Job ID: 100102

4-year fully funded PhD studentship in Medical Sciences

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 6 February 2023

Employment Start Date: 1 October 2023

Contract Length: 4 years

City: Aberdeen

Country: United Kingdom

Institution: University of Aberdeen

Department: Institute of Medical Sciences


We invite applications for an exciting fully funded PhD studentship investigating the role of the ubiquitin ligase CUL9 in the development of schizophrenia.

About the Project

Neurological diseases are severe disorders with major societal and economic impact. Schizophrenia is a long term psychiatric illness associated with acute mental health disorders that affects about 220,000 people in the UK only. Unfortunately our current understanding of this disease is limited, and the only treatments available are antipsychotics which have limited efficacy and severe side effects.

Important research consortia have recently made enormous progress on the identification of new genes that increase the risk of developing such mental illnesses, however, it is not clear how these genes impact brain function nor the way they affect the development of these mental illnesses. Uncovering their functions is crucial to the development of new hypotheses and concepts for the treatments of neurological diseases such as schizophrenia.

The goal of this project is to elucidate the function of CUL9, a gene encoding a ubiquitin ligase, whose expression was recently found to be altered in schizophrenia patients. We have recently identified a novel substrate of CUL9 which is predicted to regulate membrane trafficking within neurons.

Specific Research Objectives

The PhD candidate will characterize how CUL9 alters its substrate via its ubiquitin ligase activity. CRISPR-mediated mutagenesis and state of the art confocal imaging will be used. The PhD student will determine how CUL9 substrate’s function is affected by ubiquitination in primary neurons and how it may impact neuronal structure and activity with the overall aim to understand how this pathway influences the function of neurons in schizophrenia patients.

Training and Academic Environment

The student will receive training in cutting edge biomedical techniques including primary neuron culture, confocal/fluorescence microscopy, genome engineering, protein biochemistry and mass spectrometry. The PhD candidate will also receive training in data analysis, scientific writing, and result presentation. The student will be encouraged to take part in public engagement events, networking events and take proactive leadership roles. This position is an exceptional opportunity to acquire new technical and transferable skills to develop one’s career as a researcher or in any other non-academic endeavour.

The PhD candidate will join the lab of Dr Emilie Hollville with co-supervision by Dr James Hislop in the Institute of Medical Sciences (School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition) at the University of Aberdeen. Both supervisors are members of the Neuroscience theme that brings together fellow students and experts in the field.

The studentship is part of a cohort of 7 PhD students to be recruited at the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) across its broad themes in neuroscience, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology and computational biology. The IMS is one of the University of Aberdeen’s flagship research institutes and its researchers tackle a range of biomedical problems with a mission to develop the therapeutics of tomorrow using multi-disciplinary methods and teams. The IMS PhD studentships will provide outstanding students with training in the essential research skills to become the leading scientists of the future.

The University of Aberdeen and our lab are fully committed to promoting an inclusive and supportive research culture and we actively encourage candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds to apply.


This is a 4-year, fully funded project to start on 1st October 2023. Funding is provided by the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition. Funding covers tuition fees at the UK/Home rate (this includes EU nationals that hold UK settled or pre-settled status), research costs, and an annual stipend at the UKRI rate (£17,668 for the 2022/2023 academic year, updated annually).

Candidate Background and Eligibility

The studentship is open to home fee candidates in the 2023/24 academic year. Funding for this programme will cover UK tuition fees/stipend only.

This position is suitable for candidates awarded (or expect to achieve) a first or 2.1 Honours degree in Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Biochemistry, or in a similar Biomedical Science field. We are looking for an enthusiastic and highly motivated individual with analytical skills and strong interests in neurobiology and fundamental biology. Holding a MSc or having prior research experience with at least one of the following techniques would be an advantage: cell culture and transfection, microscopy, protein chemistry, molecular tools, and genome engineering.

Application Procedure

  • Formal applications can be completed online:
  • You should apply for Medical Sciences (PhD)to ensure your application is passed to the correct team for processing.
  • Please clearly note the name of the supervisor (Dr Emilie Hollville) and project title (Control of membrane trafficking by the schizophrenia risk factor CUL9) on the application form. If you do not mention the project title and the supervisor on your application, it will not be considered for the studentship.
  • Your application must include: A personal statement, an up-to-date copy of your academic CV, and clear copies of your educational certificatesand transcripts.
  • Please note: you DO NOT need to provide a research proposal with this application
  • General application enquiries can be made to
  • Interviews will be held on 23rd and 28th February 2023 via MS teams.

For informal enquires please contact Dr Emilie Hollville (