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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.

5 Search Results

214
Category:
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Project:

Characterizing the MPC complex structure and mechanism 

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Lucy Forrest

UK Mentor:

Prof. Edmund Kunji

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

The mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) is critical for cellular homeostasis, as it transports pyruvate, the end product of glycolysis, from the cytosol into the mitochondrial matrix, where it enters the Krebs cycle. Dysfunction of MPC has been implicated in many diseases and MPC is being investigated as a drug target for the treatment of cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, because of its central role in metabolism. MPC is a heterodimeric complex of two small homologous membrane proteins, called MPC1 and MPC2 (1, 2). There is currently no structure and the molecular transport mechanism has not been elucidated. The aim of this project is to characterise the MPC complex with respect to its structure and mechanism, and to develop it further as a drug target.

 

The Forrest lab (NIH-NINDS) uses bioinformatics, structural modelling, and molecular simulations to study integral membrane proteins. The lab focuses on transporters, and in particular, those that harbour mechanistically-relevant symmetries, and has successfully predicted important functional properties of many different transport proteins (3-5). The lab also develops novel bioinformatic tools, such as the sequence alignment software, AlignMe, aimed at improving structural modelling approaches for membrane proteins (6).

 

The Kunji lab (University of Cambridge) has developed methods to purify the MPC complex, to reconstitute it into liposomes, and to study its transport properties (1, 2). In addition, it has developed methods to study the binding of small molecules to the MPC complex, opening the way to find specific inhibitors, which could be developed further as drug leads. The lab also uses advanced x-ray crystallography and cryo-EM techniques to obtain the structures of highly dynamic mitochondrial transporters, for example the mitochondrial ADP/ATP carrier (7).

209
Category:
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Project:

Molecular Mechanism of the Integrated Stress Response

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

Dr. Alan Hinnebusch

UK Mentor:

Prof. David Ron

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

A signalling pathway linking nutrient availability to changes in gene expression that hinges on the phosphorylation of translation initiation 2 (eIF2) has long been known to exist. Recognized initially as the yeast General Control Response, recent convergent lines of research have implicated its metazoan counterpart, the Integrated Stress Response, in diverse physiological processes ranging from immunity to memory formation.

 

This PhD programme will exploit our emerging detailed understanding of translation initiation and termination to shed light on unanticipated mechanistic aspects of the ISR. An understanding of these details may inform efforts to target the ISR to therapeutic ends.

137
Category:
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Project:

Understanding how cells use protein quality control (PQC) strategies to eliminate misfolded proteins

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Yihong Ye (NIDDK)

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

The goal of our research is to understand how cells use various protein quality control (PQC) strategies to eliminate misfolded proteins, and how defects in these processes lead to aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, we study the molecular mechanisms underlying protein translocation-associated quality control at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the export of misfolded proteins via unconventional protein secretion, and cell-to-cell transmission of misfolded alpha-Synuclein and Tau aggregates. We envision that a thorough characterization of these protein quality control systems may one day improve both diagnosis and treatment of aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases.

134
Category:
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Project:

Small RNA and small protein regulators 

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

Dr. Gisela Storz

UK Mentor:

Prof. Ben Luisi

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

The project will use X-ray crystallography, cryoEM, microbial genetics and molecular biology to explore how small RNAs and small proteins act as regulators with speed and precision in diverse bacteria.

122
Category:
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Project:

PTM and protein expression dynamics in the Toll-like receptor pathway

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

Prof. Clare Bryant

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

Study of the PTM and protein expression dynamics in the Toll-like receptor pathway. Because dynamic PTMs such as phosphorylation, ubiquitination, or glycosylation are essential for the regulation of cell signaling, it is crucial to quantitatively map the PTMs of proteins involved in signaling cascades. We use the data to model the signaling network changes and their impact on innate immunity.

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