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Research Opportunities

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Prospective Students

The goal of the NIH Oxford-Cambridge (OxCam) Scholars Program is to create, foster, and advance unique and collaborative research opportunities between NIH laboratories and laboratories at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. Each OxCam Scholar develops a collaborative research project that will constitute his/her doctoral training. Each Scholar also select two mentors – one at the NIH and one in the UK – who work together to guide the Scholar throughout the research endeavor.

Students may select from two categories of projects: Self-designed or Prearranged. OxCam Scholars may create a self-designed project, which enables students to develop a collaborative project tailored to his/her specific scientific interests by selecting one NIH mentor and one UK mentor with expertise in the desired research area(s). Alternatively, students may select a prearranged project provided by NIH and/or UK Investigator(s) willing to mentor an OxCam Scholar in their lab.

Self-designed Projects: Students may create a novel (or de novo) project based on their unique research interests. Students have the freedom to contact any PI at NIH or at Oxford or Cambridge to build a collaboration from scratch. The NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) represents a community of approximately 1,200 tenured and tenure-track investigators providing a wealth of opportunity to explore a wide variety of research interests. Students may visit https://irp.nih.gov to identify NIH PIs performing research in the area of interest. For additional tips on choosing a mentor, please visit our Training Plan.

Prearranged Projects: Investigators at NIH or at Oxford or Cambridge have voluntarily offered collaborative project ideas for NIH OxCam Scholars. These projects are provided below and categorized by research area, NIH Institute/Center, and University. In some cases, a full collaboration with two mentors is already in place. In other instances, only one PI is identified, which allows the student to select a second mentor to complete the collaboration. Please note that prearranged project offerings are continuously updated throughout the year and are subject to change.

157 Search Results

341
Category:
RNA Biology
Project:

RNA regulation of lymphocyte activation and immunity 

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Eugene Valkov

UK Mentor:

Prof. Martin Turner

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

Lymphocytes respond to infection by rapidly increasing and decreasing the expression of many genes in a highly regulated manner. This regulation requires the integration of transcription, mRNA decay and translation. We are only just beginning to understand how these processes are integrated with each other.  The host labs are studying how the multiprotein CCR4-NOT complex and its associated RNA binding proteins control gene expression. By combining structural and molecular biology approaches with cellular immunology and mouse model of immune responses we offer a broad training experience and the opportunity to discover fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation in the immune system.

References:

The RNA m6A binding protein YTHDF2 promotes the B cell to plasma cell transition. Turner, D.J. Saveliev, A., Salerno, F., Matheson, L.S., Screen, M., Lawson, H., Wotherspoon, D., Kranc, K.R, & Turner, M. (2021). bioRxiv. 

Reconstitution of recombinant human CCR4-NOT reveals molecular insights into regulated deadenylation. Raisch, T., Chang, C.T., Levdansky, Y., Muthukumar, S., Raunser, S., Valkov, E. (2019). Nature Communications 10: 3173. 

RNA-binding proteins control gene expression and cell fate in the immune system.  Turner, M., and Díaz-Muñoz, M.D. (2018) Nature Immunology 19:120-129. 

340
Category:
Clinical Research
Project:

Therapeutic effects of microbiome manipulation in the treatment of eczema

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Ian Myles

UK Mentor:
N/A
University:
N/A
Project Details:

Our group focuses on how human health is affected by the normal microorganisms that live on our skin (collectively termed the microbiome). Our emphasis is on eczema (also called atopic dermatitis or AD), which is an inflammatory disease of the skin associated with reduced quality of life and high risk of developing asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies. Recent work has uncovered that the skin microbiome is significantly different between healthy controls and patients with AD and that early commensal diversity may protect against development of AD. These realizations suggest that the skin microbiome contributes to AD presentation through both harmful and protective pathways. Our group identified a species of bacteria from normal healthy skin, called Roseomonas mucosa, which showed promising features in cell culture and mouse models that suggested the bacteria might be able to treat patients with eczema. We have since transitioned into a clinical trial using Roseomonas mucosa as a topical treatment for eczema. 

