PhD Studentship: Molecular determinants of mitochondrial interactions with the endoplasmic reticulum

University of Cambridge
March 31, 2023
Offerd Salary:£19,250
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Negotigation
Working type:N/A
Ref info:N/A
PhD Studentship: Molecular determinants of mitochondrial interactions with

the endoplasmic reticulum

Applications are invited for a 4 year PhD studentship, within the laboratory of Dr Miguel Martins at the MRC Toxicology Unit, commencing October 2023.

Project Outline

Mitochondria interact with other cellular organelles, such as the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) at contact sites. Contact sites are discrete areas of organelles in proximity that coordinate critical physiological activities across membranes without fusing. Mitochondria-ER contact sites (MERCS) are known to underpin many important cellular homoeostatic functions, including mitochondrial quality control, lipid metabolism, calcium homoeostasis, the unfolded protein response and ER stress. Alterations in MERCS are involved in neurodegenerative diseases as well as metabolic pathologies such as insulin resistance and diabetes.We have conducted both genetic and chemical screenings for molecules that alter MERCS and identified several drugs, toxins and proteins that act by modulating MERCS.

This PhD project seeks to better understand how selected candidate molecules obtained in this multiple screening approach alter mitochondrial function by modulating MERCS. It will also investigate how such candidates impact on disease outcomes such as neurodegenerative or metabolic diseases. The work will involve computational approaches designed to integrate proteins, drugs and toxins into networks that modulate the formation of contacts between mitochondria and the ER. It will also validate whether selected candidates affect MERC formation in cells. Finally, it will address if validated candidates increase or decrease human-relevant disease phenotypes in Drosophila melanogaster.

The successful candidate will gain experience in multiple areas of computational and experimental biology, such as molecular and cell biology, genetics, high-throughput techniques, genomics, and advanced bioinformatics analyses. Applicants must be imaginative, highly motivated, and enthusiastic, with the capacity to accept and learn from failure. A familiarity and passion with numerical approaches (such as mathematics, bioinformatics, or computer programming) would be highly advantageous.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit is a leading International Research Institute within the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge. The Unit delivers mechanistic toxicology research, pursuing hypothesis-driven toxicological questions with a particular focus on the study of the causal links between exposure to endogenous and exogenous toxicants, molecular initiating events and adverse outcome pathways. The Unit's overall aims are to carry out pioneering research which leads to improved health and to train and mentor the next generation of toxicologists.


Full funding covering Maintenance and the University Composition Fee (Home Fee rate) is provided Maintenance is currently £19,250. This studentship is open to UK citizens or overseas students who meet the UK residency requirements (home fees) or are able to augment the funds to cover the extra costs associated with international student fees.

Application Process

Applicants should have or shortly expect to obtain a first or good upper second-class degree from a UK university, or an equivalent standard from an overseas university, in a relevant subject area. Strong analytical skills, in addition to creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, and the ability to work in a team are essential. You are strongly recommended to contact the project supervisor prior to submitting your formal application to find out more about the project and eligibility: Dr Miguel Martins: [email protected]

Information regarding the application process can be found at: https: // www.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact [email protected]

Further information on the Toxicology Unit can be found at (https:// www. mrc-

Please quote reference PU35461 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.


MRC Toxicology Unit, Cambridge






14 February 2023

Closing date

31 March 2023

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