MRC AIM Doctoral Training Partnership: School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham

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Life Sciences
Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Friday 12 January 2024
Reference:  MED1973

MRC AIM Doctoral Training Partnership

The AIM (Advanced Inter-Disciplinary Models) DTP is funded by the MRC between three Partners – the Universities of Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham – and three more Associate Partners – the Research Complex at Harwell, Mary Lyon Centre and Rosalind Franklin Institute. We have a range of exciting and diverse PhD 4-year projects at all 3 partner Institutions which are now open for a September 2024 start and those available at The University of Nottingham are detailed below.

Projects with an industry partner (iCASE projects) offer a unique opportunity to undertake translational research and come with a mandatory placement requirement and an enhanced stipend.

Full information about funding of these projects and application details, including application form, plus Equality, diversity and inclusion form are available at .

Application deadline

The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, 12 January 2024. Please ensure that your application is submitted with all required documentation by the above deadline as incomplete applications will not be considered. See full details at the “how to apply” section below. After the closing date, the project supervisors will review all applications submitted for their project and shortlist a maximum of two candidates for interview.

Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by 9 February 2024 via email. If applicants don’t receive an email by this date, then their application has not been shortlisted and they will not be invited for interview. Unfortunately, due to the number of applications the DTP receives, it will not be possible to provide feedback on unsuccessful applications.


Interviews will take place during the week commencing 26 February and will be held via Zoom.   Please ensure you are available for the whole week as we are unable to offer any alternative interview dates/times.

We strongly encourage you to contact the supervisor(s) of the project in which you are interested before submitting an application. 

As stipulated by the funders, recruitment for International candidates to the DTP is capped at 30% of the whole cohort.

Academic requirement

Applicants must hold, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject. A master’s qualification in a related area could be beneficial, as could additional relevant research experience. 

More details can be found on the MRC website.

How to apply

Applications should include:

  • A completed application form
  • A CV consisting of no more than 2 sides of A4
  • A transcript of module marks
  • Completed ED&I form.

Please submit your application for University of Nottingham projects to [email protected] .

What happens after interview?

Candidates who are ranked highest at interview will be offered a place on the DTP and will be recommended for the PhD position. Successful candidates will then be sent details of how to make the formal application at the project host institution and will be subject to standard admissions checks which is standard procedure. The host institution admissions team will then send out formal offer letters and details of how to complete the registration process. The DTP Funding Team will send out formal funding award letters.

Projects open for application

School of Life Sciences

Project Title: RNA In Situ-ations: Unravelling the Molecular Basis for Myotonic Dystrophy through HighResolution Cryo-Electron Tomography of Disease State RNA Condensates.

Supervisor(s): Professor David Brook, [email protected]  

Aditi Borkar (School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, UoN), Emma Hesketh (Leicester), Christopher Parmenter (Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre, UoN)


We aim to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying RNA misfolding diseases, particularly focusing on myotonic dystrophy (DM). In DM, both voluntary and involuntary muscles progressively degenerate in the body, affecting normal functioning of the eye, heart, endocrine system and central nervous system. DM is caused when repetitive CUG motifs in the DMPK mRNA fold abnormally and form RNA-protein condensates with the MBNL proteins in the nuclei of muscle cells. This process inhibits MBNL’s regular function in mRNA splicing and results in DM symptoms. 

DM has been extensively studied over the past several decades. Yet, we don’t fully understand the molecular interactions between the disease state DMPK mRNA and MBNL proteins that lead to the observed pathophysiology. To address this gap in knowledge, we will employ a multidisciplinary approach involving cell biology, various microscopy techniques, and structural biology methods to directly study native DMPK mRNA-MBNL interactions in the disease state and in the presence of small molecule inhibitors.

This research holds profound implications for millions of people facing life-altering symptoms due to RNA misfolding diseases. By shedding light on their molecular intricacies, the project will contribute to collaborative publications of global significance, novel drug development, clinical applications, and intellectual property advancements.

Project Title The role of local versus systemic environment and skeletal muscle – bone crosstalk in driving muscle loss in people with osteoarthritis

Supervisors: Sophie Joanisse, [email protected], Kostas Tsintzas (UoN), Amy Naylor (UoB), Simon Jones (UoB)


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disorder affecting synovial joints, its occurrence increases with age and, it is more common in women. Worryingly, OA is accompanied by a peri-articular loss of muscle mass which can further exacerbate the inevitable age-associated loss of muscle mass. This loss of muscle can precipitate frailty leading to increased risk of falls and fractures in addition to increasing the risk of developing co-morbidities. The overall aim of the studentship is to determine the underlying causes of muscle loss of people with OA. We hypothesize that factors released by the affected bone (e.g., local environment) will drive muscle loss observed in OA. 

This PhD studentship will provide interdisciplinary training in a wide range of cell techniques including human primary (bone and muscle) cell isolations (OA/controls) and culture, the use of novel in vitro models (self-structuring bone model (SSBM)/osteoblast mechanical stress) and the establishment of novel co-culture models (SSBM and myoblasts/myotubes) to study bone-muscle crosstalk. The student will also be trained in a variety of molecular biology techniques. In addition, the student will spend time at both the Universities of Nottingham and Birmingham to gain essential skills and further establish their interdisciplinary network. 

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