318
Category:
Developmental Biology
Project:

Understanding the self-organization of morphogenesis and collective cell migration in the zebrafish embryo

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Ajay Chitnis 

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

The posterior Lateral Line primordium is a group of about a hundred cells that migrates under the skin, from the ear to the tip of the tail, periodically forming and depositing sensory organs called neuromasts, to spearhead formation of the zebrafish Lateral Line sensory system. In recent years, this relatively simple and accessible system has emerged as an attractive model for understanding various aspects of morphogenesis in the developing embryo, including the guidance of cell migration, tissue patterning and organ formation. The goal is to use a combination of cellular, molecular, genetic and biomechanical manipulations coupled with live imaging, image processing and the development of multi-scale computational models to understand the self-organization of cell-fate, morphogenesis and migration of the lateral line primordium. Specific focus will be on developing tools and methods for investigating, imaging, quantifying and modelling the mechanics of collective migration, morphogenesis of epithelial rosettes and the intercellular and intracellular signaling networks that coordinate lateral line primordium development.

247
Category:
Biomedical Engineering & Biophysics
Project:

Ultra-High Field (7T) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Development

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
UK Mentor:

Prof. Chris Rodgers

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

I founded a new ultra-high field (7T) MRI physics group in Cambridge in autumn 2017. We develop cutting-edge methods for studying the human brain and body using Cambridge’s state-of-the-art Siemens Terra 7T MRI scanner. My group have active collaborations with clinicians in clinical neurosciences, psychiatry, oncology, and cardiology (Papworth), and with experts in cognitive neuroscience. I welcome PhD students to join the group. The following are areas of strong interest from our community, which would be suitable to develop a PhD project in discussion with me.


(i) Developing new spectroscopic imaging pulse sequences to map neurochemical profiles across the whole brain in a single scan. We have hardware available to apply these methods to study metabolites containing 1H (e.g. NAA, creatine, GABA, GSH) or 31P (e.g. PCr, ATP, in vivo pH mapping) or 13C (e.g. labelled glucose or succinate).
(ii) Developing new methods for neuroimaging, particularly for imaging blood flow in small vessel disease, or for rapid, motion-corrected fMRI in deep brain nuclei.
(iii) Developing new metabolic imaging methods for use in the human body. These would use a new multinuclear (1H and 31P) whole-body coil being built for me by Tesla Dynamic Coils (Netherlands). This could be developed in collaboration with colleagues at Papworth and Radiology for studies in the heart.
(iv) Imaging of metabolism by 2H deuterium metabolic imaging (DMI). 

 

246
Category:
Cancer Biology
Project:

Using genome engineering approaches to understand the genes controlling tumour growth

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
UK Mentor:

Prof. Adrian Liston

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

Tumour growth is intimately linked to the infiltration of leukocytes (immune cells). Recruitment of suppressive leukocytes can promote angiogenesis and tissue remodelling, while repulsion of pro-inflammatory leukocytes is required to prevent tumour rejection. To date, this process has been studied in a hypothesis-directed manner, identifying a role for gene X in leukocyte subset Y. Here we will use new genome engineering approaches to simultaneously test the impact of every known migration-associated molecule in every infiltrating leukocyte subset, in order to reach a truly comprehensive understanding of the genes controlling the entry of each cell type into the tumours.

 

This project is based around the cutting-edge “Pro-code” technology. “Pro-codes” allows up to 400 lentiviruses to be built, each with a unique protein-based barcode. 400 unique CrispR guideRNAs can be built into a barcoded lentivirus library, covering every known migration-associated gene (chemokine receptors, integrins, adhesion molecules, chemotactic receptors, matrix metalloproteases, etc). Transfection of inducible Cas9-expressing bone-marrow stem cells with the ProCode library creates a mouse where the immune system is a mosaic of 400 different knockout lines. Through ultra-high parameter single cell cytometry, we can compare leukocytes that stay in circulation, migrate to healthy tissue or enter tumour tissues. Relative enrichment and depletion of each barcode in each leukocyte subset provides a comprehensive genetic map of leukocyte entry into tumours.

245
Category:
Neuroscience
Project:

Neural bases of repetition priming

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Alex Martin

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

Repetition priming (RP) is a basic form of memory, whereby prior exposure to a stimulus facilitates or biases subsequent responses to that stimulus. From a neuropsychological perspective, RP is interesting because it can occur without awareness, and despite the damage to the medial temporal lobe (MTL) system that produces amnesia. Many functional neuroimaging studies using fMRI and MEG/EEG have investigated the brain regions and neuronal dynamics associated with RP. However, the results are complex, depending on several important variables, and suggesting multiple underlying neural mechanisms. Recent computational models provide some insight, and the proposed project will extend these models to a broader range of neuroimaging data, including existing data from intracranial recording in human and non-human primates.

