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Funded PhD Studentship investigating the effects of common DNA variants on bowel cancer risk

The Centre for Genome Engineering and Maintenance at Brunel University London is offering a fully funded PhD studentship for the investigation of common DNA variants that increase the risk of developing bowel cancer. This research position will involve investigating the effects of novel risk variants within two genes previously unknown to play a role in bowel cancer. The project will be laboratory based and will involve the generation and characterisation of model systems to test the role of these genes, POLD3 and CHRDL2 in the development of cancer, and how the DNA variants modify the expression of these genes. The aim is to identify the cancer pathways they affect and to determine their potential as novel therapeutic targets, biomarkers or relevance for screening programmes.

Based in the College of Health Medicine and Life Sciences, and funded by Bowel Research UK; the studentship offers an annual London rate stipend of £17609 plus Home/EU tuition fees, for a maximum of 36 months. Preferred start date is 1 Oct 2021


The PhD studentship on the effects of common DNA variants in CHRDL2 and POLD3 bowel cancer risk will be based on existing and emerging genetic data which the student will explore using a combination of cell culture systems and patient sample collections. They will identify the effects of modulating the target genes in cancer cells including growth, differentiation and genetic instability. Initially this will take place using 2D culture systems but will be expanded to 3D, organ-on-a chip or organoid models for more in-depth investigations. In parallel, the student will explore POLD3 and CHRDL2 expression levels and localisation in large collections of patient tumour samples to investigate correlations with tumour type, disease stage and other clinical variables. Finally they will identify the functional effect of the DNA variants on the regulation of expression of each gene using cell-line models and patient samples.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Annabelle Lewis. For informal discussions about this studentship, please contact Dr Annabelle Lewis (annabelle.lewis@brunel.ac.uk).


Candidates should have an undergraduate degree (first or upper second class) or equivalent qualification in Biosciences. A Masters qualification or work experience in a relevant area would be desirable. Experience in standard laboratory skills, particularly molecular biology and cell culture, would be desirable but full training will be provided for all necessary techniques. 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 6.0 in any section).

How to apply

If you wish to apply, please e-mail the following to chmls-pgr-office@brunel.ac.uk by midnight on Sunday 20th June 2021;

  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A single-page A4 single-spaced personal statement setting out 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 an undergraduate or a Masters dissertation).
  • 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. Applicants chosen for interview will be instructed to submit a formal online application via Admissions.

For further information about how to apply, please contact the College of Health and Life Sciences Postgraduate Research Student Office on chmls-pgr-office@brunel.ac.uk


Meet the Supervisor for this Studentship

Annabelle Lewis - I am a lecturer in biomedical sciences and run a research laboratory. My research interest is cancer genetics and gene regulation, focusing on colorectal cancer. We use cell lines and animal models to study how common variants in the human genome affect the expression of key cancer genes, and increase the risk of an individual developing cancer.