Student in a laboratory with the Wellcome logo
A student working in a laboratory. (Image credit: Phil Brooks)

Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships at Oxford (2022)

About

A Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship will give students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to carry out a research project under the supervision of Oxford academics and researchers. The information on this page is for our 2022 programme.

During the six-week project, which will run from Monday 4 July 2022, you will undertake a self-contained research project, attend training skills sessions and receive information on graduate study. You will meet and work with our researchers, academic staff, and graduate students.

Wellcome BVS will give you the chance to experience some of what Oxford offers its students. Our intention is that everyone who takes part will gain benefits in terms of confidence, skills and experience that will enhance both their CV and any future postgraduate applications. While carrying out your project you will live in college accommodation and experience life as a graduate student in Oxford. Social activities, including some organised lunches and dinners, will introduce you to our community and to some of the University of Oxford’s famous traditions and locations.

We intend to offer around six Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships to individuals who meet the eligibility criteria (which can be found in the Eligibility criteria section of this page). We encourage applications from talented individuals who would find continuing into postgraduate study a challenge for reasons other than academic ability.

The deadline for applications is 12:00 midday UK time on Friday 18 February 2022.

What happens during a Wellcome BVS project at Oxford?

You will receive an induction at the start of your Wellcome BVS project, which will introduce you to the University and the research group in which you will be based for the duration of your project.

In the first week of the programme, a range of courses may be offered to participants depending on which training (if any) is most appropriate for your research project. This could include training on both quantitative and qualitative data analysis. The quantitative analysis element may include two separate courses on an introduction to data analysis using each of the Python and R languages. Additionally, there are likely to be a range of research skills courses available including an introduction to bibliographic management and an introduction to version control using Git and Github. Detailed information on first week training will be shared with successful applicants in June 2022.

Your induction will be followed by a research project that will take place in a department within our Medical Sciences Division. During the six weeks of the scholarship, you will be expected to work full-time in Oxford. You can find out more about the projects that are available in the Projects section of this page.

Over the course of your project you will have many opportunities to apply and develop your research skills and gain real-life research experience. While working on your project, you will receive regular supervision from an academic member of staff, post-doctoral staff and/or current DPhil (PhD) students. You will also receive training in transferable skills (eg presentation skills, how to prepare a CV), and information on how to make a competitive application for graduate study.

At the end of the programme, you will write a report on your project and give a short presentation to other participants of our Graduate Access Programmes.

We will seek to deliver this programme in accordance with the description set out in this page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes, either before or after the start of the programme. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency.

Opportunities and benefits of a Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship at Oxford

A Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship will provide you with sufficient financial support to ensure that a research experience at Oxford is a viable alternative to other summer employment.

You will receive:

  • a basic salary at real Living Wage plus holiday pay and National Insurance contributions (estimated to be in the region of £2,600 before tax and employee National Insurance); and
  • free-of-charge accommodation provided by one of our colleges (more information about accommodation can be found below);
  • up to £250 for your travel expenses to and from Oxford at the start and end of your research project; and
  • an application fee waiver for applying to a graduate course at Oxford (currently the application fee is £75 per application).

Carrying out a summer research project will:

  • enhance your research skills;
  • enhance your ability to make a competitive application to postgraduate courses;
  • introduce you to leading researchers and staff at the University of Oxford; and
  • offer you information about opportunities for postgraduate study and research careers.

Accommodation

You will be offered a single room in accommodation provided by one of our colleges (see our FAQ: What is a college?) for the duration of the programme at no cost to you. We will let you know which college will provide accommodation to you if you are offered a place.

You will be able to check in to your room on Monday 4 July, at the start of the programme and you will need to check out on Saturday 13 August.

Projects for entry in 2022

Wellcome BVS projects are designed to offer tangible benefits in terms of confidence, skills and experience that will enhance any future postgraduate or job application.

The application form will ask you to outline your preferred field of study and areas of research, and select at least one and up to three preferred projects that you are interested in working on. Please see the Eligibility criteria section of this page for full details of the criteria you will need to meet to be considered for Wellcome BVS at Oxford, including the subject areas you should currently be studying as an undergraduate student.

Many of our projects are open to those studying undergraduate degrees in a broad range of subjects, however you should read each project description carefully and check to see if it has any specific entry requirements before applying. Full instructions for completing the application form can be found our Application Guide for Graduate Access Programmes.

A total of six places are available for the Wellcome BVS projects.

Only projects that are matched to successful applicants will run this year. If you are successful, we will try to match your interests to available projects and supervisors. Please note that we will not always be able to meet your preferences for a project/supervisor, but we will try our best to do this wherever possible.

