Opportunities

This page is designed to help researchers and people looking for research opportunities find each other. We want to make it easier for people to make MND their area of focus and hope that the advancements that come out of these projects will make a positive difference to the MND community.

If you have a vacancy or are looking for a specific opportunity please contact us.

Research Opportunities in New Zealand

Masters Student Scholarship - Prevalence of MND in New Zealand

An exciting research opportunity has become available for those interested in completing a master’s study and contributing towards the New Zealand MND research portfolio.

MND New Zealand is funding a study on the ‘’Prevalence of MND in New Zealand ‘’. This is a nationwide, point prevalence study of MND in New Zealand using capture-recapture methodology. It is anticipated that this project will take place over 12 months. The research team are pleased to be able to offer a master’s opportunity as part of this project. They are offering a $10000 stipend (tax free), plus domestic tuition fees for 1 year.  The start date is January – February 2022, but they are keen to appoint someone as soon as possible.

This is an exciting opportunity to kick start a research career and make a significant contribution to the rapidly evolving field of MND research. More information is available on The University of Auckland Find a Thesis  or click here for details.

Grant & Scholarship Opportunities in New Zealand

Small Project Grant | Neurological Foundation of NZ

Neurological Foundation Small Project Grants offer up to $15,000. These grants are intended to encourage clinicians and scientists to undertake small-scale or pilot studies that may lead to a larger project. The grant can be used towards working expenses; equipment; salaries for post-doctoral fellows, research assistants and technicians.

Scope

  • Projects that answer a stand-alone research question
  • Projects that leverage a larger project by answering a separate and complementary question
  • Equipment that can be used across several projects
  • Projects and equipment must be in New Zealand

Eligibility

Applicants can be scientifically or medically qualified, and the research can be clinical or biomedical. This grant is open to PhD students; Post-doctoral research fellows; Clinicians; Continued academics

How to Apply

They are two funding rounds a year. Create an application on our online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/ before the closing dates of April 1 and September 1.You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user. Applicants will be advised of the outcome early in July or December.

The application must include NZ Standard CVs for all named investigators; Quotes for any items of equipment; Partial funding and ethics approval letters, as required. 

Further information on the Small Projects Grants can be found here. If you have any queries please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice research@neurological.org.nz

Click here for details on previous funded projects.

 

Project Grant | Neurological Foundation of NZ

Project Grants are the main avenue by which the Neurological Foundation sponsors research. Applicants are usually salaried by their institutions and a grant will typically cover salaries for technicians, scientists or clinicians, plus working expenses or equipment. There are two rounds each year and the Foundation funds approximately 15 project grants annually. 

Eligibility

Applicants can be scientifically or medically qualified, and the research can be clinical or biomedical.

Duration

Projects can be from one to three year’s duration.

How to Apply

Create an application on Neurological Foundations online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/. You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user. The application must include CVs for all named investigators, quotes for any items of equipment, partial funding and ethics approval letters, cover letter for any resubmissions, addressing previous reviewer comments. Closing dates for submission are April 1 and September 1.

Click here for advice to applicants. If you have any queries please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice at research@neurological.org.nz 

 

Note: Only one resubmission of a declined Project application will be considered.  

 

Senior Research Fellowship | Neurological Foundation of NZ

The Senior Research Fellowships provide two years of personal support for outstanding researchers while they establish themselves as independent investigators at an institution in New Zealand.

Eligibility

Candidates for the Senior Research Fellowship will have submitted or been awarded a PhD within the eight years prior to the application closing date.  If a successful applicant is based overseas at the time of award, a single airfare to return to New Zealand will be included in the grant.

Not funded

  • Fellows whose salary for the proposed project is already funded
  • Equipment
  • Working expenses
  • Student stipends

Duration

2 years

How to Apply

The closing dates for the Senior Research Fellowship is 1 May. The application must be made on the Foundation’s online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/. You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user.

For further information see the Advice to Applicants document.

If you have any queries please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice.
research@neurological.org.nz

 

First Postdoctoral Fellowship | Neurological Foundation of NZ

The First Postdoctoral Fellowships provide two years of personal support for outstanding early career researchers so that they can complete their first post-doctoral fellowship under the close mentorship of an academic with a continuing position at an institution in New Zealand.

Eligibility

People who have submitted or been awarded a PhD within the 2 years prior to the application closing date. Applicants must be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. Non-residents are eligible provided they are completing or have completed their PhD at a New Zealand institution.

