Funding your PhD

In order to study at postgraduate level you'll need funding to cover your tuition fees and living costs. The University and external bodies can provide assistance, as can the Faculty of Health and Medicine.

PhD Fees

To support study at postgraduate level you will need to have funding for two principal types of expenditure: tuition fees and living costs.

Tuition fees differ depending upon your place of normal residence, your nationality and your mode of study. Fees are revised annually – this information relates to the 2017/18 academic year.

PhD Biomedical and Life Sciences
PhD Medicine
PhD Statistics and Epidemiology

For full time UK/EU students the fee range is £4,121 - £11,621 per annum inclusive of bench fees, which are determined according to the requirements of the research project to be undertaken. The basic fee exclusive of bench fees for UK/EU students is £4,121 per annum and for Overseas students £15,595 per annum.

A project-specific bench fee of up to £7,500 per annum will be charged in addition to the basic fee. Applicants will be informed of the bench fee in their offer letter. In circumstances where a research project requires the use of exceptionally expensive materials, a higher bench fee may be charged.


PhD Health Research

Full time fees for UK/EU students are £4,121 per annum, full time. Overseas fees are £13,590 per annum, full time.

Part time fees for UK/EU students are £2,060 per annum. Part time fees for overseas students are £6,795 per annum.

Blended learning programmes are all part time.


Blended Learning PhD programmes

PhD Ageing
PhD Dementia Studies
PhD Health Economics and Policy
PhD Mental Health
PhD Organisational Health and Well-being
PhD Palliative Care
PhD Public Health

These PhD programmes are available for part time study only.

Fees information for 2017/2018: Home/EU: £3,090 per annum; Overseas: £8,025 per annum

Please note that the fees are subject to increase next year.

Fees

Research Studentships

Tab Content: Our Research

The Faculty of Health and Medicine brings together biomedical, medical, and social science researchers to engage in world-leading interdisciplinary research addressing issues of national and/or international importance in health and medicine. Research in the faculty is organised around the following research themes; Ageing, Health Information, Computation and Statistics, Infectious Disease Transmission and Biology, Mental Health and Social and Economic Inequality in Health.

Each year we are pleased to offer a number of funded studentships funded by Lancaster University. Further details of these opportunities will be provided as they become available.

Applications should be made using the Lancaster University Postgraduate Applications Portal, and we recommend that you contact the staff involved before making your application. If you have any questions about this process, please contact us on +44 (0)1524 592032 or pgadmisisons@lancaster.ac.uk

Tab Content: ESRC Studentships

Lancaster University forms part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)'s North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (NWSSDTP). The DTP offers a number of studentships, covering tuition and maintenance, for those wishing to study in areas covered by the ESRC at Keele, Lancaster, Liverpool or Manchester. Some studentships are reserved for those seeking joint supervision across two or more partner institutions.  

The Health and Wellbeing pathway is one of the newest but most successful pathways in the NWSSDTP and successful students can expect to join a vibrant groups of postgraduate researchers across the DTP.  Applicants interested in research around social science aspects of health (broadly defined) can apply to study within the Health and Wellbeing pathway.  Applications should be made to the PhD Health Research. Those interested in applying to the Health and Wellbeing pathway at Lancaster should consult the Division of Health Research for information about our research expertise and to identify a potential supervisor.  We encourage candidates to contact potential supervisors to discuss their proposed research prior to making an application.

Candidates are expected to have submitted an admissions application to the University of their choice prior to submitting the funding application. It is expected that candidates will have a formal offer (unconditional or conditional) by the date of the final Studentship Allocation Committee (13th March 2019). Studentship funding will not be formally awarded until an admission offer is secured.

Please check that you meet the academic and residential eligibility criteria on page two of the guidance notes before applying. If you have any queries about your application please contact the NWSSDTP Manager: nwssdtp@liv.ac.uk

Faculty of Health and Medicine Studentships

We are accepting applications for the following projects for the FHM PhD studentships.  The deadline for applications is 15th March 2019.  The studentships are for three years commencing in October and cover tuition fees for UK/EU students plus a stipend in line with UKRI rates.  Initial enquiries should be made directly to the supervision team.  Applications should be made through our online application system https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/how-to-apply-for-postgraduate-study/

Biomedical and Life Sciences Studentships

  • Repurposing gemfibrozil as a drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

    An opportunity has arisen in the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences (BLS) at Lancaster University for a talented researcher to investigate the possibility of repurposing an existing drug for the treatment of the world’s leading form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The post is fully funded including stipend, tuition fees and reagent costs (the latter largely funded by the ‘Defying Dementia’ campaign founded at the University; https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/defyingdementia/). You will be supported by an experienced and dedicated team of scientists; Dr. Ed Parkin, Dr. Chris Gaffney, Dr. Neil Dawson and Dr. Alex Benedetto who all excel in research areas relevant to the proposed PhD project (see https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/bls/people/ for further information).

