Skip to main content

Executive Dean’s PhD Studentship in the Development of a cellular model of rob(15;21) translocation for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

The team of Prof Vagnarelli, Dr Tosi and Prof Sala at Brunel University London is offering a fully funded PhD studentship to develop a cellular model of Robertsonian chromosome translocation (15;21) to study the evolution of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Children who are born with a constitutive balanced Robertsonian translocation rob(15;21) are a high-risk category for developing ALL with poor prognosis and low treatment success rate. This studentship will address the basis for this predisposition and design targeted treatments using state-of-the art methodologies.

Based in and funded by the College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, this studentship offers a full-time annual London rate stipend estimated at £20,551 plus Home/EU tuition fees, for a maximum of 36 months.

The Department of Life Sciences holds a Silver Athena SWAN Award and is committed to equality of opportunity and advancing women’s careers.

The start date will be 1 October 2023.


Due to the lack of models to investigate the aetiology of ALL in children carrying the Robertsonian chromosome rob(15;21), this studentship generate the first human cellular system where the evolution of the translocation can be studied and potential drug treatment tested. During this PhD the student will acquire expertise in CRISP-Cas9 genome editing, high resolution microscopy, live cell imaging and transcription profiling.

The successful candidate will be supervised by an expert interdisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians who will provide full training for the research.

For informal discussions, please contact Prof Paola Vagnarelli on (


Candidates should have an undergraduate degree (first or upper second class) or equivalent qualification in biosciences or a related field. A Masters qualification in a relevant area is desirable but not essential. Previous Experience in cell biology, molecular biology and mammalian cell culture are desirable criteria. Applicants who have not been awarded a degree by a University in the UK will be expected to demonstrate English language skills to IELTS 7.0 (minimum 6.5 in any section).

How to apply

If you wish to apply, please e-mail the following to by 7 June 2023.

  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A single-page A4 single-spaced personal statement describing why you are a suitable candidate (i.e. outlining your qualifications and skills).
  • One example of your academic writing (e.g. an essay, a section from a dissertation).
  • A summary of your teaching experience or your willingness to support teaching activities.
  • Names and contact details for two academic referees.
  • A copy of your highest degree certificate and transcript.
  • A copy of your English language qualification, where applicable.

Short-listed applicants will be required to attend an interview week commencing 3rd July 2023.

For further information about how to apply, please contact the College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences Postgraduate Programmes Office on

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Paola Vagnarelli - Qualifications: PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology, University of Pavia, Italy  Degree in Biological Sciences, University of Pavia, Italy Professional experience 1993-1996  Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dipartimento di Genetica e Microbiologia Universita’ di Pavia 1997    Visiting Scientist MRC Human Genetics Unit, Edinburgh 1998- 2012 Postdoctoral Research Fellow Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology Edinburgh (Prof WC Earnshaw) 2102    Lecturer School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Department of Biosciences, Brunel University London    

Sabrina Tosi - Dr Sabrina Tosi graduated in Biological Sciences at the University of Milan (Italy) in 1989 and then attained her post-graduate degree in Human Cytogenetics at the University of Pavia (Italy) in 1992. Between 1989 and 1993 she was a research scientist at the Department of Paediatric Haematology, University of Milan, Ospedale San Gerardo, Monza (Italy). During this time she worked also as a visiting research scientist at Oncogenetic Laboratory, Children's Hospital, University of Giessen (Germany) for approximately a year.  In 1994, Dr Tosi transferred to the University of Oxford to work as a research scientist, she then enrolled and completed her DPhil studies in 1999. She continued to work at the University of Oxford until July 2005, when she was appointed as Lecturer in Biosciences at Brunel University London.    

Arturo Sala - Trained in Biochemistry and Cellular Biology at the University of Rome and the Italian National Institute of Health, I completed a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” on the topic of DNA and RNA methylation in relation to muscle cell differentiation.  After a short postdoctoral training in the National Institute of Health in Rome, I won an international post-doctoral fellowship from the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC) and moved to the Kimmel Cancer Institute, Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia. Working in the laboratory of Prof. Bruno Calabretta, I was the first to characterize the transcription factor and oncoprotein B-MYB and establish its relationship with key tumour suppressor genes, such as p53 and retinoblastoma family members.  In 2001 I was recruited by the UCL Institute of Child Health as Senior Lecturer and later promoted to Reader. In UCL I continued to pursue the study of oncogenic transcription factors in the context of neuroblastoma, a childhood tumour affecting the peripheral nervous system. I was appointed Professor of Translational Cancer Research and Deputy Director of the Brunel Institute of Cancer Genetics and Pharmacogenomics in September 2011. In 2016 I joined the Synthetic Biology Theme in the Institute of Environment, Health and Societes.