PhD Projects

We are currently looking for enthusiastic students interested in joining the lab to pursue their PhD (see below for exciting potential projects and funding schemes). Interested candidates should get in contact with Dr. Dhanya Cheerambathur.

Projects for students from anywhere in the world (including UK)

Project I – How do microtubule regulators facilitate neuronal circuit formation?

The aim of this project is to understand how the microtubule cytoskeletal machinery facilitates neuronal morphogenesis and the proper wiring of the nervous system.

Despite advances in our molecular understanding of microtubule regulators, the mechanisms by which they contribute to the structure and function of a developing neuron are largely unknown. It was recently discovered that microtubule binding components of the kinetochore, the mitotic protein machinery that segregates chromosomes are essential for neuronal circuit formation (Cheerambathur et al., 2019; Zhao et al., 2019). What is the function of the kinetochore microtubule machinery in a developing neuron? This project will focus on understanding this novel post-mitotic neuronal function of kinetochores in C. elegans and mammalian cell culture systems.

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Several sources of funding are available, get in contact with Dr. Dhanya Cheerambathur to discuss the options.

Project II – Building a temporal proteomics map of the developing C. elegans nervous system

This interdisciplinary project is part of the Wellcome Four Year PhD Programme in Integrative Cell Mechanisms and combines our expertise in studying neuro-developmental mechanisms and Ly-lab expertise in developing novel quantitative tools to study dynamic changes in cellular proteomes.

The development of the nervous system is a complex process, producing a tissue highly specialized in intra- and intercellular information transfer. Central to neurodevelopment is the transformation of a neuronal precursor into a highly asymmetrically shaped neuron with unique signaling structures (e.g., axon, dendrite and synapse). The formation of these structures is a multistage, well-orchestrated process associated with significant remodeling of the neuronal proteome. Although a number of neuron-specific factors have been identified, the precise proteomic alterations that facilitate neuronal morphogenesis during organismal development are poorly understood. This project aims to build a quantitative proteomic profile of neuronal morphogenesis and identify key factors underpinning neuronal structural changes.

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Project for EASTBIO studentship

This is a collaborative project between our lab and the lab of Dr. Jens Januschke at the School of Life Sciences in Dundee. UK citizens or EU citizens who are UK resident are eligible to apply.

Project III – Investigating the role of cell polarity pathways during neurite formation

This project will focus on the role of the PAR polarity complex, notably Par3, Par6 and aPKC during neurite outgrowth. Par polarity has been linked to neurite polarization, but how Par proteins regulate polarization is highly unclear. A well-established downstream effector of the Par complex in several other contexts is the microtubule cytoskeletal machinery. What are the downstream effectors of the Par complex in developing neurons? Microtubules are integral to neurite function and also essential for dendritic extension and the Par complex has been shown to be enriched at the tips of growing dendrites of sensory neurons and essential for dendrite extension in C. elegans . The goal of this project is to determine how the Par polarity complex influences the microtubule machinery to promote neurite outgrowth using C. elegans and Drosophila as model systems. Additionally, this collaborative effort will allow the student to work in labs with complementing expertise and access the state-of-the-art research and training environment offered by the two institutions, the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology in Edinburgh and the School of Life Sciences in Dundee.

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