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  MRC funded PhD 4yr studentship  
  January 07, 2016  
University of Exeter -

About the award

DNA repair, highlighted in this year’s Nobel Prize, plays a critical role in preserving genomic integrity against cancer. Paradoxically, it also promotes mutagenesis of immunoglobulins to stimulate immune diversity. Failure to do so could lead to cancer or immunodeficiency. This project aims to study the role of a new chromatin modifier on antibody diversification and tumorigenesis.

Research theme: Infection, Immunity & Repair

Location: Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Streatham campus, University of Exeter


Dr. Richard Chahwan, University of Exeter

Dr. Abderrahmane Kaidi, University of Bristol

Dr. Nicholas Harmer, University of Exeter

Full Project Description:

Cancer is one of the major public health problems in the UK and across the world. The likelihood of an individual getting cancer is greatly increased by genetic conditions involving mutations in DNA repair proteins, which typically safeguards genomic stability. Ironically, DNA repair can also promote mutagenesis at the immunoglobulin locus of B cells to stimulate antibody immune diversification. Failure to efficiently propagate these two conflicting processes could lead to tumorigenesis and immunodeficiencies, respectively.

We have recently conducted two independent genome-wide screens: 1) a proteomic screen to identify novel DNA mismatch repair proteins (with Edelmann lab in NY); and an 2) shRNA screen to identify novel proteins involved in antibody diversification (with Martin lab in Toronto). RuvBL2 ATPase/helicase was one of the very few protein hits identified in both our screens. RuvBL2 is a core member of the TIP60 histone acetyl transferase complex and is known to be important for genomic stability. Because the loss of RuvBL2 is incompatible with life (our unpublished data), we have now generated mice harbouring a conditional knockout allele of RuvBL2 and propose to test its role in immune development, antibody diversification, and tumorigenesis.

This studentship has 4 main aims with a workload divided between Exete, Bristol, and possibly New York.  


DTP Overview:

The ‘MRC GW4 BioMed DTP’ brings together the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff (lead) and Exeter to develop the next generation of medical researchers. Students will have access to the combined research strengths, training expertise and resources of the four research-intensive universities, with opportunities to participate in interdisciplinarity and 'team science'. Many of the PhD projects supported by the DTP will be co-supervised across at least two of the partner universities, allowing students to join existing and emerging research partnerships.



The ‘MRC GW4 BioMed DTP’ is awarding 18 studentships per annum, aligned with the themes of Infection, Immunity and Repair; Neuroscience and Mental Health; and Population Health. The DTP also places a strong emphasis on cross-cutting skills priorities (quantitative skills, interdisciplinary skills and in vivo skills), and may advertise projects outside these themes. The DTP welcomes students from non-medical backgrounds and can fund additional training to assist discipline conversion. Most studentships will be 3.5 years full time or up to 7 years part-time, and can be longer where additional training is undertaken.



This studentship is funded through the MRC GW4 BioMed Doctoral Training Partnership. It consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£14,057 p.a. for 2015/16, updated each year).

The research project listed above is in competition with 46 other projects available across the GW4 BioMed Doctoral Training Partnership. The 18 projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

Additional funding, dependent on the project is available over the course of the programme (dependent of the research requirements). This will covers costs such as research consumables, training, conferences and travel. Additional funds are available for high-cost training/research. 


Residency: Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education. A small number of awards may also be made available to EU Nationals who do not meet the above residency requirement, provided that they have been ordinarily resident in the EU for at least 3 years prior to the start of their proposed programme of study.

Academic criteria: Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of medical sciences. The DTP welcomes students from non-medical backgrounds, especially in areas of computing, mathematics and the physical sciences, and can fund additional training, including Masters to assist discipline conversion. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

English requirements:  If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirement of at least 6.5 in IELTS (alternative tests may be acceptable, see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/).



Application deadline:14th January 2016
Value:£14,057 plus UK/EU tuition fees for eligible students
Duration of award:per year
Contact: CLES PGR Support Team 01392 723706/01392 725150cles-studentships@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

£14,057 plus UK/EU tuition fees for eligible studentsTo apply, please complete the application form via this link by 9am, 14 January 2016. You may apply for up to 3 projects.

The Management Board will complete the shortlisting and inform applicants by 22 January 2016.

If you are shortlisted you will need to;

  • contact your chosen supervisor(s) to discuss your application between 25th January and 5th February
  • submit two references and a copy of your academic transcript(s) by February 8th 2016
  • attend an interview in Cardiff on 9th or 10th February 2016

Further details will be included in the shortlisting letter.

Type of employment: Full Time

should be sent to: Richard Chahwan - Group Leader
University of Exeter
Wellcome Building - Biosciences
Stocker Road
Exeter, EX4 4QD, United Kingdom
E-mail: rc435@ex.ac.uk
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