Exit Menu

Funded PhD Studentship in Sphingolipid rheostat as a potential target for Friedreich’s Ataxia

We are seeking highly motivated and creative PhD candidate to work on a collaborative project aimed at the identification of therapies for an inherited neurodegenerative disease, Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA). We have recently found that the sphingolipid levels and their related genes are altered in FRDA, which may play a critical role in the disease progression. The aim of this project is to have a clear picture of the sphingolipid changes in FRDA and to identify potential and novel targets for the development of therapeutic strategies in the disease. This novel project, funded by Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), has great potential to provide insight into mechanisms of FRDA molecular disease progression with implications for future FRDA therapy.

Based in the College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, and funded by Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) and Brunel University London; the studentship offers an annual London rate stipend of £17,609 plus Home/EU tuition fees, for a maximum of 36 months. Preferred start date is 1st October 2021. Please note, International fees are not covered in this studentship.


The PhD studentship in the Ataxia group will involve identification and validation of novel targets for the treatment of FRDA using various molecular and cell biology approaches. The successful applicant is expected to meet the project aims and objectives in line with the proposed project plan. The successful candidate will work closely with the Principal Investigator, other researchers in the Ataxia group and internal/external collaborators and is expected to present and disseminate the project findings with the project partners and the scientific community.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Sara Anjomani Virmouni. Informal enquiries can be made via email to Dr Sara Anjomani Virmouni (Sara.Anjomani-Virmouni@brunel.ac.uk).


The successful applicant should hold an undergraduate degree (first or upper second class) or equivalent qualification in biology, genetics or other similar disciplines with particular experience in molecular and cellular biology. A Masters qualification in a relevant area would be desirable. Experience in some of the following molecular biology techniques and in vitro approaches is essential.

“Passaging, transfection, siRNA, overexpression, stable line generation, cloning, PCR, qPCR, western blot, immunofluorescence staining and imaging”.

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 15th August 2021.

  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A single-page A4 single-spaced personal statement stating why you are a suitable candidate for this position (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 PGR Programmes office on chmls-pgr-office@brunel.ac.uk


Meet the Supervisor(s)

Sara Anjomani-Virmouni - Sara was educated at the University of Tehran, where she was awarded a Bachelor degree in animal sciences with first class honours in 2008. She moved to the Biosciences Division at Brunel University London to undertake her MSc in Molecular Medicine and Cancer Research. In 2011, Sara was awarded a scholarship by the School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University London to investigate Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) disease mechanisms using FRDA mouse models and cells under the supervision of Dr Mark Pook. She finished her PhD in 2013 and was awarded Vice Chancellor's best doctoral research prize. She continued her work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Brunel University London to study the efficacy and tolerability of histone methyltransferase (HMTase) inhibitors in FRDA. Sara then joined the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 2015 to study the signaling and metabolic networks in breast cancer. In 2018, she was awarded a research grant from Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) and joined Brunel University London as a Principal Investigator to investigate the metabolic signatures of FRDA. Subsequently, she was appointed as a lecturer in Biosciences. Her research continues to investigate FRDA disease pathogenesis and therapy and identify the most effective therapy for FRDA.