What is funded

• Two years of salary support
• $20,000 of research working expenses
• Recipients are eligible to apply for travel grants of up to $4,500 towards travelling to conferences and training courses directly related to the fellowship

What is not funded

• Relocation costs
• Fellows whose salary for the proposed project is already funded
• Equipment
• Student stipends

How to Apply

Create an application on the Neurological Foundation online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/. You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user.

The closing dates are 1 May and 1 October.

For further information see the Advice to Applicants document.

If you have any queries please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice.
research@neurological.org.nz

 

O'Brien Clinical Fellowship | Neurological Foundation of NZ

These fellowships are intended to support non-medical health professionals to pursue a career in clinical research in New Zealand or overseas. This Fellowship will be awarded to a New Zealand registered non-medical health professional who is committed to a clinical research career with a major focus on treatment or care of those affected by brain disease or injury, including end of life care. It is intended to enhance their research skills and experience with at least 50% of the fellow’s time to be spent on research.

Eligibility

Applicants must be New Zealand registered health care professionals and citizens or permanent residents of New Zealand. Fellowship with be available to, but not limited to: Clinical Nurses, Clinical Psychologists, Clinical Trials Managers, Dieticians, Exercise Physiologists, Health Psychologists, Medical Laboratory Technologists, Medical Physicists, Neurophysiologists, Neuropsychologists, Occupational Therapists, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Radiographers, Research Nurses, Social Workers, Speech Language Therapists.

Those unsure about eligibility should contact the Neurological Foundation Research Manager research@neurological.org.nz

What is funded

  • Two years of salary support, based on the Fellow’s salary had they continued in a clinical post in New Zealand for 40 – 44.9 hours per week
  • Recipients are eligible to apply for travel grants of up to $4,500 towards travelling to conferences and training courses directly related to the fellowship

What is not funded

  • Fellows whose salary for the proposed project is already funded
  • Post-doctoral fellows
  • Research working expenses

How to apply

Create an application on the Neurological Foundation online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/. You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user.

Supporting documentation:

  • NZ Standard CV for the applicant, using the template available on the application form.
  • A letter of support from the proposed primary mentor and the mentor’s CV.

The closing dates for this fellowship is 1 May.

For further information see the Advice to Applicants document.

If you have any queries please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice. research@neurological.org.nz

Doctoral Scholarships | Neurological Foundation of NZ

The Doctoral scholarships are intended to provide personal support for students undertaking a PhD in basic or clinical neuroscience. Applicants can apply for a tax-free stipend of $30,000 per year for 3 years of full-time enrolment; University fees; $5,000 towards the working expenses associated with the doctoral research.

Eligibility

Applicants must be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents and meet one of the following criteria:

• Students with a GPA of 7 or above
• Students completing an Honours or Masters degree, with the intention of enrolling in a PhD
• Students who have already enrolled in a PhD

Who is not eligible

• Students who have already been awarded a doctoral scholarship
• Recipients cannot receive any other doctoral scholarship

How to apply

Create an application on the Neurological Foundation online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/. You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user.

Supporting documentation:
•  CVs for the student (if relevant) and their proposed primary supervisor, using the template available on the application form
•  Your university academic transcript

The closing dates for this fellowship is 1 October.

For further information see the Advice to Applicants document.

If you have any queries please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice. research@neurological.org.nz

Senior Clinical Research Fellowships | Neurological Foundation of NZ

The Senior Clinical Research Fellowships scholarships are intended to provide personal support for practising clinicians to carry out clinical research at a healthcare organisation in New Zealand. Funding is provided for clinical research up to two years duration and up to 50% salary support. 

Eligibility

Practising clinicians in neurology, neurorehabilitation, neurosurgery, neuropathology, neuroradiology, or clinical neurophysiology, who have already established themselves as an independent researcher.  

What is not funded

• Equipment
• Working expenses
• Student stipends or fees
• Relocation costs

How to apply

Create an application on the Neurological Foundation online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/. You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user.

Supporting documentation:
•  Applicant’s CV, using the template available on the application form
•  A letter of support from the proposed host organisation

The closing dates for this fellowship is 1 May.

For further information see the Advice to Applicants document.

If you have any queries please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice. research@neurological.org.nz

Conference and Training Course Grants | Neurological Foundation of NZ

These grants are intended to support international keynote speakers and early career researchers at neurology and neuroscience conferences in New Zealand, or facilitate early career researcher participation in advanced training courses in New Zealand or Australia.

