University of Cambridge

Job Opportunities


PhD Studentship - Mitochondrial toxicity in Drosophila models of neurodegenerative diseases

Mitochondrial toxicity in Drosophila models of neurodegenerative diseases


1st: L. Miguel Martins 2nd A Willis

The Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, is an internationally renowned institution focussed on the delivery of field-changing mechanistic insights into toxicology and disease.

The Unit is part of the University of Cambridge; it is currently located in Leicester and will be relocating to Cambridge in early 2020. Candidates will therefore be undertaking the first part of their PhD at the Unit's current premises in Leicester. The Unit is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and provides a supportive learning environment designed to meet the scientific and transferable skills required for an internationally competitive career.

Students will be registered with the University of Cambridge for the duration of the studentship. Successful applicants will enjoy membership of a University of Cambridge College from commencement of their PhD in October 2018, but will initially have only limited access to College facilities due to the location of the Unit.

This studentship is for four years commencing October 2018 with an annual stipend of £15,000 (tax free).


Mitochondria are essential for cellular functions due to their role in energy production, calcium homeostasis and apoptotic signalling. Specialised cells, such as neurons, are heavily reliant on mitochondria for most of their energetic demands. The maintenance of a pool of healthy mitochondrial in neurons is, therefore, of critical importance. Our work focuses on mitochondrial signalling pathways of toxicity associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. We use fruit fly as an animal model to gain in vivo mechanistic insight into mitochondrial toxicity associated with these neurodegenerative diseases. We have recently uncovered that neuronal toxicity in Drosophila models of Parkinson's disease is linked to the activity of PERK, an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident kinase. We found that defective mitochondria form direct contacts with the ER in fly brain and this causes neuronal death ( The objective of this project is to explore the mechanism through which the activity of PERK is regulated by contacts between mitochondria and the ER using Drosophila as an in vivo model.

This advert will remain open until 30th June 2018 or until a suitable candidate is found. Please check the Toxicology Unit website for updates

More information about our research can be found at the lab's website:

Funding Notes

Candidates must expect to obtain qualifications at the level of a first-class or 2.1 Honours Degree in a biological science or related discipline and to fully satisfy the residence requirements of the UK Research Councils.

A fees-only award will be available to EU nationals who are not ordinarily resident in the UK. Students who are liable for fees at the 'overseas' rate are not eligible for these studentships.

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and university fees) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay
  • Been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for three years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences)
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (this does not apply to UK or EU nationals)

Please note that you should include a 'motivational statement' in your CV as well as in the field entitled 'Additional Information to Support Application'. This should explain why you have specifically applied to conduct your PhD within our research team.

Queries regarding the project and your suitability can be sent in the first instance to:

Applications must be made via the University's online Applicant Portal:

Please quote reference PU15034 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.

Further information