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The Department has limited access to funding and is able to award Research Studentships to Home students when the funding is available. Research Studentships are awarded on a competitive basis and are funded by the research councils, charities, and sometimes by industrial sponsors. We will update this page when funding information becomes available.






AstraZeneca/Pharmacology 4-year PhD studentships

Applications are invited for 4-year PhD studentships funded by AstraZeneca and the Department of Pharmacology. The students will be working on collaborative projects co-led by departmental supervisors and AstraZeneca scientists. Apart from carrying out their research, in their first year, the students will have compulsory training in: 1) Statistics, 2) Analysis of Biological Data and 3) Systems Training in Maths, Informatics, Statistics and Computation Biology (SysMIC). The students will join a vibrant research community of PhD students and scientists working on various research themes such as; Cell Signalling, Cancer and Infectious Diseases, Macromolecular Structure, Neuropharmacology and Vascular Pharmacology.



We are looking for highly motivated, enthusiastic individuals, capable of thinking and working independently. Applicants should have or shortly expect to obtain a minimum of a UK II.i Honours Degree (or equivalent) in Pharmacology or a related subject including Cellular or Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Competition is intense and successful applicants are expected to demonstrate high academic achievements. These positions are open to UK/EU candidates only.


Full funding covering the University Composition Fee and Maintenance (currently £17,000 pa), is provided for up to 4 years, with effect from 1 October 2017. A maximum of four studentships will be awarded in this application round.

Projects available

1) Exploring a potential role for syncollin in cancer

Prof. Mike Edwardson – (

Syncollin is a 16-kDa protein that was originally identified as a component of the pancreatic zymogen granule membrane. Intriguingly, syncollin is upregulated in multiple cancer types, including pancreatic cancer. The aim of the project is to explore a potential role for syncollin in cancer. Experimental approaches will involve testing the effects of syncollin knockdown or overexpression on the proliferation of tumour cells lines both in vitro and in vivo, comparing tumour proliferation in WT and syncollin KO mice, determining the basis for the interaction of syncollin with membranes, and perhaps screening compound libraries for the ability to modulate this interaction.


2) Determining the role of bias agonism at the adenosine A2AR in tumorigenesis  

Dr. Graham Ladds(

Cancer is a chronic disease and its pathogenesis is well correlated with infection and inflammation. Adenosine, is produced under metabolically stressful conditions and exerts immunomodulatory effects via binding to various adenosine receptors expressed on immune cells that are important in tumour formation. This project focuses upon the adenosine A2AR a G protein-coupled receptor that displays considerable bias agonism (the ability for agonists to display preference for one signalling pathway over another). We will investigate how biased agonism of the A2AR contributes to tumour pathogeneneisis focussing upon the role that elevated levels of agonists perform in modulating A2AR signalling and the implications for antagonising signalling via pharmacological intervention.


3) Fluorescence-based screening for modifiers of protein stability

Dr. Catherine Lindon – (

Ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis controls the quantity and quality of proteins in the cell, since unwanted or damaged proteins are tagged with ubiquitin and sent to the proteasome for destruction. Ubiquitin pathways therefore modify stability of their target cellular proteins. Altered protein stability underlies many disease pathologies including cancers and neurodegenerative disease. We are developing novel fluorescence assays for protein stability that can be used to study ubiquitin-mediated destruction of specific cellular proteins. We propose to use them for systematic screening of ubiquitin pathways to identify and target those that modify stability of cellular proteins of clinical importance.


4) Investigating the role of Piezo proteins in cancer/tissue fibrosis

Dr. Taufiq Rahman (

Aberrant mechanical properties and its sensing seem to underlie a growing number of pathological conditions including cancer and tissue fibrosis. Recently, Piezo 1 and Piezo 2 proteins have been identified as the pore-forming subunits of the ubiquitous mechanosensitive ion channel that is widely expressed and used for cellular mechanosensing in the vertebrates. This project aims at investigating the expression and function of these proteins in cancer (particularly of epithelial origin) and/or tissue fibrosis using various biochemical and functional assays.


5) Targeting degradation of androgen receptor variants for treatment of castrate

recurrent prostate cancer

Dr. Laura Itzhaki – (

AR variants (AR-V) that drive castrate recurrent prostate cancer lack the ligand-binding domain and are therefore constitutively active and resistant to current therapeutics, all of which target this domain. Targeting AR-V is challenging, and the PhD project will explore a novel peptide- and protein-based strategy to induce the degradation of AR-V by the proteasome. The work will combine the complementary expertise of the academic and AstraZeneca groups and will involve protein design, biophysical analysis using a broad range of techniques, and cell-based assays in prostate cancer models.


Application process

Please send the following to (

  1. Your CV (max two A4 pages), with full contact details of 2 academic referees.
  2. A covering letter (max two A4 pages) highlighting (a) your research interests and relevant experience and (b) what you hope to achieve from the programme. You should also state in order of preference which two projects you would like to be considered for.

Informal inquires about individual projects should be directed to the supervisors listed above.

Applications need to be submitted by 5pm (GMT) on 12th Dec 2016. Applications will be assessed as and when they are submitted. Interviews will take place between 16th and 27th, January 2017.

Please quote reference AZPHD2016 on your application and in any correspondence about these positions.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.


Dr David James scholarships


davidjamesBWDuring his life, Dr David James was a well-respected Departmental Administrator. His legacy provides scholarships for the most gifted postgraduates to pursue focused and original research. The David James Studentship has provided full financial support for a number of PhD students within the Department since October 2011.

And through PhD studentships, the David James Fund is supporting the next generation of Cambridge pharmacologists, whose work will be crucial to developing better treatments for diseases such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes and Parkinson's.