     

    Project specifics: AD may be caused by aberrant proteolysis of the amyloid-precursor-protein (APP) producing neurotoxic amyloid-b (Ab)-peptides [1]. The enzyme ADAM10 cleaves APP precluding Ab-peptide formation leading, instead, to the formation of the neuroprotective fragment, sAPPa. ADAM10 also releases the prion protein, which binds Ab-peptides and mediates their toxicity, from the surface of neurons. Therefore, enhancing ADAM10 activity in the brain represents a potential multi-mechanistic AD therapy [2]. Gemfibrozil, a drug currently used for cholesterol reduction, enhances cellular ADAM10 levels and traverses the blood-brain-barrier [3]. The current study will combine cell and in vivo (rodent and worm) models to investigate whether this drug can be repurposed for the treatment of AD.

    Career benefits: You will develop broad expertise in a wide range of experimental methodologies including molecular biology, cell culture, immunohistochemistry, behavioural analysis and functional neuronal imaging in multiple systems. You will validate cell culture experiments in C. elegans and rodent models where the drug’s ability to protect cognition and brain function will be tested in a preclinical AD model. Given the importance of ADAM10 in other research areas including cancer, you will benefit from a range of future research employment possibilities. Furthermore, BLS provides extensive opportunities for professional development and has a highly supportive Divisional level support structure in place for post-graduate research students.

     

    Supervisory team

    Dr Ed Parkin
    Dr Chris Gaffney
    Dr Neil Dawson
    Dr Alex Benedetto

    PhD Biomedical and Life Sciences October 2019

     

  • Investigating the Neuro-Immune axis of African trypanosomiasis

    A multi-disciplinary PhD project investigating the immune and neurological response to sleeping sickness is available within the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences at Lancaster University. You will join a world leading supervisory team including Immunologists Dr John Worthington and Dr Lucy Jackson-Jones, Neuroscientist Dr Neil Dawson and Parasitologist Dr Mick Urbaniak (supervisor research profiles available here: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/bls/people/). You will be at the forefront of current research into the Neuro-Immune axis and join a dynamic post-graduate research community.

     

    The African trypanosome, a parasite that causes sleeping sickness, is able to infect humans and survive by evading the innate and acquired immune system. During the second stage of infection, the parasites cross the blood brain barrier (BBB) and enter the brain causing severe neurological disturbances. Neurological disturbances, including hallucinations and disturbances in sleep, often occur prior to brain penetration, but the mechanisms are largely unknown. We currently have little understanding of how trypanosomes affect brain function or how they perturb the immune system. However, our recent data suggest that disturbances in the Neuro-Immune axis, the link between the brain and the immune system, may be key.

     

    Our initial work on a mouse infection model has found that the parasites localised to the adipose tissue and gut from the early stages of infection. We have recently shown that this leads to enlargement of the omentum, a specialised adipose tissue that contains small clusters of immune

    cells, and a massive expansion of the omental immune cell population. As the intestinal epithelial immune response drives inflammation along the gut-brain axis, and the omentum is important in host protection following intestinal-epithelial breakdown, these results provide a potential link between infection, the immune response and perturbed brain function in the early stages of trypanosomiasis infection

     

    In this interdisciplinary project you will develop our understanding of how the immune system responds to parasite infections, and explore the link between immune activation and alterations in brain function and behaviour. Using an established in vivo model, you will explore how parasite infection influences the intestinal epithelial immune response and impacts on the activation of the omentum. You will characterise how the immune response contributes to the impact of trypanosomiasis infection on sleep and other behaviours in the translational model, and investigate the mechanisms by which this impact can be reduced using both in vivo and in vitro approaches.