Available projects include:

MSD 1: Big Data Institute 
Schistosomiasis in Uganda

Supervisor

Lead: Associate Professor Goylette Chami, Robertson Fellow, Research Group Leader, Big Data Institute; Nuffield Department of Population Health

Additional: Dr Max Eyre, Big Data Institute; Nuffield Department of Population Health

Description

Schistosomiasis is a debilitating set of conditions, caused by parasitic blood flukes. Over 700 million people are at risk and most of these individuals live in sub-Saharan Africa. Transmission occurs with human contact and contamination of open freshwater sites. Infections persist because individuals do not have sufficient access to safe water or adequate sanitation. Together with the Uganda Ministry of Health, we are tracking individuals in 36 rural villages of Uganda to understand the factors that relate to their likelihood of getting infected. For schistosomiasis, infection must occur at contaminated water sites where there are competent intermediate snail hosts. This project collects information on all the possible transmission sites in the 36 study villages. The characteristics of these water sites and their suitability for transmission vary widely and depend on the ecological conditions of the site including depth, turbidity, vegetation, and other factors. This project is an exciting opportunity for you to get health data science experience and contribute to a project of global health importance. This project will use either R, QGIS, or ArcGIS to conduct spatial analyses where environmental features from satellite imagery and on-the-ground surveys will be used to construct features related to risk factors for schistosomiasis.

Project outcomes

You will produce modified environmental indices that can be correlated against village infection outcomes, including infection prevalence. A report of the work completed within the placement is expected.

Entry requirements

You should have a background in a quantitative subject (eg maths, physics, computer science, etc)

MSD 2: Biochemistry 
Cellular immunology to blood-stage malaria vaccines

Supervisor

Dr Carolyn Nielsen, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral fellow - Clinical Immunology, Nuffield Department of Medicine

Description

The research undertaken in the Draper group focuses on the development of novel and improved approaches to blood-stage malaria vaccine design, as well as aiming to better understand molecular mechanisms of vaccine-induced immunity to blood-stage malaria infection. You will contribute to this work by focusing on analysis of vaccine-specific cellular responses to blood-stage malaria vaccines from clinical trials run in Oxford. The project will include a literature review component to develop your understanding of the landscape of malaria vaccine development, followed by laboratory work focused on using a technique called flow cytometry to qualitatively and quantitatively assess vaccine-specific cellular responses, ie B cells and/ or T cells.

Project outcomes

You will develop skills and knowledge related to malaria and vaccine immunology, with a focus on cellular techniques such as flow cytometry. Data may help inform future immunology work in the group as part of the longer-term blood-stage malaria vaccine development programme.

Entry requirements

You should have experience in biology or medicine from your undergraduate degree. Attention to details is required for safe and accurate lab work.

MSD 3: Cardiovascular Medicine 
Cardiac myosin function and heart disease

Supervisor

Dr Christopher Toepfer, Principal Investigator & Sir Henry Dale Fellow, Radcliffe Department of Medicine

Description

Myosin can be in two conformations in cardiac muscle a super relaxed state (SRX) or disordered relaxed state (DRX). DRX myosin drives muscle contraction and SRX myosin conserves energy in the heart. These states are affected by heart disease. But as of yet it is not known which heart diseases alter this key myosin state. The aim of the project is to learn to dissect cardiac tissues, measure the myosin states in these tissues by using fluorescent microscopy and uncover which diseases change myosin SRX and DRX.

Project outcomes

You will learn to perform tissue dissection, fluorescent microscopy and other general lab competencies including pipetting, keeping lab notes, and learning to perform statistical analysis. You will receive mentorship and establish a mentor network of researchers that can support your future research aims. You will be involved in a growing project that is well established experimentally with interesting outcomes to be understood about the role of myosin super relaxation in diseases outside of inherited cardiovascular conditions.

Entry requirements

You should have a background in biological sciences, biochemistry, physiology, medicine, microscopy.

MSD 4: Statistics in Medicine 
Quality of medical research

Supervisor

Dr Paula Dhiman, Senior Researcher in Medical Statistics, Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics / Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences

Description

At the UK EQUATOR Centre within the Centre for Statistics in Medicine, we are a team of statisticians and meta-researchers involved with many research studies looking at how medical research is done, how well it is reported in the published literature, and how it can be done better. We conduct many of our own methodological research studies, including systematic reviews and surveys. One example is that we are evaluating the use of artificial intelligence in cancer. We also work with other researchers and clinicians in designing and conducting their research studies. You will work on the ongoing research studies to gain experience and insight into all steps of doing and evaluating medical research studies; from working with the group to formulate research questions, design medical research studies, learn and improve how to code using specialised statistical analysis software, analyse data and help disseminate research through contributing to writing a research article. Which studies you will be involved with will depend on your interests, but are most likely to include systematic reviews, methodological reviews, or prediction modelling.