What can be funded?

  • Support for early career researcher participation in conferences and advanced training courses, such as
    • Subsidised registration
    • Subsidised travel
    • Subsidised childcare
    • Prizes for conference presentations by early career researchers
  • Support for international keynote speaker participation, such as
    • Airfares
    • Domestic transfers
    • Accommodation

Maximum Value

$20,000

How to Apply

The closing dates are 1 April and 1 September each year.

  • Create an application on the Foundations online portal at https://grants.neurological.org.nz/. You will need to create a new account if you are a first-time user.
  • Supporting documentation:
      • A copy of the conference or training course programme
      • Quotes for any keynote speaker travel and accommodation
  • Applicants will be advised of the outcome early in July or December
  • Successful applicants will be informed of the conditions of the grant and asked for their formal acceptance of the funding contract.
  • If you have any queries or doubts, please contact the Foundation’s Research Manager for advice research@neurological.org.nz

Click here for more detail

 

Project & Equipment grants | Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust

Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust provides Project & Equipment Grants to support research projects in any field relevant to human health, including basic biomedical sciences. These grants normally provide funds for up to one year, although two year grants will be considered where justified.

Project Grants provide limited research support for individuals or groups working in any health-related sciences, including the fields of public health and health education. Support is usually sufficient to provide only for running costs of the research and/or some necessary equipment, but limited salary support may also be provided on special justification. Project grants are usually for one year, but exceptionally the Trust may support a project for up to two years.

Equipment Grants assist with the purchase of larger equipment items for shared use within a research institution. Justification depends on the needs of the research field and the institution, as well as on the merits of individual research projects.

Project and Equipment grants seldom exceed $20,000 and the majority of successful applications receive lesser amounts as grants-in-aid.

Eligibility 

This grant is available for qualified research workers in a health science field in New Zealand.  Note that the Trust gives preference to graduates with a proven record of research productivity and access to suitable facilities for their research. Applications are not accepted from PhD or Masters students.

Ask the Trust’s office if you’re not sure whether you or your proposal are eligible.

 

How to Apply

  1. Create an account – Your online account lets you create, submit and manage applications. You can also review previous applications, keep your profile and contact details up to date, and upload any reports arising from grants you have received.
  2. Complete the application form – The online application form will require you to upload one or more documents in support of your application. Please refer to the Document guidelines below.
  3. Provide required approvals – If you’re based in a university, you should check with the university research office to confirm local requirements before submitting an application. Note also that, if your application is successful, ethical approval must be finalised before funding can be made available.

Applications for Project & Equipment Grants are considered at meetings in April and November each year, and applications can be created and submitted online in the eight weeks or so prior to these dates:

  • 1 March
    for the April meeting of the Trust Board
  • 1 October
    for the November meeting

Click here for more information.

Conference Support Grants | Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust

Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust provides grants to support scientific conferences in health related fields organised by academic institutions or professional organisations within New Zealand. Priority is given to conferences with an emphasis on research and research training.

Eligibility

Applicants should have approval from the scientific organisation or institution hosting the conference, and be a senior official such as the head of an academic department.

  • Note that Conference Support grants are not intended to support personal travel to attend overseas conferences. Applicants seeking such support should apply for a Travel Grant.

If you’re not sure whether your intended application is eligible, please contact the Trust office. Phone 64-9-379 5316 or email tppm@tppm.nz

 

How to Apply

  1. Create an account – Your online account lets you create, submit and manage applications. You can also review previous applications, keep your profile and contact details up to date, and upload any reports arising from grants you have received.
  2. Complete the application form – The online application form can be accessed by logging into your online account. The online application form will require you to upload one or more documents in support of your application. Please refer to the Document Guidelines below.
  3. Provide required approvals – If you’re based in a university, you should check with the university research office to confirm local requirements before submitting an application. Note also that, if your application is successful, ethical approval must be finalised before funding can be made available.

Applications for Conference Support Grants are considered by the Trust Board three times a year. Applications can be created and submitted online in the eight weeks or so prior to these dates:

  • 1 March
    for the April meeting of the Trust Board
  • 1 June
    for the July meeting
  • 1 October
    for the November meeting

Click here for more details.