     

    During this 3 year PhD project you will gain broad expertise in disease research with unique, specialist training in trypanosome biology, immunology, preclinical in vivo models and behavioural analysis. You will develop a broad range of technical expertise including multi-parameter flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, primary cell isolation, microbial analysis, immunohistochemistry, qPCR, cell culture, preclinical behavioural and cognitive testing and brain imaging. Throughout your PhD you will also develop a range of transferable skills including data analysis, scientific writing and effective communication skills. 

     

    Dr John Worthington
    Dr Lucy Jackson-Jones
    Dr Neil Dawson
    Dr Mich Urbaniak

    PhD Biomedical and Life Sciences October 2019

  • Making a degrader for KIFC1 as a new therapeutic for hard-to-treat cancers

    This PhD will be a collaborative project, drawing on the expertise of Dr Andrew Fielding and Dr Morgan Gadd to develop a new small molecule to treat aggressive cancer types, in particular triple-negative breast cancer and metastatic uveal melanoma. It will be an interdisciplinary project, broadly encompassing the modern discipline of chemical biology, but specifically entailing synthetic chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and pharmacology. Dr Fielding has worked extensively on the cell biology of cancer, whilst Dr Gadd’s research focuses on the construction and characterisation of cell-active degrader molecules.

     

    Proteolysis-targeting chimaeras (PROTACs) are bifunctional degrader molecules that bring together a protein target and a ubiquitin-ligase enzyme. This leads to the target protein being “tagged” for degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system. PROTACs are recognised as potential drug-like molecules capable of degrading proteins on which cancer cells rely.

     

    While normal cells contain two centrosomes, some cancer cells exhibit centrosomal amplification. This is a well-established phenotype in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In addition, we have unpublished data showing it is also prevalent in metastatic uveal melanoma (MUM). Cells with centrosome amplification need to avoid multipolar mitosis-induced death by clustering their centrosomes into two functional groups, allowing for bipolar division. Centrosome clustering requires a specific kinesin, KIFC1. We have demonstrated that depleting KIFC1 using siRNA inhibits the growth of TNBC cells, yet does not affect non-cancerous breast cells. This shows that KIFC1 disruption can be a cancer-specific therapeutic approach.

     

    In order to translate these findings towards the clinic, we now need a clinically applicable method to disrupt KIFC1 function. Two commercially available KIFC1 inhibitors have been shown to bind KIFC1. However, due to their pharmacokinetic properties, these inhibitors are unsuitable for clinical applications. Using these KIFC1-binding molecules as a starting point, the first strand of this project will use synthetic chemistry to develop PROTACs, as a strategy to degrade KIFC1 with small molecules.

     

    The second, independent strand will investigate the reliance of Metastatic Uveal melanoma (MUM) cells on KIFC1 expression. MUM currently has particularly poor outcomes and therefore novel treatment approaches are urgently needed. Here, we will use cell growth assays and live-cell confocal microscopy of MUM cells with fluorescent cellular markers to test their reliance on KIFC1 function. We will also use live-cell imaging to investigate the normal dynamics of KIFC1 localisation and levels through the cell cycle.

    The final section will use relevant cell culture models of TNBC and MUM to test the PROTAC. Firstly, the dynamics of KIFC1 degradation will be assessed by both western blotting and imaging of GFP-KIFC1. The effects on centrosome clustering will be assessed by immunofluoresence microscopy and, importantly, the downstream effects on cell growth of both cancer and matched normal cell lines will be determined. 

     

    Applicants are invited from a range of chemistry/biochemistry/cell biology/cancer research backgrounds, although an enthusiastic approach to the proposed research area is essential. Laboratory experience covering any of the techniques mentioned above is desirable.

     

    For informal enquiries, which are encouraged, please email Andrew Fielding at a.fielding1@lancaster.ac.uk or Morgan Gadd at m.gadd@lancaster.ac.uk

    Dr Andrew Fielding
    Dr Morgan Gadd

    PhD Biomedical and Life Sciences October 2019

  • Iron starvation response in Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness

    The blood-dwelling parasite Trypanosoma brucei is a pathogen of medical and veterinary importance and in sub-Saharan Africa causes human sleeping sickness and the livestock wasting disease Nagana. To survive within the bloodstream, the parasite must acquire iron from its mammalian host, with the ability to do so being essential for virulence. To prevent the growth of invasive pathogens, mammals limit the availability of essential element iron by sequestering it within the major serum glycoprotein transferrin. To counter this, T. brucei has evolved a unique transferrin receptor that allows it to obtain iron by receptor-mediated endocytosis of host transferrin. The parasite suffers iron starvation when it cannot take up sufficient transferrin from the host bloodstream. To cope with this situation, the parasite responds by rapidly up-regulating the expression of its transferrin receptor, an effect we have shown is mediated by the downstream untranslated region (3’UTR) in the transferrin receptor mRNA transcript (Benz et al. (2018) DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0206332). As iron acquisition is essential for parasite survival, the discovery of proteins involved in regulating transferrin receptor expression may provide novel targets for therapeutic intervention.

     

    In this PhD project, you will identify and characterise proteins involved in the iron starvation response in T. brucei, and using truncation and site directed mutagenesis identify 3’UTR motifs important for regulating transferrin receptor expression. Selected candidate proteins implicated in the iron-starvation response pathway will be studied using a combination of in situ tagging, inducible RNAi and site-directed mutagenesis, to perturb protein function and examine their role in the iron starvation response. This project will provide excellent training in cell culture, molecular biology, genomics and bioimaging techniques.

     

    Feel free to contact any member of the supervisory team by email at m.urbaniak@lancaster.ac.uk or p.mckean@lancaster.ac.uk for further details about the project.

    Dr Mick Urbaniak
    Dr Paul McKean

    PhD Biomedical and Life Sciences October 2019

  • Using genetically encoded biosensors to investigate how UV exposure modulates the cell and cilia cycles in melanoma

    Malignant melanoma (MM) incidence has increased markedly over the last four decades, a consequence of changing attitudes towards tanning. Although much is known about the genetic changes apparent at MM diagnosis, comparatively little is known about early changes in melanocyte behaviour on UV-exposure that ultimately result in cancer. We know that loss of the primary cilium is linked to melanoma and that UV stress can modulate cilia assembly. This project will address how UV-exposure modulates the cell and cilia cycles in melanocytes. UV exposure can result in (1) cells pausing in the cycling compartment to repair their DNA damage, (2) cells moving to a quiescent compartment or (3) cells moving to an apoptotic compartment. We have recently shown in mice that adult differentiated melanocytes exist in cycling as well as quiescent compartments and that we can track cilia assembly in these compartments. This project will map in detail how melanocytes modulate their cell and cilia cycles and transition between 1, 2 and 3 in response to UV.

     

    Genetically encoded biosensors exist to probe compartments (1-3) in vivo, including our recently published cell cycle and cilia reporter mouse, but there are no available melanocyte or keratinocyte cell lines that express them for in vitro assays. In order to test, at the individual cell level, the effects of UV exposure on the cell and cilia cycles this project will:

     

    1.         Develop new melanocyte and keratinocyte cell lines as in vitro models

    2.         Investigate individual cell heterogeneity in cell and cilia cycle characteristics including the movement between (1) quiescent -> (2) cycling -> (3) apoptotic compartments in vitro and in vivo

    3.         Understand how the cell cycle and the transition between these compartments is modulated by UV exposure in vitro and in vivo

     

    By using live imaging to gather individual cell level data we will determine the outcomes of UV irradiation on individual cells and investigate whether they occur through direct UV exposure or through a bystander effect of UV-exposed keratinocytes.

     

    The student will be joining a dynamic team that includes a North West Cancer Research funded postdoctoral fellow working on a closely related project.

     

    Impact

    In the UK ~15,400 people are diagnosed annually with melanoma; its incidence has increased 50% in 10 years. Historically melanoma incidence has been highest in Southern England. However, alarmingly, in the North West a reversal of this trend has been observed in young women (aged 10-29) and this has been attributed to increased use of sunbeds - 9/10 of which exceed safety rules. We still don’t understand why some melanocytes develop into melanoma and others don’t therefore we need better methods of examining the individual cell behaviour of these essential cells and their response to UV.

     

    Feel free to contact any member of the supervisory team by email at s.allinson@lancaster.ac.uk; or r.mort@lancaster.ac.uk for further details about the project.