Project outcomes

Your work may result in a co-authorship on publication and a presentation at departmental seminar

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements.

MSD 6: Chemistry and Pharmacology 
Synthesis of arylhydrocarbon receptor targeted degraders

Supervisor

Professor Angela Russell, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Department of Chemistry

Description

The project forms part of an ongoing programme of work in our lab to develop modulators of utrophin for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In 2018 in a clinical trial of ezutromid (first-in-class utrophin modulator developed as a result of our work) we found that the drug gave an increase in utrophin and provided functional benefit in patients, but these positive effects were unfortunately not sustained. In subsequent work we have been able to rationalise the lack of sustained efficacy and uncovered the molecular target and mechanism of action of ezutromid. Ezutromid acts as an antagonist of the arylhydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in muscle to exert its effects (Angew Chem, 2020). We have since been exploring alternative approaches to increase the duration of action of AhR antagonism. One of these approaches is to create a bifunctional molecule to recognise, antagonise and selectively proteolytically degrade AhR in the cytosol (using a PROteolysis-TArgeted Chimera (PROTAC)-type approach). You will design and synthesise 2-3 examples of AhR PROTACs building on our know how. If time permits they will also test their compounds for AhR antagonism, AhR degradation and utrophin upregulation in muscle cells.

Project outcomes

The project will form a significant part of our ongoing collective work to develop AhR targeting ligands to upregulate utrophin for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The expected outputs are synthesis of up to 3 AhR PROTACS ready for testing and data confirming effects of the PROTACS on AhR antagonism, degradation and utrophin upregulation in muscle cells (either as part of the project, time permitting or tested immediately afterwards). Your work is expected to form a substantial part of a publication describing the feasibility of AhR targeted degradation in utrophin modulation.

Entry requirements

You should be studying or have studied for a degree in chemistry or a degree where chemistry forms a substantial component of the degree.

MSD 7: Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics 
Epicardial epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition during heart development

Supervisor

Dr Joaquim Miguel Vieira, BHF Intermediate Basic Science Research Fellow, Department of Physiology / Anatomy & Genetics

Description

For this eight-week project in particular we aim to continue with the phenotyping of mouse models carrying a deletion of the cis-regulatory sequences located in intron 1 of the Wt1/Wt1as locus. Three mouse models were recently generated in the lab via CRISPR/Cas9 technology, and initial characterisation of mutant embryos at embryonic day (E) 15.5 by high-resolution episcopic microscopy (HREM) revealed thinner myocardial wall and impaired cardiac valve development for one of the mouse models. Therefore, future experiments will include the analysis of further samples by HREM so that all three mouse models are assessed in terms of global heart development. In addition, you will investigate the expression of WT1 and WT1as lncRNA in mutant versus control hearts by qPCR, immunofluorescence and multiplex in situ hybridisation (RNAscope), as well as implement ex vivo models (eg, epicardial explants derived from E11.5 hearts) to study epicardial EMT. Another experimental avenue to be explored includes investigating the role of the Wt1as lncRNA in EMT by using in-house mouse epicardial cell lines combined with growth factor stimulation of EMT in the presence or absence (eg, siRNA) of the noncoding transcripts. Alternatively, experiments to validate outcomes arising from CUT&RUN, ATAC-seq and scRNA-seq unbiased screens may be explored.

Project outcomes

You will contribute to ongoing research with potential contribution to scientific manuscripts, and development of technical skills, including mammalian tissue dissection, cell culture, primary tissue/explant assays, immunofluorescence, RNAscope, confocal/epifluorescence microscopy, HREM sample preparation and data analysis using AMIRA and HOROS software, and/or standard molecular biology techniques (eg RNA isolation, cDNA synthesis, qRT-PCR).

Entry requirements

Some understanding of cell and developmental biology, and gene regulation would be desirable.

MSD 8: Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics 
Lymphatic vessel formation

Supervisor

Dr Irina-Elena Lupu, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Department of Physiology / Anatomy & Genetics

Description

This project will focus on the formation of the lymphatic vessels during embryonic development in the heart and it will form a part of a larger ongoing project in our lab. The techniques involved will include a mixture of molecular biology techniques such as PCR, cellular biology techniques such as confocal microscopy and data analysis techniques such as working with sequencing data. The project will also be tailored together with you to ensure you explore your areas of interest. The aim of the project is to understand the molecular control of lymphatic vessel formation in the heart.