244
Category:
Neuroscience
Project:

Ultra-high field imaging of adaptive brain circuits

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Peter Bandettini

UK Mentor:

Prof. Zoe Kourtzi

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

The human’s brain capacity for sensory plasticity has been studied mainly in the context of neurodevelopment (i.e. critical periods) and pathology (e.g. amblyopia) with interventional approaches (e.g. sensory deprivation) that result in drastic brain re-organisation. Yet, understanding the brain plasticity mechanisms that mediate subtler changes in perceptual judgments through shorter-term experience and training remains a challenge. 

This project focuses on the brains ability to improve perceptual skills at the core of visual recognition through training; that is, the ability to detect the features of an object from cluttered backgrounds and discriminate whether they belong to the same or different objects. Learning and experience have been suggested to facilitate this ability to translate complex patterns of visual information into perceptual decisions. We will exploit methodological advances in high-field (7T) brain imaging to investigate functional and neurochemical brain plasticity mechanisms at finer-scale. We will test the hypothesis that perceptual learning is implemented by feedback and inhibitory mechanisms that re-weight sensory information across stages of processing (from early to higher visual cortex). In particular, the high resolution of 7T imaging allows us to measure functional signals in different cortical layers. We will test whether learning alters fMRI activation patters in deep—rather than middle—layers in the visual cortex, consistent with feedback processing. Further, advances in MR Spectroscopy enable us to test the role of GABA—the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter for brain plasticity—in perceptual learning. We will test whether learning-dependent changes in GABA relate to changes in functional brain activity and improved behavioural performance in perceptual tasks. Investigating these core mechanisms of brain plasticity will advance our understanding of how the brain optimises its capacity to support adaptive behaviour through learning and experience.

243
Category:
Genetics & Genomics
Project:

Using population genomic approaches to evaluate Anopheles gambiae

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Adam Phillippy

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

Population genomic approaches across diverse species have traditionally used short read sequence data to investigate population structure and signatures of selection. In the recent past, long reads are more traditionally used to build reference genomes to which the short read data can be aligned and evaluated. However, the cost of long read sequencing as well as the DNA input required to generate high quality long read data is dropping rapidly. We foresee a future where population genomics transitions to long read data.

 

Using these emerging technologies, this project will begin to evaluate what new insights are gained for the Anopheles gambiae species complex, a set of mosquito species famous as the vector of malaria and known to exhibit porous species boundaries and abundant structural variation.  We anticipate that long-read approaches for haplotype phasing and structural variant discovery will enable much clearer resolution of gene flow within species, introgression between species, and alleles under directional or balancing selection.  Insights gained from this project are likely to influence approaches taken for other species that are known to have similar complexities (e.g., Heliconius butterflies, African cichlid fishes).

 

This project will involve developing and applying new computational methods for analysing long-read sequencing data in an Anopheles population genomics context. The collaborating laboratories at the Sanger Institute and NHGRI are experts in these respective areas and well-suited to provide the appropriate mentorship.

242
Category:
Neuroscience
Project:

Dissecting the relationship between amyloid structures and cellular dysfunction in human diseases

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
UK Mentor:

Prof. Janet Kumita

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

Aggregation in vivo is associated with a wide range of human disorders including Parkinson’s disease, systemic amyloidosis and motor neuron disease. As the process of amyloid formation results in the population of a highly heterogeneous array of different protein conformers, it is extremely difficult to resolve how specific misfolded protein states elicit detrimental cellular responses. We aim to define the structural attributes of these elusive species and to determine their influence on cellular trafficking, homeostasis and cell-to-cell transfer processes, all factors that are crucial in disease progression.

