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The impact of mixed radiation and chemicals exposure on neuronal cytotoxicity, ageing and transcription

A 3-year funded PhD studentship is available in the College of Health and Life Sciences at Brunel University London. 

This studentship is fully funded and covers a generous tax-free stipend and full UK/EU tuition fees which amounts to £21,336 per annum for 3 years.

Project description

Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as that received from environmental contamination, radiotherapy and space travel, is identified as a possible risk-factor for cognitive impairment with deficits in learning, memory, and information processing abilities reported. However very little is understood about the biological responses and the pathways which can lead to these adverse outcomes. This is particularly the case for low dose exposures and, for mixed radiation and chemical exposures.

In this project we will leverage publicly-available large-scale next generation sequencing datasets to study changes in genome sequence, function and activity in cells of the brain. For this we will use a combination of bioinformatics and statistical tools alongside biological knowledge and analysis of published literature to identify genes that are mutated or have a differential expression pattern in radiation exposed subjects compared to healthy individuals. This analysis could lead to the identification of new mutations and genetic biomarkers. We will complement and extend this analysis with immunochemistry of cultured neuronal cells asking questions relating to cellular damage and aging. 

As part of this project you will develop a variety of skills to mine, analyse, and interpret biological data at genomic, transcriptomic, epigenetic and proteomics levels. To this end, you will be encouraged to develop your computational and data analysis skills such as R and Python. You will also develop and perform a range of cell biology techniques including specialised cell culture, immunochemistry and fluorescence microscopy.

The project will start on 1st February 2020 and will be based at the Brunel University London and will be supervised Dr Rhona Anderson and Dr Cristina Sisu.


This opportunity is only open to UK or EU students who fully meet the eligibility criteria of Brunel University London. We are looking for an enthusiastic and high-calibre candidate with an interest in radiation health effects and the combined effects of chemical exposures. The project would be ideally suited to a student in the life sciences, or similar disciplines. If you are a non-native speaker and have not been awarded a degree by a University in the UK, you must demonstrate English language skills to IELTS 7.0 (minimum 6.0 in any section).

How to apply

Informal enquiries are most welcome and should be sent to Dr Rhona Anderson rhona.anderson@brunel.ac.uk. If you wish to apply, please e-mail the following to chls-pgr-office@brunel.ac.uk by the 6th January 2020.

  • An up-to-date CV;
  • A single-page A4 single-spaced covering letter setting out why you are a suitable candidate.
  • Names and contact details for two 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. Applicants chosen for interview will be instructed to submit a formal online application via Admissions.

Further information is available from the College of Health and Life Sciences Postgraduate Research Student Office at chls-pgr-office@brunel.ac.uk.

Meet the Supervisor for this Studentship

Dr Rhona Anderson - Qualifications: -
  • FHEA, Brunel University London
  • PhD, Brunel University London
  • MSc, University of Aberdeen
  • BSc (Hons), University of Strathclyde

Professional Qualification

  • Certified Clinical Cytogeneticist (ACCCC)
Appointments -
  •  2019: Reader in Radiation Biology, Brunel University London, UK
  • 2016: Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, Brunel University London, UK
  • 2005: Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences, Brunel University London, UK
  • 1996 - 2005: Research Associate, MRC Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, Harwell, UK