Project outcomes

At the end of the project you will have a better understanding of how and when lymphatic vessel formation takes place in the mouse heart.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements.

MSD 9: Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics 
Regulation of physiological and pathological amyloidogenesis

Supervisor

Professor Clive Wilson, Professor of Cell and Development Genetics, Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics

Description

Amyloidogenesis, the aggregation of specific proteins and peptides into fibrils, occurs normally, for example when secretory granules form in hormone-secreting cells, and pathologically, for example in Alzheimer’s Disease, where an abnormally cleaved product of the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) forms plaques. Using a new cell model to study granule formation in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, we have shown that two human pathological proteins, one of them being APP, normally control the aggregation of these granules. This process is disrupted by pathological forms of these proteins. Since the granules we study are very large, we can visualise the entire amyloidogenic process at high resolution in real-time. In the project, the genetic mechanisms that control these different types of amyloidogenesis will be investigated. The project will involve microdissection, genetics, wide-field fluorescence imaging and bioinformatics.

Project outcomes

It should be possible to identify a novel regulator of amyloidogenesis and pinpoint the step in the process affected by this regulator.

Entry requirements

You should have experience from a relevant degree or experience in biological sciences.

MSD 10: Experimental Psychology 
Understanding face processing in autism and prosopagnosia

Supervisor

Professor Geoff Bird, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Experimental Psychology

Description

This project aims to investigate face processing in prosopagnosic (‘face-blind’) individuals, and in individuals with autism. In particular, we will examine how individuals from these groups, and neurotypical individuals, remember someone’s name and other information about them (their job, how they know the individual, etc) when they see their face. You will be involved in design, programming, data collection and data analysis aspects of this project, providing breadth of experience in all aspects of research design and implementation.

Project outcomes

It is expected that this research study will result in a paper to be submitted for publication.

Entry requirements

Experience from an undergraduate degree in psychology is desirable but not essential.

MSD 11: Experimental Psychology 
Using computer games to investigate human concept learning

Supervisor

Lead: Professor Christopher Summerfield, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Experimental Psychology

Additional: Dr Tsvetomira Dumbalska, Department of Experimental Psychology

Description

We are interested in how people learn new concepts. A "concept" can be thought of describing a relationship between variables. For example, the concept of "aunt" describes the relationship between two individuals as a function of their gender and familial ties. We plan to measure concept learning by asking people to play simple video games. In these games, they will have to figure out what the concepts are, and use them to solve puzzles. We want to know the factors that help people learn new concepts fastest, and are interested in how the rate at which people learn new concepts correlates with traditional measure of academic ability. The project would involve collecting and analysing data from Oxford undergraduates.

Project outcomes

You will contribute to the ongoing project, carrying out data collection and analysis of experimental data with guidance from the supervisor. You will be credited with co-authorship on the resulting manuscript conditional on feasibility and an appropriate level of contribution.

Entry requirements

Some experience with coding is useful but not essential.

MSD 13: Clinical Neurosciences 
Functional analysis of genes causing cerebellar diseases

Supervisor

Associate Professor Esther Becker, Associate Professor of Neurobiology, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Description

The cerebellum is a fascinating brain structure that is involved in different functions. While the cerebellum has traditionally been regarded solely as a regulator of motor function, recent studies have demonstrated additional roles for the cerebellum in higher-order cognitive functions such as language, emotion, reward, social behaviour and working memory. Accordingly, cerebellar dysfunction is linked not only to motor diseases such as ataxia, dystonia and tremor, but also increasingly to cognitive affective disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and language disorders. We understand surprisingly little about the molecular processes that underlie the formation of the cerebellum and that, when disrupted, lead to disease. Research in our laboratory aims to elucidate these processes and provide novel insights into the genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that cause different diseases of the cerebellum. The project will focus on novel genetic mutations identified in our laboratory and study their functional consequences in cell lines and tissues using immunostaining and immunoblotting techniques.

Project outcomes

You will be familiar with the topic and with laboratory techniques including cell culture, immunostaining and immunoblotting. You will generate and interpret data that help us to understand the molecular basis of cerebellar diseases.

Entry requirements

You will ideally be studying or have studied biology, biochemistry or biomedical sciences.