Marsden Fund

The Marsden Fund was established by the government in 1994 to fund excellent fundamental research. It is a contestable fund administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Marsden Fund Council. The Marsden Fund encourages New Zealand’s leading researchers to explore new ideas that may not be funded through other funding streams and fosters creativity and innovation within the research, science and technology system.

The primary objectives of the Marsden Fund are to:

  • Enhance the quality of research in New Zealand by creating increased opportunity to undertake excellent investigator-initiated research; and
  • Support the advancement of knowledge in New Zealand, and contribute to the global knowledge base.

The secondary objectives of the Marsden Fund are to:

  • Contribute to the development of advanced skills in New Zealand including support for continuing training of post-doctoral level researchers, and support for the establishment of early careers of new and emerging researchers.
  • Contribute in the long-term to economic, social, cultural, environmental, health or other impacts for New Zealand

The Marsden Fund supports research excellence in the following categories:

 

There are three categories of proposals available for the Marsden Fund:

Fast-Start: For emerging researchers, capped at $120,000 per year for up to three years, or a maximum amount of $360,000 over 3 years. Two–stage process, with an Expression of Interest to be submitted by the February deadline. The EOI consists of a one-page abstract of proposed research, CVs plus supporting information. Assessed by discipline-based panels.

Standard: Open to all eligible researchers, amount of funding is flexible and is capped. These are larger than Fast-Start proposals. Funding can be sought for up to three years. Two-stage process, with an Expression of Interest to be submitted by the February deadline. The EOI consists of a one-page abstract of proposed research, CVs plus supporting information. Assessed by discipline-based panels.

Marsden Fund Council Award: Open to all eligible researchers. Larger than Standard grants, up to $1 million per year for up to 3 years, or a maximum amount of $3 million over 3 years. One-stage proposal process, with a full proposal to be submitted by the February deadline. Assessed in a two-stage process by the Marsden Fund Council. See separate guidelines for more details.

These guidelines pertain to Fast-Start and Standard proposals ONLY. Applicants wishing to submit a Marsden Fund Council Award proposal should consult the separate 2021 MFCA Guidelines for Applicants.

 

Eligibility

The Marsden Fund is fully contestable and is open to applicants who meet the Fund’s eligibility criteria. The criteria are determined by the Marsden Fund Council. Eligibility to apply for funding as a contact Principal Investigator is restricted to New Zealand-based researchers. The research should be carried out in New Zealand, except in cases where its nature demands that it be carried out elsewhere.

For Standard proposals, “New Zealand-based,” for researchers who have overseas appointments, has been defined by the Marsden Fund Council as being employed in New Zealand for 0.5 FTE (or more) per year. However, Fast-Start applicants must be employed entirely in New Zealand for the duration of their grant.

If an applicant is a panellist, they cannot apply to the panel on which they are sitting, either as a Principal Investigator or as an Associate Investigator.

 

How to Apply

The Marsden Fund operates a yearly funding cycle and makes an annual call for proposals in November / December. The deadline for all EOIs is 12 noon (NZDT) Thursday, 18 February 2021. Research Offices and private applicants will be advised by 13 May 2021 of the outcome of EOIs.

All Marsden Fund proposals should be submitted on the web-based portal. Researchers should write their proposals directly into this portal using the forms and templates provided. Information on applying can be found:

After the panels and Council have considered the EOIs, a number of applicants will be invited to make Full Proposals with a strict deadline of 12 noon (NZST), 23 June 2021. The results of the final allocation process will be announced in early November 2021.

Click here for more details on the Marsden Fund and application process.

 

Postgraduate Student Project - Building a Brain Machine Interface for song production | University of Auckland

Project Code: 10387354
University: Auckland
Faculty: Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Department: Anatomy
Main Supervisor: Dr M Fabiana Kubke
Application open date: 02 Oct 2017
Application deadline:
Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International

Introduction

Brain machine interfaces are used to extract the neural code associated with a behaviour, and use that code to drive a robotic device. In the context of human health, it allows people with motor disabilities to have their brains ‘talk’ directly to a device, such as a prosthetic arm.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

The project involves understanding the models of auditory-vocal learning and vocal production, understanding how vocal motor commands are coded in ‘motor cortex’, how these can be analysed through machine learning algorithms, and animal behaviour analysis. Students with a background in biology, neuroscience, mathematics, engineering or bioengineering are encouraged to apply.

