University of Cambridge

Job Opportunities


BBSRC DTP Targeted PhD Studentship (Fixed Term)

Spastic Paraplegia genes and organisation of axonal endoplasmic reticulum in Drosophila

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD studentship in the BBSRC-funded Cambridge DTP (Doctoral Training Programme), to work with Dr. Cahir O'Kane on the organisation and function of the dynamic tubular endoplasmic reticulum (ER) network in axons.

Our goal is to understand the mechanisms governing the organization of the tubular ER network in axons, using Drosophila as the main model. ER is unique among intracellular membranous organelles by its continuity throughout cells, and it shows highly dynamic behaviour comprising tubules that continually fuse and diverge. In neurons, the great lengths of axons (up to 1m in humans) impose special demands on ER, and its continuity has earned it the term "neuron within a neuron" - with potential to carry long-distance signals, independently of action potentials or physical transport. We recently showed that a subset of Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia disease genes help to organize the dynamic ER network in axons, and are now extending our work to the physiological roles of the network architecture.

This project aims to reveal more of the processes governing the quantitative parameters of axonal ER architecture, density and dynamics, and how this is affected in relevant mutants. It will involve generation and interpretation of optical microscopy and EM data, to gain a good basic understanding of how the ER network is organised and changes in axons. This understanding will then be used in phenotypic characterisation of new mutant genotypes, that may be generated in this or related projects. The project is primarily experimental, involving fixed and live microscopy and Drosophila genetics; however, it aims to generate sufficient data for quantitative analysis and modelling of ER network properties, in collaboration with our collaborator Prof David Holcman (ENS Paris).

For more information on our work, please see our lab website ( and our most recent paper (

The project is based within the Department of Genetics, but a 10-week rotation will take place in another lab and the successful applicant will also be required to attend all DTP training courses, events and a three month internship (PIPS). The successful applicant must complete the Programme in 48 months.

All applications should be made online via the University's Applicant Portal using the Department of Genetics course code (BLGE22). Details of how to apply are on:

Applicants should hold or be about to achieve a First or Upper-Second (2.i) class degree in a relevant subject.

Funding will cover the student's stipend at the current Research Council rate and University Fees for 48 months, subject to eligibility. The studentships are available to UK nationals and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding can be found on the BBSRC website ( Applications from ineligible candidates will not be considered.

The closing date for applications is 7 December 2017. Interviews will be arranged after this deadline.

Please quote reference PC13895 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.