MSD 14: Clinical Neurosciences 
The prevalence of autoantibodies in neuropathic pain

Supervisor

Associate Professor John Dawes, Associate Professor, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Description

This project will involve using samples from neuropathic pain patients as well as healthy controls and assessing IgG binding to cultures of both mouse primary sensory neurons and human stem cell derived sensory neurons as well as fixed nervous tissue samples. In addition, positive binders will then be assessed for potential pathogenic mechanisms including how they impact on neurite outgrowth, cell viability and neuronal physiology.

Project outcomes

You will join the research team to help in obtaining a better understanding of the prevalence of autoantibodies and may provide an improved insight for certain pain conditions. Moreover, the experiments on autoantibodies can be utilized as a tool to provide a broader comprehension into clinically relevant mechanisms controlling pain sensitivity and enhance the development of therapies to treat neuropathic pain. On a practical aspect, you will gain further experiences across multiple techniques and laboratory studies, such as primary cell culture, immunohistochemistry, microscopy and data analysis.

Entry requirements

Previous lab experience is desirable but not essential.

MSD 15: Nuffield Department of Medicine 
Variants of unknown significance

Supervisor

Dr Alexandra Martin-Geary, Postdoctoral Bioinformatician, Nuffield Department of Medicine

Description

Since the first human genome sequence was completed in 2003, our ability to capture and map genetic variation on both an individual and population level has expanded swiftly, giving rise to large repositories of human genetic data. Whilst the rapid progress made over the last 18 years has proven invaluable for our understanding of genetic disease, we are now faced with the novel issue of having amassed an overabundance of potentially clinically relevant variants, but for which the disease mechanism/contribution to disease is as yet unknown. Using computational methods, we aim to address this dearth of information, with a focus on variants of unknown significance in the untranslated regions of human genes.

Project outcomes

You will have an introduction to some of the main methods used to identify and interpret potentially disease causing genetic variation. You will learn some programming and how to use a selection of the major tools and datasets used in computational rare disease analysis. You will also get to experience what life is like in a lab environment where the ethos is built around kindness and a shared drive to shed light on the underlying causes of rare human disease.

Entry requirements

A biology/genetics focused background is desirable.

MSD 16: Nuffield Department of Medicine 
Molecular pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease

Supervisor

Associate Professor Ira Milosevic, Nuffield Department of Medicine

Description

Parkinson’s disease (PD) imposes a significant burden on patients, families and society, and will become of even greater concern as life expectancy increases, and the world population continues to age. Thus, the molecular underpinnings of this disorder need to be understood in a timely manner. Defective intracellular trafficking has been linked to ataxias and PD. However, the connection between impaired intracellular trafficking and the pathological characteristics of these diseases is not well understood. Within intracellular trafficking, several points of interest have been highlighted by various studies. These include exocytosis and endocytosis, and endo-lysosomal pathway. Several genes linked either hereditarily or as risk factors in these processes have been identified. You will join ongoing work on understanding the function of some key PD-risk candidates in neuronal cells. You will be trained in basic proteomics (Western blotting), cell culture and, if time permits, imaging.

Project outcomes

You will join an ongoing project that studies molecular pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease, and will be encouraged to read and discuss the relevant literature, as well as perform several experiments under supervision. Training will be provided.

Entry requirements

Previous lab experience and/or experience in culturing cells are desirable but not essential.

MSD 17: Nuffield Department of Population Health 
Cancer epidemiology

Supervisor

Dr Christiana Kartsonaki, Senior Statistician, Nuffield Department of Population Health

Description

The aim of the project will be to study risk factors or biomarkers for certain types of cancer. The specific objectives can be adapted to match the students' interests and background. The project may involve a systematic review and meta-analysis, or other literature review and/or data analysis. For example, it may be a systematic review and meta-analysis on adiposity and risk of prostate cancer, or on a different risk factor and cancer type. Alternatively it could be on the analysis of a cancer-related dataset. You will learn how to search the literature, use the statistical software R to analyse data, plan research and perhaps write a protocol or analysis plan, and some epidemiological and statistical concepts and methods.

Project outcomes

It is anticipated that the project will lead to a paper to be submitted for publication.

Entry requirements

You should have an interest in epidemiology, medicine, health, (bio)statistics, or a related field.

MSD 18: Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care Sciences 
Morbidity among long-term survivors of non-malignant meningioma

Supervisor

Dr Diana Withrow, Medical Statistician, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences

Description

Meningioma is the most frequently diagnosed brain tumour in the UK. At least 80% of meningiomas are non-malignant, and a subset of these are diagnosed asymptomatically upon imaging for another indication. First-line management for these tumours is most commonly observation or surgery. The survival from non-malignant meningiomas is relatively high, but the tumours and their treatment often lead to long-term complex health needs among survivors, resulting in an increased healthcare burden. The specific health challenges facing meningioma survivors in the years following their diagnoses, however, are poorly understood. In the proposed study you will explore morbidity among long-term survivors of non-malignant meningioma using large, administrative linked datasets.