Objective

We are currently trying to exploit this technology to study how auditory and somatosensory information contribute to the production of speech. We are using a song bird as an animal model because the neural substrates and the process of learning song are similar to those of humans. To separate the processes that are involved in the ‘intention’ to sing from the act of singing itself, we are training birds to learn how to ‘sing’ (through a brain machine interface) using an audio speaker rather than through their vocal apparatus.

Information on how to enroll and apply 

Contact the project supervisor

International Opportunities

International PhD Funding - 2021 Calendar

Despite the current pandemic still taking its toll in the UK, there is a lot of financial support available for international students looking to study in the UK. However finding and applying for lots of different options can start to get confusing, not to mention time consuming and it can be easy to lose track of deadlines or miss potential opportunities.

FindAPhD have compiled an international PhD funding calendar for 2021. They have listed some of the most important funding options, along with their deadlines, so you don’t miss out. Print it off or put the dates in your calendar and you’ll be ready to go!

To read the full post and view the key details and deadlines for some of the most important (and most generous) PhD funding options in the year ahead, please click here.

Biomedical & Non-Clinical Research Fellowship | MND Association

The MND Association is a world leader in funding cutting-edge MND research and facilitating international research collaboration. They support five different types of grants.  Find out about the research grants offered to international students and how these are selected below.

Types of Grants

Biomedical Research Projects

The biomedical research programme is delivering significant and measurable advances in understanding and treating the disease. Funding is offered to research of the highest scientific excellence and greatest relevance to MND.

Grants are normally offered for up to three years duration. Applicants can be based outside the UK and Ireland, provided the project is unique in concept or design (i.e. no similar research is being performed in the UK) and involves a significant aspect of collaboration with a UK institute.

Special arrangements have been made to application deadlines due to the impact of COVID-19 on 2019/2020 applications. Therefore if you are interested in applying or learning more about this grant please read more here. submitted via the Online Summary Application Form during September and October each year.

Non-Clinical Research Fellowships

The fellowships will be awarded at two levels, depending on the experience of the applicant: Junior Non-Clinical fellowships or Senior Non-Clinical fellowships.

Grants will be offered for up to three or four years duration.

  • Junior Non-Clinical – awards will be offered for 2 – 3 years
  • Senior Non-Clinical – awards will be offered for 3 – 4 years

Fellowship awards may only be held at an institute in the UK and Ireland. At the time of application the prospective fellow may be based elsewhere

  • Junior Non-Clinical – applicants must have 2 – 6 years post-doctoral experience at the time of commencement of the award. Exceptional final year PhD students may apply but should consult the Association prior to submitting a summary application.
  • Senior Non-Clinical – applicants must have 4 – 10 years post-doctoral experience at the time of commencement of the award.

Applications for 2021 have now closed.  Applications for 2022 will be accepted from mid March 2022 and close on 29 April 2022. 

Please see our guidelines for more information on assessment criteria and budget information.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Metabolic dysfunction in MND/ALS | University of Queensland, Australia

Project Description

Motor Neuron Disease/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (MND/ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterised by the degeneration of both upper and lower alpha motor neurons. The irreversible loss of neurons in the brain and spinal cord results in progressive skeletal muscle paralysis and death within 2-5 years of diagnosis. There is no known cure for the disease, and treatments are of limited benefit. In the absence of a cure for MND/ALS, there is a pressing need to lessen the severity of symptoms associated with, and to slow the progression of disease, whilst enhancing quality of life.

While the fundamental mechanisms that underlie the development of MND/ALS remains unknown, recent studies suggest that defective regulation of energy homeostasis may exacerbate the degenerative process throughout the course of disease. In the last 7 years, our team has made novel observations of metabolic dysfunction and altered metabolic flexibility in mouse models of MND, and paradigm-shifting discoveries that for the first time, highlight the impact of increased energy use (hypermetabolism) in patients with MND on disease progression and prognosis. In this time, our team have also successfully generated induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived motor neurons (including CRISPR-Cas9 TDP-43 iPSCs with isogenic controls), and to our knowledge the only directly reprogrammed motor neurons from MMD patients in Australia.

All PhD projects fall under a broader research program that investigates how altered glucose and fatty acid metabolism contributes to the progression of MND/ALS. Projects span the clinical and basic research settings, and involve working with patients living with MND, or mouse and human-derived models of MND. Projects focus on identifying the mechanisms that cause metabolic dysfunction in MND, and identifying treatments to alleviate metabolic perturbations.