     

    Supervisory team
    Dr Sarah Allinson
    Dr Richard Mort

    Scheme to apply for: PhD Biomedical and Life Sciences October 2019

Division of Health Research Studentships

  • Impact of attendance at a day centre on frailty outcomes and quality of life for older women

    This studentship is an exciting opportunity to join the Centre for Ageing Research (C4AR) at Lancaster University to work within this internationally highly regarded multidisciplinary centre that focuses on the challenges of ageing from a range of perspectives.

    The studentship will focus on impact evaluation of a women’s day centre in West Yorkshire. Women who attend are aged >50 and largely from the South Asian community. The area has higher hospital admittance for falls amongst >65s, greater income deprivation amongst >60s and a range of health inequalities in comparison with adjacent areas. The project aims to facilitate social engagement (including peer support), provides physical activity and a range of wellbeing opportunities, including intergenerational projects with children.

    Women are more likely to be diagnosed as frail in older age than men, and frailty is associated with greater risk of adverse outcomes in women. However, anecdotal observations of women who attend the centre suggest that falls are less likely than expected for the area, and quality of life improves.

     

    Aim: To evaluate whether there is evidence for these observations, whether there are aspects of the provision that have particular impact and what is the experience and perceptions of the women and volunteers.

     

    Methods: Triangulated mixed methods, four components (i) Literature review of impact of day-centres (ii) retrospective analysis of existing data on women who attend the centre to compare longitudinally and with local statistics on health outcomes. (iii) Current assessment of frailty, including psychological and social variables (e.g. loneliness) and outcomes (falls, QoL) from when people first attend to 6 months later. (iv) Qualitative work to examine experiences and components of the provision that older women, volunteers, and families perceive as having impact. Within this, we will specifically examine their experience of an intergenerational project.

    The student: You will have experience and confidence in both quantitative and qualitative methods, although further training will be provided. You will be motivated to work relatively independently in the field, and show cultural awareness suitable for work with this population. Some knowledge of Urdu or Punjabi would be helpful but not essential.

    For further information about the project please contact c.a.holland@lancaster.ac.uk or q.xiong@lancaster.ac.ukAn opportunity has arisen in the Division of Biomedical and Life Sciences (BLS) at Lancaster University for a talented researcher to investigate the possibility of repurposing an existing drug for the treatment of the world’s leading form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The post is fully funded including stipend, tuition fees and reagent costs (the latter largely funded by the ‘Defying Dementia’ campaign founded at the University; https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/defyingdementia/). You will be supported by an experienced and dedicated team of scientists; Dr. Ed Parkin, Dr. Chris Gaffney, Dr. Neil Dawson and Dr. Alex Benedetto who all excel in research areas relevant to the proposed PhD project (see https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/bls/people/ for further information).

     

    Project specifics: AD may be caused by aberrant proteolysis of the amyloid-precursor-protein (APP) producing neurotoxic amyloid-b (Ab)-peptides [1]. The enzyme ADAM10 cleaves APP precluding Ab-peptide formation leading, instead, to the formation of the neuroprotective fragment, sAPPa. ADAM10 also releases the prion protein, which binds Ab-peptides and mediates their toxicity, from the surface of neurons. Therefore, enhancing ADAM10 activity in the brain represents a potential multi-mechanistic AD therapy [2]. Gemfibrozil, a drug currently used for cholesterol reduction, enhances cellular ADAM10 levels and traverses the blood-brain-barrier [3]. The current study will combine cell and in vivo (rodent and worm) models to investigate whether this drug can be repurposed for the treatment of AD.

    Career benefits: You will develop broad expertise in a wide range of experimental methodologies including molecular biology, cell culture, immunohistochemistry, behavioural analysis and functional neuronal imaging in multiple systems. You will validate cell culture experiments in C. elegans and rodent models where the drug’s ability to protect cognition and brain function will be tested in a preclinical AD model. Given the importance of ADAM10 in other research areas including cancer, you will benefit from a range of future research employment possibilities. Furthermore, BLS provides extensive opportunities for professional development and has a highly supportive Divisional level support structure in place for post-graduate research students.

     

    Supervisory team

    Prof Carol Holland
    Dr Qian Xiong

    Scheme to apply for:
    PhD Health Research October 2019

     

  • The impact of economic shocks on mental and physical health

    This PhD explores the causal pathways between economic circumstances and health status by exploiting economic shocks and causal mediation analysis methods. It focuses on the effects of unemployment and income loss, especially during the Great Recession, on different measures of physical and mental health among older individuals. It employs multiple longitudinal datasets such as the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to study the role of risky health-behaviours in mediating the causal relationship between employment and health. The use of innovative methods allows the unpacking of causal relationships while also providing more accurate evidence to policy makers about the direct and indirect mechanisms leading to poor physical and mental health.

