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Discovering the neurobiology of recovery long after spinal cord injury

Start date

1st October 2024


1 fully funded 3.5 year International Spinal Research Trust PhD studentship, Full-Time, Wolfson Sensory, Pain and Regeneration Centre - IoPPN


We are looking for a dynamic and motivated individual to interested in performing advanced research into nerve regeneration, neuroplasticity, and muscle function, while using cutting edge physiological, imaging, fMRI, tracing, and electrophysiological methods to determine the pathways and mechanisms through which breathing is restored long after spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injury affects 30 million people worldwide. In the UK alone, 1 person receives a traumatic injury to the spinal cord every 8 seconds.

One of the most severe effects of common spinal cord injuries, is the detrimental impact they have on breathing. Sadly, over 70% of patients with spinal cord injuries die due to deficits in their ventilatory function. We have recently shown experimentally that it is possible to restore function to these damaged respiratory circuits by modifying the extracellular matrix which surrounds them. Importantly, this also helps to restore normal breathing.

It is generally thought that as more time elapses after an injury to the spinal cord, it becomes harder to restore function. However, our treatment works best when applied long after a spinal cord injury. Since this could provide more time to get suitable treatments to patients, it is essential we discover what lies behind this.

In this PhD we aim to find the mechanisms through which function can be restored to injured and paralysed motor systems long after trauma has occurred.

The PhD student will perform in vivo experiments focusing on short and long-term spinal cord injuries. They will seek to answer how and why restoration of breathing occurs long after the injury has transpired, but not in the initial days after the trauma. Finally, they will use pharmacological and genetic techniques to mimic the identified mechanisms of action within other motor pathways in the injured spinal cord which do not usually recover long after the injury (e.g. hand function). This will help establish proof-of-concept for the development a novel approach, based on this mechanism, for treating spinal cord injuries.

The student will join a diverse and dedicated young group of researchers motivated  to restore motor and sensory control back to people who have suffered traumatic neurological injury or disease. They will be trained in a wide variety of techniques, experimental models, and imaging, as well as having the opportunity to travel to, and learn within our partner labs of Dr. Andrea Tradeshi (Ohio State University), contribute to papers, and present their findings at international conferences.

Informal email enquiries to Dr. Philippa Warren are encouraged from interested students.


Dr Philippa Warren & Prof. Steven Williams

Entry requirements

Applicants should have (or be expected to obtain) a Bachelors degree with 2:1 honours (or Overseas equivalent). A 2:2 degree may be considered only where applicants also offer a Masters with Merit.

Award types and eligibility

The award is fully funded for 3.5 years (including a 6 month write-up period) covering Home student fees (studentship not available to Overseas applicants), an annual stipend, research consumables, computer equipment, and travel costs to specific conferences at which the student will present. Overseas applicants are eligible to apply but will need to cover the difference in fees.

To be treated as a Home student, candidates must meet one of the following criteria:

  • A UK national (meeting residency requirements)
  • Settled status
  • Pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements)
  • Indefinite leave to remain or enter

Further information


More information on the type of research being conducted in the research group of the supervisory team can be found here: 

About the IoPPN (

Studying at the IoPPN (

Research degrees at the IoPPN (link to

How to apply

Applicants must complete and submit an online admissions application, via the admissions portal by midnight (23:59 GMT), Sunday 12th May 2024.

On the ‘Choosing a programme’ page, please select Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases Research MPhil/PhD (Full-time).

In your application, you will be asked to include:

  • Academic Transcripts – where applicable, academic transcripts must be submitted with the online admissions application
  • Details of your qualifications (you will need to attach copies)
  • Details of previous employment - please include your CV
  • A personal statement describing your interests and why you wish to apply for this project. Please include this as an attachment rather than using the text box.
  • Academic References – all admissions applications require one supporting reference. If the applicant is relying on thier referees to submit a reference directly to the College after they have submitted thier admissions application, then the applicant must ensure that (1) their chosen referee is made aware of the funding deadline (i.e. 7 days from application deadline) and (2) that the reference needs to be sent from an institutional email address.

In the Funding section, please tick box 5 and include the following reference: PMW-B2TF24

Please note there is no need to complete the Research Proposal section in your application as the project has already been set. You are welcome to email Dr. Philippa Warren ( for more information regarding the project and studentship. 

If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact the Education support team at

References must be received by the deadline for the applicant to be eligible. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

Closing date

Sunday 12th May 2024


Wednesday 29th May 2024


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