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Graduate Admissions


A 4-year PhD studentship is available from October 2018 under the supervision of Professor Anne Willis with an annual stipend of £15,000 (tax free)

The Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit, is an internationally renowned institution focussed on the delivery of field-changing mechanistic insights into toxicology and disease.

The Unit is part of the University of Cambridge; it is currently located in Leicester and will be relocating to Cambridge in early 2020. Candidates will therefore be undertaking the first part of their PhD at the Unit's current premises in Leicester. The Unit is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and provides a supportive learning environment designed to meet the scientific and transferable skills required for an internationally competitive career.

Students will be registered with the University of Cambridge for the duration of the studentship. Successful applicants will enjoy membership of a University of Cambridge College from commencement of their PhD in October 2018, but will initially have only limited access to College facilities due to the location of the Unit.


Following cell stress caused by exposure to a wide range of toxic agents, transcriptional and post-transcriptional programmes are initiated to orchestrate the appropriate cellular response. Post-transcriptional control is an essential part of the cell stress response with the vast majority of all mRNAs having the capacity to be regulated at this level. The Willis laboratory focuses on post-transcriptional control that is mediated via modulation of protein synthesis, a three-stage process comprised of initiation, elongation and termination. Although it has been proposed that translational control is mostly exerted at the initiation phase, recent data suggest that control of elongation also makes a major contribution to the overall regulation of this process, particularly in response to cell stress.

During the elongation phase of protein synthesis, the ribosome decodes the mRNA coding region one codon at a time, and the rate of this process is dependent upon both tRNA- and eEF1A-dependent codon decoding, and eEF2-dependent ribosome translocation. The overall aims of this project are to address the relationship between tRNA composition, tRNA modification and codon variation and to determine how this is altered upon toxic insult/cell stress. An understanding of these processes will provide additional information into the development of a range of diseases including cancers and neurological disorders.

Funding Notes

Candidates must expect to obtain qualifications at the level of a first-class or 2.1 Honours Degree in a biological science or related discipline and to fully satisfy the residence requirements of the UK Research Councils.

A fees-only award will be available to EU nationals who are not ordinarily resident in the UK. Students who are liable for fees at the 'overseas' rate are not eligible for these studentships.

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and university fees) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay
  • Been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for three years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences)
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (this does not apply to UK or EU nationals)

This advert will remain open until 30th April 2018 or until a suitable candidate is found.

Applications must be made via the University's online Applicant Portal:

Fixed-term: 4 years.

If you have any queries regarding the application process please contact Rebecca Heatherley on

Please quote reference PU15033 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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

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

Key Information

MRC Toxicology Unit

Reference: PU15033

Dates and deadlines:

Monday, 12 March, 2018
Closing Date
Monday, 30 April, 2018