Years 2-4

Planning your PhD

Students celebrating graduationTowards the end of your first year, you will select your PhD research project. Typically about 30 projects will be offered and potential supervisors will be available for in-depth discussion. Moreover, students will be able to work with the Programme Directors to refine these suggestions and thereby formulate a research area of particular interest to them. All projects will involve developing and applying state-of-the-art theoretical approaches to an experimental or clinical research question studied at Imperial. Accordingly, each student will have two supervisors – one theoretical and one experimental. Projects will take advantage of the breadth of expertise within Imperial College, embracing both basic biological research and clinical science, and we will encourage projects that are co-supervised between departments.

The PhD project

In years 2-4, the majority of your time will be spent in the laboratory of your principal supervisor, but you will also interact closely with your secondary supervisor, in whose lab you will have a second research base. You will attend the group meetings of both supervisors and thereby obtain familiarity with all aspects of the iterative cycle of theory and experiment. There are funds for you to attend national and international meetings where you can present your research and develop connections to other researchers; these can become essential aspects for your future career and may lead into your first post-doc position.

There will be regular meetings of this Wellcome PhD cohort: we will run regular research-in-progress sessions where you will be able to present your own research to your peers and the Imperial College research community.  In journal clubs you will gain experience in dissecting the recent research literature, which in turn will sharpen your analytical and writing skills. You will also be able to attend the many seminars at Imperial that span a vast area of biological, clinical, mathematical and computational research. In addition, there is a specialised seminar series on systems biology and bioinformatics, including symposia with international speakers. Finally, at the annual away day for all students in this programme students will give talks outlining their project and where they see it going; this event concludes with a dinner to which all students and supervisors are invited. Modern science is a social endeavour and making close connections across the cohorts on this programme will give you a strong scientific social network that you will be able to draw on for the rest of your career.

Typical PhD projects

The topics offered will reflect the current research interests of the supervisors. Examples of the type of projects envisaged are: 

  • Development and application of computational methods to prioritise disease SNPs in genes associated with allergic diseases
  • Modelling amyloid-β/Metal ions interactions in the synaptic cleft
  • Emergence in gene expression: from noisy stochastic models to functional synthetic gene circuits
  • Cellular decision making processes in the haematopoietic stem cell niche
  • Mathematical modelling of cellular and genetic host responses to viral infectionModelling and experimental perturbation of transcription factor and epigenetic programmes that underpin survival and proliferation in mature B cell malignancies
  • Modelling the topology of DNA transcription
  • Enhanced construction and analysis of phylogenetic trees modelling the development of antibodies to HIV env to guide vaccine design
  • Systems modelling of the transcriptional and post-transcriptional feedback circuits regulating expression of coagulation Factor III (tissue factor) and predisposition to thrombosis in inflammation
  • Cross-fertilisation of data-analytic techniques between metabolomics and glycomics
  • Exploration of the biophysical forces at play during malaria parasite entry into the human erythrocyte, from theoretical modelling to experimental validation
  • Simulation based analysis of molecular motors with single molecule resolution
  • Emergence in gene expression: from noisy stochastic models to functional synthetic gene circuits
  • Assembly of leukaemia niche via active phase separation
  • Modeling a transcription factor network regulating stem cell divisions in C. elegans 
  • Exploring glucocorticoid receptor DNA bindings sites in airway epithelia cultures of normal and asthmatic patients by ChIP-seq.
  • Machine learning to model  interacting proteins and genes involved in protein folding in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Systems biology and experimental approaches to identify common antibiotic targets for the treatment of human and veterinary pathogens of the family Pasteurellaceae
  • Topological and functional analysis of breast cancer related transcription factors in biological networks
  • Prediction and identification en masse of protein allosteric sites