Contact Dr Shyuan Ngo for more information

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Development and validation of a human brain microphysiological system derived from induced pluripotent stem cells in ALS | University of Sheffield

Project Description

The aims of the proposed project are: a) to induce functional organoids which contains all neural subtypes and could represent different developmental stages of motor neural system from healthy control and C9ORF72 ALS patient iPSCs respectively; b) to investigate DNA damages, cell survival pathways and electrophysiology in healthy control and C9ORF72 iPSC-developed organoids.

Applications are open to students from both the UK and overseas, though we note that due to funding constraints the availability of positions for students with overseas fee status will be more limited. 

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: The role of ER–mitochondria contact sites in neurodegeneration | University of Sheffield

Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship in the laboratories of Prof Kurt De Vos (http://sitran.org/people/devos/) and Dr Ivana Barbaric in the Neuroscience Institute at the University of Sheffield.

An estimated 5–20% of mitochondria are closely associated with a subdomain of the ER called mitochondria-associated ER membranes (MAMs), and inter-organelle communication at these contact sites has been shown to regulate several physiological processes including calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis, autophagy/mitophagy, mitochondrial dynamics, phospholipid synthesis, the unfolded protein response, apoptosis, and inflammasome activation.

The overarching hypothesis of this project is that perturbations of ER–mitochondria contacts are a direct cause of neurodegeneration and a druggable therapeutic target.

The prospective PhD student will establish human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived neuron models of ER–mitochondria contact dysfunction using methods developed in the Barbaric laboratory and analyse the impact of manipulating ER–mitochondria contacts on common features of neurodegeneration such as TDP43, mitochondrial morphology and dynamics, proteostasis, Ca2+ homeostasis, synaptic function and cell survival using the cellular and molecular ER–mitochondria and neurobiology assays established in the De Vos laboratory. In collaboration with the SITraN (http://www.sitran.org/) drug screen facility we will optimise our human cell-based model for high-content imaging and perform a proof-of-concept screen.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Cortical hyperexcitability as a novel therapeutic target in MND | University of Sheffield

Project Description

The focus of the project will be on the electrophysiological assessment of cortical hyperexcitability in in vitro and in vivo models of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and development of new therapeutics to target this pathway.

 

You will work with cortical neurons and brain slices from animals models of ALS based on mutations in SOD1, where CH has been identified and targeted using genetic approaches previously [4], and also models based on mutations in TDP-43 and C9orf72. You will assess CH in vitro and in vivo using multi-electrode arrays (MEA) [5, 6] and two-photon imaging. You will develop methods to test novel drugs which may limit CH in these model systems with the intention of further understanding mechanisms and finding new therapeutic approaches.

 

Applications are open to students from both the UK and overseas, though note that due to funding constraints the availability of positions for students with overseas fee status will be more limited.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Construction of functional in vitro human spinal cord circuits for neurodegenerative disease research | University of Sheffield

Project Description

Spinal circuits are comprised of both central system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS) components and functionally unify to underpin proper locomotor and sympathetic nervous system function. These circuits also represent the primary substrate for many neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The in vitro generation of spinal cord cell types from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) is an attractive strategy for the development of disease modelling and regenerative medicine applications and is a major focus of our laboratories. The advent of organoids, 3-dimensional (3D) self-organising structures arising from hPSC aggregates, has further revolutionised reverse cell engineering strategies by offering a platform for producing a wide range of neural cell types in a highly regionalised manner.

 

The proposed project aims to generate organoids corresponding exclusively to specific CNS regions of the A-P axis that functionally incorporate efficiently neural crest (NC)-derived components of the PNS – an area of work that has been the primary focus of the Tsakiridis group2-4 (https://www.tsakiridislab.com/).

Applications are open to students from both the UK and overseas, though we note that due to funding constraints the availability of positions for students with overseas fee status will be more limited.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: A comprehensive preclinical framework to evaluate longitudinal effect of ALS on the neuro-musculo-skeletal system | University of Sheffield

Project Description

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive disease of the nervous system associated to the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and consequent loss of muscle control. Mouse models that replicate the phenotype observed in humans with ALS, such as the SOD1G93A transgenic mouse, have been used extensively to test new interventions for the disease [1]. These mice, that have a deficiency in motor neurones that leads to the degeneration of the neuromuscular system, have been studied intensively in cross-sectional or longitudinal studies. 

This project aims are to develop a comprehensive longitudinal approach to evaluate in detail the effect of ALS and other neuromuscular diseases on the functional and physical properties of the neuro-musculo-skeletal (NMS) system in mice.

