This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Investigation of microRNA regulation and function in prostate cancer

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression by interacting with messenger RNAs (mRNAs) from genes that encode proteins. The aberrant expression of miRNAs has been associated with various disease states, including prostate cancer.  There is much hope that microRNA profiling can be a potentially valuable tool for improving the prognosis, diagnosis and treatment of this diseases. However, there remains a significant gap in our knowledge about the role of miRNAs in prostate cancer development.

The functionality of many of these miRNAs remains unknown, so there is still a requirement for studies which can demonstrate experimental validation of miRNA target(s) and a measurable effect on cellular behaviour, in order to elucidate their mode of action. In our laboratory, we are interested in investigating how specific miRNAs can contribute to the progression of prostate cancer through their regulatory networks.

We have identified several miRNAs that remain poorly investigated in relation to prostate cancer and which therefore offer exciting possibility for novel discoveries. We are also interested in how expression of these miRNAs is regulated by (i) epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, and (ii) tumour-specific characteristics, such as tumour hypoxia.

Our laboratory uses a variety of in vitro, in vivo and in silico models to investigate these phenomena. The current project will utilise a combination of these methods to identify and investigate miRNAs which play important roles in prostate cancer development.

Methods

The methods equipment and expertise outlined below are routinely used in the laboratories of both supervisors and papers featuring similar experimental approaches have been published by them.

*Cell culture of prostate cancer cells

*PCR Expression Analysis of miRNA

*Analysis of DNA methylation *Functional Analysis of selected miRNA - Transfection assays - Effect on protein expression (Western Blotting) - Validation of target(s) (PCR & luciferase reporter assay) - Cell behaviour bioassays (proliferation / apoptosis /invasion )

*Bioinformatic analysis & Data-mining of online clinical data repositories.

*Use of ‘R’ to probe datasets.

Hypothesis: Altered expression of miRNA promotes prostate cancer cell proliferation.

Aims & objectives

1.To identify and select miRNAs for investigation

2.To identify targets and carry out functional analysis of selected miRNAs

3.To assess how selected miRNAs are regulated

4.To identify clinical significance of selected miRNAs through in silico analysis of The Cancer Genome Atlas clinical datasets

5.To evaluate the potential of miRNA profiling as diagnostic/prognostic biomarkers in prostate cancer

Skills Required of Applicant

*Good Laboratory skills

*Good oral and written presentation skills

*Good critical thinking and analytical skills

*Good IT skills

*Good work ethic and ability to work independently

*Experience of biostatistics and using statistical packages

*Interest in bioinformatic analysis

References

Kanwal et al, Cancer Lett. 2017, 407:9-20.

Vanacore et al, Oncotarget. 2017, 8(30):50240-50251.

Lynch et al, Prostate 2016, 76(13):1146-5910.

Lynch et al, 2016 Prostate 76(7):637-48.

Nesbitt et al, Clin Cancer Res. 2017 23(7):1797-1808.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Kieran O'Donnell

My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Profile picture of William Crowe

Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe


Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
09 to 20 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Dr Declan McKenna


Other supervisors

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