Project outcomes

You will contribute toward work which will be published in a peer-reviewed manuscript

Entry requirements

Some training in statistics is desirable but not essential.

MSD 19: Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health 
Characterisation of hormones regulating lactation

Supervisor

Professor Fadil Hannan, Director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Oxford Centre for the Endocrinology of Human Lactation, Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health

Description

Lactation is critical for promoting optimal infant development, and also protects the mother from diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. A range of reproductive and metabolic hormones are involved in milk synthesis and secretion, however the underlying cellular processes are incompletely understood. The aim of this laboratory-based project is to investigate the effect of hormones on gene expression and metabolism in mammary cells. Methodologies utilised in this project include maintaining cultured mammary cells, assessment of gene expression using quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR), and continuous monitoring of cellular metabolism by measuring media oxygen and pH.

Project outcomes

You will gain experience with undertaking research into the endocrinology of lactation, and new insights into the cellular basis of hormone action.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements.

MSD 20: Oncology 
Immune populations of the tumour microenvironment

Supervisor

Dr Monica Olcina, Group Leader - Immune Radiation Biology, Department of Oncology

Description

The Olcina lab is focused on understanding immune biology to improve radiotherapy. We are particularly interested in how the tumour microenvironment contributes to tumour-specific dysregulation of innate immunity pathways such as the complement system. You will explore the spatial relationship between key innate and adaptive immune components of the tumour microenvironment (TME). The project will involve analysis of multiplex imaging data to assess such spatial distribution.

Project outcomes

You will establish an analysis pipeline for assessing the spatial distribution of immune populations within the tumour microenvironment.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements.

MSD 21: Oncology 
Identification of novel targets to radio-sensitise hypoxic cells

Supervisor

Dr Hannah Bolland, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Oncology

Description

The project aims to validate the results from an siRNA screen. This screen identified novel targets that if we inhibit, make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation. This project will aim to investigate the mechanism of how inhibition of these genes radio-sensitise cells. The main skill that you will develop on this project is western blotting.

Project outcomes

The outcome will be to generate one useable figure for a publication. Samples will be provided for you to run western blots with to try to identify the mechanism of cell death or radio sensitisation.

Entry requirements

You should ideally have a background or experiences in biology or chemistry.

MSD 22: Botnar Research Centre 
Pharmaceutical interventions for ageing (autophagy)

Supervisor

Dr Ghada Alsaleh, Versue Arthritis Career Development Fellow, The Kennedy Institute Of Rheumatology; Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences

Description

Ageing research has made significant progress over recent years, giving us several candidate hallmarks that are generally considered to contribute to the ageing process. Autophagy is implicated in a majority of these ageing hallmarks. The fact that autophagy declines with age and that inducing autophagy reverses ageing makes autophagy a promising therapeutic target. We recently found that the TFEB pathway, a pathway controlling autophagy, is often dysregulated in age and crucial for preventing cellular ageing and maintaining normal cell function. We aim to identify a drug targeting TFEB, so we performed a selective drug screen to identify compounds that increase TFEB expression in OA models. In this project, you will validate the effects of identified drugs on improving cartilage degradation and elucidate the role of TFEB in human tissue obtained from donors with OA and in an OA model in young and old mice.

Project outcomes

You will be a part of the team to provide data and rationale for funding an experimental medicine trial for the treatment of OA. Furthermore, Your work will yield outputs to support follow on efforts to develop pharmaceutical interventions for aging leveraging autophagy via the TFEB pathway.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements.

MSD 23: Radcliffe Department of Medicine 
Novel peptides and inflammatory disease

Supervisor

Lead: Professor Shoumo Bhattacharya, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Radcliffe Department of Medicine

Additional: Graham Davies, Radcliffe Department of Medicine

Description

Our groups’ interests are in anti-inflammatory proteins from nature, specifically from ticks and viruses. We have identified specific regions of these proteins which maintain this anti-inflammatory effect. You will work on these novel peptides to determine their biochemical (eg binding to target by fluorescent polarisation, protein-interaction disruption using bead/plate-capture assays) and biological activity (eg cell migration assays) and elucidate their potential effect on inflammatory diseases. Project areas: protein interactions, inflammation, chemokine, phage-display, next-generation sequencing, theragnostics

Project outcomes

You will learn how to conduct and interpret experiments that will contribute to the groups work.