The hypothesis of the project is that the development of a comprehensive accurate biomechanical and imaging framework will provide a detailed understanding of the effect of ALS on the NMS system over time.  

The framework will consist on functional assessments with gait analysis and geometrical/densitometric assessments with longitudinal microMRI and microCT imaging. The framework will be then used to evaluate the effect of ALS in a mouse model during a longitudinal study as a proof of concept to highlight the potential of the approach. 

Applications are open to students from both the UK and overseas, though note that due to funding constraints the availability of positions for students with overseas fee status will be more limited.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: TDP-43 The Key protein for finding a cure for Motor Neurone Disease | University of Liverpool

Project Description

Motor neurone disease is a progressive, fatal neurological disorder with no known cure. It is characterised by selective loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and cortex. Over 90% of MND (ALS) cases, both sporadic and familial, feature TDP-43-positive inclusions in the cytoplasm of affected neurons. Most MND patients die within 3-10 years due to respiratory failure. Understanding the molecular mechanism of MND and finding a therapeutic solution to remedy the disease-causing properties is our goal.

TAR DNA binding protein-43 (TDP-43), has multiple functions in transcriptional repression, pre-mRNA splicing and translational regulation. Its ability to bind UG-rich RNA is very important for normal localisation of TDP-43 in the nucleoplasm. Cytoplasmic mis-localisation and elevated half-life are characteristics of mutant TDP-43. ALS-associated TDP-43 mutations in the central nucleic acid binding RRM domains lead to increased thermal stability and elevated half-life in a TDP-43 disease cell model. Full length TDP-43 has been purified at Liverpool recently enabling SAXS measurements that hold promise for structure determination of full-length TDP-43. This is a major breakthrough in understanding the molecular mechanism of MND and finding a therapeutic solution to remedy the disease-causing properties of this critical protein.

The student will build on this success in a multidisciplinary programme using molecular biology, protein chemistry, bioinformatics, protein crystallography and Small angle X-ray scattering. Required ’wet-lab’ facilities for the project (e.g. cloning, expression and purification of proteins) are available at our institution. Additionally, UoL has a combined SAXS/MX facility on a super bright in-house X-ray generator FR-E+ and a crystallization robot.

Deadline

Applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Eligibility

Candidates must have, or expect to gain, a first or strong upper second class degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

Funding

The project is open to both UK and International students with their own funding/scholarship. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application and the project.

Assistance will be given to those who are applying to international funding schemes.
The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses as well as research costs of £3000 per year.
A tuition fee bursary may be available for well qualified and motivated applicants with a First class degree.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: SOD1 The Key protein for finding a cure for familial Motor Neurone Disease | University of Liverpool

Project Description

Motor neurone disease is a progressive, fatal neurological disorder with no known cure. It is characterised by selective loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and cortex. Over 90% of MND (ALS) cases, both sporadic and familial, feature TDP-43-positive inclusions in the cytoplasm of affected neurons. Most MND patients die within 3-10 years due to respiratory failure. Understanding the molecular mechanism of MND and finding a therapeutic solution to remedy the disease-causing properties is our goal.

Cu/Zn binding superoxide dismutase is a homo-dimeric protein with an intra-subunit disulphide bond. This protein is responsible for converting harmful free superoxide radicals to hydrogen peroxide and oxygen in the body. Extensive structural studies have established that disease-causing mutations in SOD1 reduce the ability of protein to fold, bind metal cofactors and form the disulphide bond. As a result, mutant SOD1 is prone to misfolding and aggregation. Global efforts to correct this ‘gain-of-function’ have led to identification of a variety of ‘ligand-binding pockets’ that are suitable for drug development. Ebselen, an organoselenium compound with strong antioxidant activity, has been shown to rescue SOD1 from aggregation, especially in the A4V mutant. This discovery is the starting point for guiding discovery of the next generation of compounds aimed at stabilizing SOD1 mutants.

The student will build on this success in a multidisciplinary programme using molecular biology, protein chemistry, protein crystallography and human cell line assays. Required ’wet-lab’ facilities for the project (e.g. cloning, expression and purification of proteins) are available at our institution. Additionally, UoL has a combined SAXS/MX facility on a super bright in-house X-ray generator FR-E+ and a crystallization robot.

Deadline

Applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Eligibility

Candidates must have, or expect to gain, a first or strong upper second class degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

Funding

The project is open to both UK and International students with their own funding/scholarship. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application and the project.

