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Name of scholarship/program

Three PhD Studentships in Neuroimaging and Cardiovascular Disease

Important description
Background Information

The Neuroimaging in Cardiovascular Disease (NICAD) Network has recently been established by The University of Sheffield in order to prime new collaborations between existing areas of international research excellence. As part of this, three PhD Studentships are available which will combine state-of-the-art neuroimaging methods with other techniques in order to advance understanding of how cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors affect brain health.


The three PhD students, together with their supervisory teams will together comprise the NICAD network, which will co-ordinate research and dissemination activities in order to function as a cross-disciplinary team. Each PhD project will require students to develop an understanding of the relevant biology, an aptitude in using neuroscientific and biological research methods, and skills in data analysis. In line with the cross-disciplinary nature of the network, we invite applications from students with a wide range of backgrounds including life sciences, medicine and engineering. Applicants will need to demonstrate an ability to work in a cross-disciplinary team and substantial potential to develop beyond their primary educational background. For example, engineering graduates will need to demonstrate an aptitude for applying their knowledge and skills to addressing biological questions, and life science graduates will need to demonstrate an understanding of complex data analysis techniques and/or imaging methods. Successful applicants will usually have an excellent first degree and a Masters qualification, or equivalent experience.


Successful applicants will be assigned to one of the three projects (outlined below), supervised jointly by academics from at least two of the following research intensive departments:

The Neurovascular and Neuroimaging Research Group based within the Department of Psychology, which has an excellent track record in conducting in-vivo research using rodent models to advance understanding of neurovascular function and neuroimaging signals. Supervisors: Dr Jason Berwick; Dr Clare Howarth; Dr Aneurin Kennerley; Dr Chris Martin.
The Academic Unit of Radiology, which combines state-of-the-art imaging facilities and internationally recognised expertise for conducting human neuroimaging studies in both healthy subjects and clinical populations. Supervisors: Professor Iain Wilkinson; Dr Nigel Hoggard.
The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, established in 2010 as a world leading centre for research into neurodegenerative diseases, focussing on translating preclinical research findings into clinical trials of new therapies. Supervisors: Professor Stephen Wharton; Dr Paul Heath.
The Department of Cardiovascular Science, recognised in 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise as a world leader in cardiovascular disease research, with a focus on elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying disease using zebrafish models. Supervisors: Professor Sheila Francis; Dr Tim Chico.
The Projects

Although there is flexibility to adapt the projects to the specific interests and experiences of the successful applicant, the primary focus for each of the three projects is summarised below:

Project 1: Dissecting endothelial/neuronal crosstalk during neurovascular coupling

Using state-of-the-art lightsheet imaging, this project will begin by combining zebrafish models with cell-level imaging of the mechanisms underlying neurovascular coupling to establish novel zebrafish models of neurovascular coupling. These methods will then be used to examine the effect of differential gene expression within endothelial cells, as occurs in ageing and cardiovascular disease.

Project 2: Neurovascular breakdown in atherosclerotic mice

This project will combine atherosclerotic mouse models with state of the art multi-modal mouse neuroimaging methods in order to investigate how neurovascular function is altered by cardiovascular disease. These findings will form a basis for pilot human neuroimaging studies involving atherosclerotic patients in the latter stages of the project.

Project 3: Human neuroimaging biomarkers for cardiovascular disease.

The first part of this project will involve retrospective human MR data analysis to develop a biomarker for vasodilatory functional status of the macro- and micro-vascular networks involved in blood supply and regulation to and within the human brain. The second part will initiate a comparative animal neuroimaging model study, applying the same MR imaging techniques, linking it with the atherosclerotic imaging model being developed in Project 2 and the cellular level mechanisms of neurovascular function studied in Project 1.

Eligibility and other criteria
Local and international students may apply.
Eligibility of student candidates

The scholarships are provided to cover fees at UK and EU student rates. International candidates are welcome to apply but they will have to top up the additional costs of fees from another source. There is no central service that can cover this.

Application deadline
* June 12, 2015

Additional information, and important URL
Each studentship will include:

The UK/EU tuition fees for up to three years
An annual tax-free maintenance stipend at the standard Research Council rate (14,057 for 2015-16) for up to three years
A Research Support Grant of 31,000 per student per year for travel, consumables etc. An additional funding allowance of up to ,000 may be made available by the students primary host department.

Application Procedure and Contact Details

To apply, please send a CV and a covering letter to nicad@sheffield.ac.uk. The covering letter should detail: (A) which project you are interested in and why; (B) how your qualifications, skills and research experience make you a suitable candidate. Shortlisted applicants may be interviewed in person or via Skype.

For informal enquiries or more information relating the any of the three projects, or for questions about the application procedure, you are welcome to email us at nicad@sheffield.ac.uk.

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