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Generating sensory progenitor cells

*Please note, this project is self-funded*

Project details

Supervisor: Professor Andrea Streit

Funding: Self-funded

Application deadline: Until suitable candidate is found

Reference number: 2017/DI/12 

Project description

Sense organs are essential for communication with our environment providing visual, auditory and olfactory input. Among the most common birth defects, are craniofacial malformations often associated with sensory defects, while age-related loss of vision, smell and hearing is increasingly common in the ageing population. Important components of all sense organs come from common progenitors that are set aside early in development. How are they specified? While we know some of the signalling pathways that promote sensory progenitor formation from stem cells, little is known about their integration and the transcriptional networks downstream of them. This project aims to address some of these questions.

We have recently identified new players in sensory progenitor specification using molecular screens and next generation sequencing. The student will use gain- and loss-of-function approaches to test their in vivo role and to establish a genetic hierarchy that commits naïve ectodermal cells to the sensory lineage. S/he will work in close collaboration with bioinformaticians, who use reverse engineering methods to predict genetic interactions, which are then used to guide functional experiment. The project will not only provide insight into the molecular mechanisms of sensory progenitor formation, but also highlight candidate genes for human sensory disease.

In addition to acquiring knowledge about sensory biology and stem cell commitment, the student will learn modern molecular biology techniques like next generation sequencing, ChIP- or ATACseq, the relevant analysis tools, epigenetic approaches, as well as cellular, developmental and molecular tools to manipulate gene function in vivo and quantify gene expression. The Department of Craniofacial Development & Stem Cell Biology runs an established PhD programme including lecture courses, training on project design and development, and project-specific training, as well as training in transferable skills. It provides a vibrant and international environment, with multiple opportunities for collaborations and exchange and for presenting research at international meetings.

To view entry requirements and further course information, see the Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD. 

Next steps

How to apply

Please apply online at following these steps:

  1. Register a new account/login
  2. Once logged in, select Create a new application
  3. Enter ‘Dental and Health Sciences Research MPhil/PhD (Full-time)' under Choose a programme. Please ensure you select the correct mode of study
  4. Select a start date from the list under Entry requirements on this webpage.

Please note: Applicants must include the project reference number in the 'Research proposal' section of the application.

Contact for further information

Professor Andrea Streit (

Related division Craniofacial Development and Stem Cell Biology.

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