    The PhD student will be based within the Health Economics at Lancaster (HEAL) research group in the Division of Health Research (DHR), Lancaster University.

    For further information about the project please contact b.hollingsworth@lancaster.ac.uk or e.zucchelli@lancaster.ac.uk

     

    Supervisory team

    Professor Bruce Hollingsworth
    Dr Eugenio Zucchelli

    Scheme to apply for:
    PhD Health Research October 2019

  • Exploring how teachers’ explanatory frameworks of mental health difficulties, impact on their responses to students

    Teachers are set to play an increasingly important role in supporting young peoples’ mental-health. The ways in which teachers make sense of mental health problems are likely to determine how they respond, which in turn is likely to impact on how the young person frames these experiences, their self-management, and their future help seeking behaviour. This PhD project aims to assess teachers’ explanatory models of mental health related experiences, and how different underlying beliefs are associated with emotional/behavioural responses including normalising, referral to mental health services, and stigma.

     

    Study 1 - Narrative conceptual review to explore historical and cross cultural schools-based mental health interventions to contextualise the current study, and assess the extent to which current explanatory frameworks employed by teachers are deeply culturally rooted or historically contingent.

     

    Study 2 - In-depth qualitative interviews to explore teachers’ experiences of discussing mental health difficulties with a student, identifying their explanatory frameworks, their responses, and factors about the context or individual that impinge on the explanatory framework. Purposive sampling will identify a group of (approximately 15-20) teachers across a range of expertise and roles. Data from study 2 will be used to draft realistic vignettes describing children and young people presenting with mental health related issues within school, and to develop a checklist capturing the range of likely behavioural responses by teachers.

     

    Study 3 - A large sample of teachers (sample size based on formal power calculation) will be invited to read the vignettes and complete questionnaires to assess their explanatory models (IPQ adapted for this study), their likely behavioural response (using checklist) and their emotional response (stigma measure) – for each of the vignettes. Sampling will ensure a broad range of expertise and training. Statistical analysis will assess how teachers responses vary in response to the different vignettes, and extent to which responses are mediated by their underlying explanatory frameworks.

     

    For further information about the project please contact g.perezalgorta@lancaster.ac.uk

     

    Supervisory team

    Dr Guillermo Perez-Algorta
    Dr Richard Slinger
    Professor Fiona Lobban

    Scheme to apply for:
    PhD Health Research October 2019

Lancaster Medical School Studentships

  • Predicting the physiological response to exercise and nutrition in ageing and type II diabetes

    In 2015, there were 415 million adults worldwide with type II diabetes and by 2040, type II diabetes will affect one in ten adults worldwide (1). Ageing predisposes to type II diabetes and indeed, over 80% of those with the condition are over 50 years old (1). Type II diabetes reduces quality of life and total lifespan, and two of the best treatments are not drugs, but diet and exercise (2). Several studies have investigated the benefits of exercise on glycaemic control and the mechanisms of these benefits. However, the minimal ‘dose’ of exercise required to increase insulin sensitivity and improve glycaemic control has never been established.

     

    In the first study, the student will conduct exercise testing, oral glucose tolerance tests, and a series of biochemical analyses in blood to determine the quantity of exercise required to improve glycaemic control in patients with type II diabetes. In study two, the student will investigate whether the minimal amount of exercise to improve glycaemic control is influenced by biological age and muscle mass by comparing physiological and biochemical responses in BMI-matched young and old volunteers. In the third study, the student will investigate whether the success of dieting is determined as a function of age. This will be investigated using the a low-carbohydrate intervention in patients with Type II diabetes and modelling the benefits to glycaemic control as a function of age. Using the expertise of Dr Benjamin Taylor, the student will develop statistical models in order to quantify and understand improvements in glycaemic control as a function of exercise and diet.

     

    This project presents a unique opportunity for an ambitious PhD candidate to train within both arms of biomedicine: running human volunteer research studies, while acquiring skills in statistical modelling.

