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Astra Zeneca Studentships

AstraZeneca/Pharmacology 4 year PhD studentship applications now open : Neuronal signalling of nutrients from mouse and human intestine


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 (Neuroscience and Physiology). 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 2019.

Project available

Neuronal signalling of nutrients from mouse and human intestine

Supervisors: Dr. David Bulmer (Pharmacology)


Project description

The stimulation of vagal afferent fibres by gut hormones released from enteroendocrine cells in response to nutrients, is an important mechanism in the control of food intake and gut function. Therapeutically, the activation of this pathway by delivery of nutrients into the distil intestine is key to the improvement in body weight seen following bariatric surgery in obese patients, and so replicating these events in the form of a pill is of great clinical interest. We believe that the manipulation of receptors and ion channels co-expressed by vagal afferents sensitive to gut hormones is one way of achieving this goal.

To study this further, we have recently established an ex-vivo tissue preparation of the terminal ileum and ascending colon (the two major sites of nutrient signalling implicated in the success of bariatric surgery) demonstrating robust afferent responses to prototypic appetite regulating hormones (e.g. CCK and PYY), markers of vagal afferent subpopulations (e.g. neurotensin), and nutrients such as peptones.

We believe this ex-vivo model offers a unique opportunity to study enhanced neuronal signalling in response to nutrient ingestion in the gut and can be readily translated by studies using isolated human tissue.

The aim of this studentship will therefore be to develop this model by a) characterising the expression of receptors and channels expressed on different vagal afferent fibre populations innervating the terminal ileum and proximal colon, b) investigating the functional consequence of manipulating different receptors and channels on vagal afferent signalling in response to nutrients, and c) extending these observation into ex-vivo preparations of human gut.

How to apply

All applications will need to be made through the University Application Portal:

for further information about the programme and to access the Applicant Portal. Please note that the course code for PhD applications to Pharmacology is BLPH22. Whilst making your online application please make clear that you are applying for AZ funding. Your online application will need to include:

  • Two academic references  
  • Transcript  
  • CV/resume
  • Evidence of competence in English   
    If required - you can 
    check using our tool
  • §  Statement of interest (1500 characters)
  • Application cost £60 (you have 3 applications)

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

Applications need to be submitted up 10 May 2019. Applications will be assessed as and when they are submitted. Interviews will take place between 13th and 24th , May 2019.

Please quote reference PL18770 on your application and in any correspondence about these positions.

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



Dr David James Studentship

The Department is able to offer a Studentship, for a home or EU student, due to the generosity of our former Colleague

davidjamesBWDr David James. During his life, Dr 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 Crohn's disease.

The studentship will cover a stipend equivalent to the standard Research Council rate (£14,777 per annum for 2018/19), research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, for three years and is available for the successful UK or EU student - but please see information here regarding EU fee status for entry 2019 and onwards:


Application process. Please apply via the APPLICANT PORTAL using the course code for the PhD (Probationary) in Pharmacology is BLPH22 and indicate on the application form your interest in the David James Scholarship.