular and cell biology to try to build an integrative picture of how organisms work. Implicit in the approach is big data (coming from imaging, microarray, RNAseq, proteomics or metabolomics, for which we are very well equipped), together with mathematical and computational biology to draw higher-level insights. Systems biology also works very well with genetic model organisms, such as yeast, Drosophila or Arabidopsis; or in human biomedicine.

Through their research interests in drug development, biotechnology and clinical applications, many of our project supervisors have strong links with pharmaceutical and agrochemical industry.  The interdisciplinary nature of systems biology means that these highly active supervisors have international collaborations both with other Universities and industry. Funds are available through the college of MVLS to allow visits to international laboratories where part of your project can be carried out. This provides an excellent opportunity for networking and increasing your scientific knowledge and skill set.

Study options

PhD programmes in Systems Biology last 3-4 years with research topics being allied to ongoing research within the Institute, the majority of which are basic science projects. A variety of multi-disciplinary research approaches are applied, including biochemistry, molecular biology, molecular genetics, materials science, polyomics (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics etc), bioinformatics, structural biology, microscopy and imaging techniques. Specific areas of interest include:

  • Modelling organ specificity in the plant circadian clock
  • Post-genomic insights into tissue function and control in Drosophila
  • optimising recombinant protein expression and secretion in mammalian cells
  • Systems biology approaches of stress-induced plasticity of the mitochondrial intermembrane space
  • Light control of local and long distance phytohormone signalling in Arabidopsis
  • Quantitative systems biology of membrane transport and cellular homeostasis
  • Systems biology of gas exchange and photosynthesis, from molecule to the field
  • Materials and metabolomics for identification of stem cell fate modifying metabolites
  • Analysis and integration of large omics datasets

Supervisors

All our postgraduate research students are allocated a supervisor who acts as the main source of academic support and research mentoring.

You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply.

Current supervisors

Entry requirements

Awarded or expected 1st class or high upper 2nd class BSc degree.

English Language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English.

Fees and funding

Fees

2016/17

  • £4,121 UK/EU
  • £18,900 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Submission by a research student £440
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £890
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £140
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £680
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period) £250
  • General Council fee £50
  • Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

2017/18

  • £4,195 UK/EU*
  • £19,500 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

* We expect that tuition fees for EU students entering in 2017 will continue to be set at the same level as that for UK students.  However, future funding arrangements for EU students will be determined as part of the UK’s discussions on its future relationship.  If you are thinking of applying for 2017 entry, we would encourage you to do so in the usual way. For further information, please see the Research Councils UK statement on international collaboration and Universities UK Brexit FAQs for universities and students.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Fee for re-submission by a research student: £460
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work: £1,050
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed: £250
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship: £730
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period): £300
  • Registration/exam only fee: £150
  • General Council fee: £50

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

 

Funding

Support

The College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graduate School provides a vibrant, supportive and stimulating environment for all our postgraduate students. We aim to provide excellent support for our postgraduates through dedicated postgraduate convenors, highly trained supervisors and pastoral support for each student.
 
Our over-arching aim is to provide a research training environment that includes:

  • provision of excellent facilities and cutting edge techniques
  • training in essential research and generic skills
  • excellence in supervision and mentoring
  • interactive discussion groups and seminars
  • an atmosphere that fosters critical cultural policy and research analysis
  • synergy between research groups and areas
  • extensive multidisciplinary and collaborative research
  • extensive external collaborations both within and beyond the UK 
  • a robust generic skills programme including opportunities in social and commercial training

Resources

We offer a wide range of cutting-edge research facilities that span 3 buildings, including:

  • core facilities in fluorescence activated cell sorting analysis
  • cell imaging and biophysical techniques, with NMR.
  • cutting edge microarray
  • next-generation sequencing
  • proteomics and metabolomics facilities
  • in-house informatics support
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