Entry requirements

A biological/scientific background would be required.

MSD 24: Pathology 
Quantifying organelle growth

Supervisor

Professor Jordan Raff, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology

Description

Centrosomes are important organisers of the cell and their dysfunction has been linked to a plethora of human diseases. Almost all cells are born with a single centrosome that grows and divides; when the cell divides, each daughter inherits one centrosome and the cycle starts again. This project involves using sophisticated microscopes to make movies of living fly embryos expressing fluorescently-tagged versions of various centrosome proteins. These movies will be analysed using computational methods to track how the centrosomes grow and divide through multiple rounds of division. We ultimately hope that these quantitative measurements will allow us to mathematically describe how centrosome growth and division are regulated.

Project outcomes

You will learn some fly genetics and embryo manipulation and how to use sophisticated microscopy systems and the computational methods needed to extract quantitative data. No prior experience in any of these techniques or methods is required.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements. An interest in biology and/or computational image analysis is desirable.

MSD 25: Pathology 
Genetic investigation of morphogenesis of the neuromuscular junction

Supervisor

Dr Luis Alberto Baena Lopez, Associate Professor, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology

Description

Locomotion requires fine-tuning between the nervous system and the muscles. Consequently, A desynchronized neuro-muscular activity often lies at the heart of neurodegenerative diseases. Transferable to human development, we can use the fly larvae as a model system to investigate the morphogenesis of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). Our preliminary results indicate that cell death-related proteins may execute death unrelated functions relevant for correct NMJ formation but further investigations are needed. To this end, we will induce genetic loss-of- or gain-of-function of those proteins of interest to then evaluate their physiological impact during NMJ morphogenesis. As part of the project, we will also generate two new plasmids helping us to facilitate the overexpression of proteins of interest. The project will require a wide range of techniques such as Drosophila genetics, microdissection, immunohistochemistry, fluorescence microscopy, molecular cloning, and statistical analysis, which together aim to provide valuable training to you.

Project outcomes

In this project, you will gain novel insights into the molecular pathways that ensure correct NMJ morphogenesis, a process that can turn awry in human pathologies such as muscular dystrophies. You will receive training in a diverse and widely used range of laboratory techniques and learn practical skills.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements.

MSD 26: Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics 
Monitoring highly pathogenic emerging viruses in West Africa

Supervisor

Professor Miles Carroll, Carroll Group, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, Nuffield Department of Medicine

Description

West Africa is the site of continuous spill over events of viruses from wild animals to humans. It is difficult to catch the virus in the act when sampling humans so we look for footprints left behind by the pathogens, in the form of antibodies, as proof of virus infection. We apply highly specific assays such as ELISA to identify antibody responses. Mapping these spill over events helps us to identify the high risk areas that will likely give rise to future outbreaks and epidemics. You will be trained in antibody detection techniques and subsequent statistical analysis of results.

Project outcomes

Evidence of pathogenic virus spill over events in specific regions within West Africa. Data will be fed back to local outbreak response units, primarily within the Republic of Guinea. Ultimate aim is to publish the data so the international community has access to the sero-epi data set.

Entry requirements

Experience in a relevant degree, such as in biological sciences, would be helpful.

MSD 27: Population Health 
Phenotyping measures of fat from cardiac images

Supervisor

Professor Jemma Hopewell, Professor of Precision Medicine & Epidemiology, Nuffield Department of Population Health

Description

Large-scale epidemiological studies have established the importance of body fat distribution for atrial fibrillation. However, the role of epicardial fat (fat around the heart) remains unclear, partly due to complexities in phenotyping at scale. We have been leading phenotype generation from cardiac magnetic resonance (cMR) images in order to elucidate this relationship using subsequent epidemiological and genetic epidemiological analyses. You will play a key role in validating new epicardial fat measures from cMR images, which is pivotal in demonstrating reproducibility. You will contribute to understanding factors that affect phenotype quality and examining relationships with patient characteristics. You will be part of the Hopewell Group, a multidisciplinary team based at the Big Data Institute. You will receive career mentorship and hands-on training in cMR image-related skills, essential statistical and programming techniques, and will gain an appreciation of the value of big data (such as UK Biobank) in epidemiological and genetic epidemiological studies.

Project outcomes

Based on appropriate training, supervision and support from the primary investigator (PI) and a clinical research training fellow (as well as other team members and collaborators) you will develop an understanding of basic cardiac anatomy and skills in cardiac image analysis and undertake related phenotyping. You will also analyse resulting data to assess reproducibility of measures of epicardial fat area. You will develop a fundamental understanding of relevant medical statistic techniques and basic statistical programming skills. You will understand the value of big data for cardiovascular research, and key epidemiological and genetic epidemiological principles and techniques. You will actively participate and present in team meetings, and provide end-of-project deliverables.