     

    For further information about the project contact c.gaffney@lancaster.ac.uk or b.taylor1@lancaster.ac.uk

     

    Supervisory team:

    Dr Chris Gaffney
    Dr Ben Taylor

     

    Scheme to apply to:
    PhD Medicine October 2019

  • How do patterns of routine vaccination coverage among children and young people (aged < 16 years of age) accessing secondary and tertiary medical care differ from the general paediatric population?

    In England in 2017-18, routine childhood vaccination coverage declined, meaning the UK now lags behind European neighbours. Hospital attendance is an opportunity to check vaccination status and refer for catch-up if needed, yet little work is done in this area. Whilst there are some well-established under-vaccinated sub-groups (e.g. children in care), coverage amongst hospital attendees has yet to be quantified. Those accessing hospitals have poorer health than their peers, so their vaccination levels may be lower.

     

    Research question

    How do patterns of routine vaccination coverage amongst children and young people (CYP, aged < 16 years of age) accessing secondary and tertiary medical care differ from the general paediatric population?

    Methods

    Retrospective data collection will take place for approximately 15-20,000 children in total, producing an estimate of immunisation coverage amongst populations and sub-populations attending secondary and tertiary medical care (hospitals) in the North West of England. Data will be further used to model the spatial structure of national (sub-group) vaccination coverage and simulate the impact of various hospital-based vaccination strategies on the distribution of the non-vaccinated CYP in the general population.

    Impact and expected outputs

    This work is intended to identify higher-risk sub-populations who could be targeted in hospitals for catch-up vaccination programmes, perhaps resulting in a change in policy in this area. It is also expected to result in three publications in peer-reviewed journals and a number of presentations at national/international paediatrics/public health conferences.

    For further information about this project please contact r.edge@lancaster.ac.uk

    Supervisory team:

    Dr Rhiannon Edge
    Dr Rachel Isba

    Scheme to apply to:
    PhD Statistics and Epidemiology

  • At-home Sleep Monitoring of the Cyclic Alternating Pattern in Adults and Children

    The cyclic alternating pattern (CAP) is observed during sleep and measured via polysomnography (PSG). The CAP is periodic and relatively long lasting compared to other sleep signals. It involves a set number of repetitions of other types of sleep events that occur during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM).

    The CAP is a marker of sleep instability and arousal and alters in response to internal or external events. It provides insight into the sleep pathophysiology of different disorders (i.e. sleep apnea, insomnia, night terrors, depression, eating disorders, epilepsies) and can be used to assess the effectiveness of sleep-promoting drugs. The CAP has also been used to monitor the sleeping brain in different paediatric clinical conditions (paediatric disordered breathing, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, learning difficulties, childhood epilepsies).

    Current published data on the CAP in school aged children is based on small samples. The availability of mobile PSG devices permits digital data collection with larger samples. This can provide normative reference data for clinical practice and inform research on child neurodevelopment.

    Work Package 1 of the PhD will validate at-home sleep monitoring of the CAP in 20 healthy adults using a mobile PSG device and subsequently collect CAP data on a sample of 100 healthy children and adolescents. The PhD will involve ongoing impact activities to ensure the resultant dataset is widely shared amongst clinicians and researchers.

    In work Package 2 the candidate will design and conduct an independent research project on a related topic completed within the time frame of the 3 year programme with the aim of establishing an independent postdoctoral research agenda.

    For further information about the project contact j.lunn1@lancaster.ac.uk or s.helal@lancaster.ac.uk

     

    Supervisory team:

    Dr Judith Lunn
    Professor Sumi Helal

     

    Scheme to apply to:
    PhD Medicine October 2019

  • Understanding the role of social interactions in disease transmission

    Social interactions between people drive the spread of many infectious disease, including influenza, measles and tuberculosis. Consequently, they form the basis of many public health interventions, such as quarantine and contact tracing. However, quantitative approaches to understand social mixing and its role in transmission are poorly developed – only recently have efforts been made to quantify interaction patterns at a nationally-representative scale using egocentric sampling (Mossong 2008 PLoS Med). There is a gap between the social interaction data collected and the information required to explain infection incidence patterns. Closing this gap requires an improved understanding of the factors that influence social mixing patterns and the extent to which interaction information is necessary for epidemic forecasting and assessment of public health control (Read 2012 Epidem Infect).