 

Key areas of interest include:
1) Probing how globular proteins form amyloid fibrils
2) How accessory proteins, such as extracellular chaperones, modulate amyloid formation and how this is related to disease pathology
3) The impact of post-translational modifications on amyloid fibril formation
4) How changes in the cellular quality control mechanisms impact on amyloid fibril formation

241
Category:
Molecular Pharmacology
Project:

Using fragment-based drug discovery to identify inhibitors of the key enzymes involved in propionate catabolism and acetate assimilation

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
UK Mentor:

Prof. Martin Welch

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

The opportunistic human pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is a commonly-found inhabitant in the airways of patients with chronic respiratory ailments such as COPD and cystic fibrosis (CF). Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate and propionate accumulate to high levels in the airways of these patients. In mutants of P. aeruginosa that are unable to catabolise SCFAs, these compounds are toxic and lead to cessation of growth. In this project, we aim to use fragment-based drug discovery to identify inhibitors of the key enzymes involved in propionate catabolism (PrpB and PrpC) and acetate assimilation (AceA). We have recently solved the x-ray crystal structure of each enzyme, and are supported by the Diamond Light Source to initiate a FBDD programme. Challenges will be to identify high affinity binders with specificity for the intended targets. Cell permeability and efflux of the “hits” will need to be investigated, as will “off target” effects, cytotoxicity to mammalian cells, and likely resistance mechanisms. Species specificity of inhibition will be examined in an in vitro polymicrobial system recently developed in the lab.   

240
Category:
Biomedical Engineering & Biophysics
Project:

Using an “organ on chip” model of the cochlea for rapid drug assay, and to test new generations of cochlear implants

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
UK Mentor:

Prof. Manohar Bance

University:
N/A
Project Details:

We have an interdisciplinary program with biomaterials, clinicians, surgeons, electrical engineers and chemical engineers to 3D fabricate cochleas with microanatomy similar to living cochleas, embedded with sensors that can sense current spread from cochlear implants, or ion gradients from various inner ear cell types that can generate them. Our goal is to develop these types of constructs, seed them with 3D cultures of various  inner ear cell types and examine how cochlear implants can activate auditory neurones, or how regeneration or pharmacologic support for hearing loss can be developed.  his is in order to develop the next generation of inner ear hearing loss therapies.

238
Category:
Microbiology and Infectious Disease
Project:

Transmission of bacteria and antimicrobial resistance determinants between and among animals and humans

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

We are interested in the transmission of bacterial pathogens and AMR determinants at multiple scales from the within-hospital level to global networks. Projects are possible on many large-scale datasets, primarily using population genomic and phylogenetic approaches to investigate these processes.

237
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Understanding immune correlates of protective immunity

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
UK Mentor:

Dr. Jonathan Heeney

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

We have several lines of research that accommodate excellent PhD candidates. These revolve around the theme of RNA viral pathogens, antibodies/B-cell responses and immunodeficiencies.


The first involves understanding Immune Correlates of protective immunity, specifically which types of B-cell response and their fine specificities are important for protection against specific RNA viral pathogens (RNA viruses from HIV, HCV to Ebola) how B-cell responses to correlate with protection by vaccines to specific pathogens. The 2nd project involves using broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies to develop improved and novel vaccines against notoriously variable viruses. The 3rd project involves understanding how the resident virome in primary, acquired or induced immunodeficiencies leads to chronic immune activation and poor prognosis, with an emphasis on mucosal immunity.

236
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Examining germinal centre (GC) biology during normal function and in aging

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

CRISPr genome editing to understand the germinal centre response upon vaccination throughout the lifespan. At the heart of the immune response to vaccination is the germinal centre (GC) – a dynamic structure that forms in secondary lymphoid tissues after immunisation, and produces long-lived plasma cells, which secrete antibodies that block pathogens from establishing an infection, and memory B cells. A defining property of the GC is the collaboration of multiple cell types: proliferating B cells, T follicular helper cells, T follicular regulatory cells and follicular dendritic cells to produce effector B cells of higher quality. With age, the magnitude of the GC response decreases resulting in impaired production of plasma cells, lower serum antibody levels and consequently, decreased protection against subsequent infection. This project aims to identify and characterise molecules that are important for germinal centre biology in the context of normal function and in ageing, using CRISPR-mediated mutagenesis to screen for novel players in T follicular helper cells. We will take advantage of mouse models and human cohorts to generate mechanistic understanding of the GC response that is of direct relevance to human biology.

235
Category:
Cancer Biology
Project:

Novel approaches to cancer diagnostics in primary care

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
UK Mentor:

Prof. Fiona Walter

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:
N/A
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