Entry requirements

A background in medical/biological sciences, with previous quantitative experience/basic statistical training would be highly advantageous. Training on required techniques will be provided during the placement.

Please note that MSD 12: Information Engineering is listed on the application form but it will not be offered as a Wellcome BVS project.

Eligibility criteria for entry in 2022

You do not need to be studying at the University of Oxford to be eligible. You may apply to both UNIQ+ and the Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships if you wish and you only need to submit one application. However, your application will only be considered for programmes where you meet the eligibility criteria.

To be eligible for Wellcome BVS you must:

  1. be ordinarily resident in the UK (your UK residence should not have been wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education, eg you moved to the UK for educational purposes at the start of your course); and
  2. be currently undertaking an undergraduate degree at a UK or Irish university; and
  3. be in the middle year of your course (not the first or final year) when you have not yet undertaken a substantial period of research; and
  4. not have undertaken or be currently undertaking an intercalated year; and
  5. not have completed or be currently undertaking a one-year placement in research as part of your degree (eg a sandwich year); and
  6. not have previously undertaken a vacation scholarship from Wellcome or another funding body, or have had significant research experience; and
  7. not be a graduate-entry medical student who has previously completed an undergraduate degree in a science-related subject; and
  8. be studying an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject area, for example:
    • science (including biomedical, natural, computing or physical sciences)
    • medicine
    • dentistry
    • veterinary medicine
    • engineering
    • mathematics
  9. meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • be in the first generation of your family to go to university (e.g. neither of your parents have an undergraduate degree); or
    • be care experienced (for a period of more than 3 months); or
    • have had caring responsibilities for 3 months or more occupying more than 10 hours per week; or
    • be estranged from your parents/guardians; or
    • have been considered as statutorily homeless and qualified for assistance under your local authority’s ‘main homelessness duty’; or
    • belong to an ethnic group under-represented at Oxford (Black or Mixed Black, Bangladeshi or Mixed Bangladeshi, and Pakistani or Mixed Pakistani); or
    • be from a low-income background and in receipt of more than the minimum levels of support detailed from your regional funding body (see below to find out how to check whether you meet this financial criterion).

The Checking your eligibility tab of our Graduate Access Programme Application Guide, provides further details about how to ensure that you meet all the requirements. This includes:

Who should apply?

We are looking for proven and potential academic excellence. Applicants would usually be on track to achieve or have achieved a final undergraduate degree grade of a strong 2:1 or First, in a subject area related to the listed projects that you are interested in. If your transcript shows year on year grade progression towards the upper range of a 2:1 or above, then we’d encourage you to apply for the programme.

We encourage students at non-Russell Group institutions to apply. You can check if your institution is a member of the Russell Group.

You can find out more about the criteria we will take into consideration when selecting applicants in our Application Guide for Graduate Access Programmes. These include academic merit and potential, socio-economic information, contextual information, and gender for projects in certain subject areas.

How to apply for entry in 2022

We encourage applications from talented individuals who would find continuing into postgraduate study a challenge for reasons other than academic ability. Please ensure that you meet all the eligibility criteria, including the requirement to be ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom.

Completing the application form

To apply, you will need to complete our online application form. You will be required to provide information about your education, submit supporting documents, state your subject interests, provide a personal statement, and nominate a referee. Our Application Guide for Graduate Access Programmes provides full instructions for completing the application form.

As part of your application, you will be able to select which of our graduate access programmes you would like to be considered for (UNIQ+ internships and/or Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships).

You may apply to both programmes if you wish and you only need to submit one application. However, you will need to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for each programme you have selected because your application will only be considered for programmes that you are eligible to participate in.

Applications for the 2022 programme have now closed. If you have applied for the 2022 programme, you can still view your submitted application and find out what happens next.

Please submit your application as early as possible (preferably, at least one week before the deadline).

Only complete and eligible applications that are submitted by the deadline will be considered. For your application to be considered complete, your application will need to include all required documents and your referee will need to have submitted their reference by 12:00 midday UK time on Friday 18 February 2022.

The Guidance for referees section of our application guide will provide your referee with advice about what to include in their reference. For convenience, you may wish to provide your referee with the following web address: http://www.graduate.ox.ac.uk/access/referee

What happens next?

Please consult our Application Guide for Graduate Access Programmes for further information about how your application will be assessed, including information about how and when you can expect to hear the outcome.