     

    Detailed social interaction information has been collected by Read as part of the FluScape study (NIH/Wellcome) in southern China. Social interaction, travel and demographic information was collected annually from more than 2,000 individuals across a 4-year period (Jiang 2016 Int J Epidem). Antibody titres against a panel of influenza strains was also collected annually from the cohort (Lessler 2012 PLoS Path).

     

    These data represent a unique opportunity to disentangle the social processes driving infection within urban and rural communities, with broad relevance to other populations and the potential to identify novel public health interventions. This PhD will provide a student with the opportunity to lead the development of statistical methods and model fitting for health science, and establish themselves as a leading expert in social interaction and transmission modelling – a specialism increasingly required for national disease control and international eradication programmes.

     

    Project research questions:

    Q1. How can spatially-embedded networks of interaction be inferred from egocentric sampled information?

    Q2. What demographic characteristics are associated with social interaction patterns?

    Q3. What are the social network and demographic determinants of influenza infection?

     

    For Further information about the project contact jonathan.read@lancaster.ac.uk or c.jewell@lancaster.ac.uk

     

    Supervisory team:
    Dr Jon Read
    Dr Chris Jewell

    Scheme to apply to:
    PhD Statistics and Epidemiology October 2019

  • Statistical Learning for Early Detection and Prevention of Diabetes

    Diabetes remains one of the largest challenges for our health service, and predictions have suggested that the NHS could be spending 17 billion pounds per year treating it by 2035.

     

    Diabetes is a challenging disease because its consequences are many and varied and despite there being a known preventive strategy for type-2 diabetes, there is a lack of pragmatic evidence surrounding the actual impacts of lifestyle interventions in preventing individuals at a high risk of diabetes becoming clinically diabetic. The number of diabetic individuals is large, which makes public-scale campaigns difficult (costly and resource demanding) to implement and better use of existing data, targetting the most at risk individuals could make a big difference to the long-term clinical outcomes of patients.

     

    Using historical EMIS records including predictors such as BMI, age, sex, HBAIC and other blood counts as well as the existence of co-morbidities, practice pharmacist prescribing data and socioeconomic data, this project aims to:

     

    (1) Develop statistical models to identify which of the pragmatically-collected risk factors (EMIS / prescribing / socioeconomic) are are useful for identifying individuals at risk of pre-diabetes* and clinical diabetes

     

    (2) To develop statistical models for HBAIC trajectories and evaluate this biomarker as a potential major component of a risk score calculator (see next)

     

    (3) To produce statistical models of risk as a function of time and develop an risk score calculator for predicting transition to (a) pre-diabetes and (b) clinical diabetes within a given time-period.

     

    By involving local key stakeholders, the results of this research will directly influence diabetes care in the Morecambe bay area and through publications, influence national practice.

     

    * NB we use the term `pre-diabetic’ to describe individuals that are at a high risk of developing diabetes.

     

    For further information about the project please contact b.taylor1@lancaster.ac.uk or jo.knight@lancaster.ac.uk

    Supervisory team:

    Dr Ben Taylor
    Professor Jo Knight

    PhD Statistics and Epidemiology October 2019

  • The role of an RNA processing factor in cancer cell proliferation

    The fundamental molecular basis of all cancers is the acquisition of genetic changes that promote uncontrolled cell division and invasive growth. We are interested in understanding the role of a key factor that is upregulated in a variety of cancer cell types, supporting cancer cell growth and disease progression. The activities of this putative RNA processing factor are poorly understood but our initial analysis has revealed a role in cell proliferation, likely related to its upregulation in rapidly dividing cancer cells. This studentship offers an opportunity to comprehensively extend our initial characterisation, receiving training in a variety of cellular and biochemical assays, established within the laboratory, to study DNA replication and cell division parameters. We will explore whether the cell cycle perturbation caused by disruption of this activity relates to RNA processing defects and changes in gene expression, and we will examine the regulation of this activity by post-translational modification. In the longer term, in determining the mechanism of this involvement in cancer cell growth and division, we aim to identify opportunities for therapeutic intervention.

     

    For further information about the project please contact e.m.taylor@lancaster.ac.uk or h.lindsay@lancaster.ac.uk

    Supervisory team:

    Dr Elaine Taylor
    Dr Howard Lindsay

    Scheme to apply to:
    PhD Medicine October 2019