Assistance will be given to those who are applying to international funding schemes.

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses as well as research costs of £3000 per year.

A tuition fee bursary may be available for well qualified and motivated applicants with First class degree.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Understanding the Electric Field in Electrical Stimulation for biomedical application | University of Reading

Project Description

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a treatment that applies small electrical charges to a muscle that has become paralysed or weakened, due to damage in your brain or spinal cord. The electrical charge stimulates the muscle to make its usual movement. FES is a technique can help with swallowing, hand and arm function, and even breathing problems for pulmonary disease patients and for stroke patients. It has a number of potential future therapies uses to retrain voluntary motor functions such as grasping, reaching and walking. 

FES can be applied in a number of ways: transcutaneous, using electrodes which are placed on the skin; percutaneous, with electrodes inserted; through the skin to make direct contact with the motor nerves; or sub-cutaneous, where the stimulator is implanted and electrodes are attached either to the motor nerves directly, or to the nerve roots at the point where they emerge from the base of the spine. This method stimulates mainly the nerve fibres innervating of the muscle.
Current amplitude and duration of the pulsewidth describe the intensity (charge) which determines if a specific neuron is recruited. With low intensity pulses large low-threshold neurons and neurons close to the electrodes will be recruited at first. Smaller neurons with higher threshold and neurons located further away from the electrodes will be recruited with increasing charge per pulse. An electrical field is generated between the electrodes however very little is known of how the electric field propagate in term of magnitude and direction.

This PhD study will aim to answer this question by developing a model from the Maxwell equations and finite element methods of the electric field through the material (Skin and Muscle). A characterisation is needed to understand the level of penetration with respect to the electrodes sizes and polarity separation. An application will be to determine what configuration of transcutaneous stimulation electrodes gives a focal electrical field similar to the one obtained with epidural electrode stimulation.

Deadline

Applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Eligibility

Bachelors or Masters Degree (at least 2.1 or equivalent) with Mathematics, Numerical Methods and Electromagnetism as major subjects. Experience in modelling and programming in Matlab/Simulink techniques is highly desirable

Funding

There is no funding attached to this project.

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Characterisation of the biological processes affected by a new ALS gene, CCNF, in motor neuron proteostasis | Macquarie University

Project Description

This project will investigate the signalling pathways and biological processes affected by a new ALS/FTD gene discovered by our researchers at the Macquarie University Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Centre. Mutations in this new ALS/FTD gene, CCNF, which encodes the protein Cyclin F, is involved in maintaining cellular health by tagging unwanted proteins (ubiquitylation) for breakdown and recycling within the cell. Mutant versions of Cyclin F, found in some ALS patients, are defective in that they lack the necessary features needed to regulate proper function, which ultimately leads to improper function, accumulation of proteins, and effects on downstream signalling pathways and biological processes. This project will use quantitative proteomics to identify changes to the phosphoproteome and ubiquitome, and validate these biological changes in primary neurons and/or iPS-derived motor neurons.

Hypothesis 1: Only six substrates of cyclin F have been characterised to date, all of which are involved with cell cycle processes. We predict that cyclin F in neurons (post-mitotic) plays a vastly different role in maintaining proteostasis.

Hypothesis 2: We predict that wild-type cyclin F and ALS-causing mutant cyclin F bind to different protein substrates to direct them for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system.

Hypothesis 3: The different forms of cyclin F cause target common and unique signalling pathways and biological processes downstream, and these targets will be relevant to the biology of motor neurons.

 

Aim 1: Establish inducible stable neuronal cell lines expressing cyclin F and examine neuronal markers for dividing and differentiated status.

Aim 2: Identify protein interacting partners of cyclin F from neuronal cells by immunprecipitation and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry distinguishing between binding partner and substrate.

Aim 3: Characterise the phosphoproteome and ubiquitome affected by the different forms of cyclin F to identify common and unique signalling pathways. These pathways will be further validated in primary neurons and/or iPS-derived motor neurons using standard biochemistry techniques.

Enquires

Professor Roger Chung, roger.chung@mq.edu.au

Dr Marco Morsch, marco.morsch@mq.edu.au

Dr Albert Lee, albert.lee@mq.edu.au

Dr Bingyang Shi, bingyang.shi@mq.edu.au

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Does the transfer of ALS protein aggregates between motor neurons trigger neurodegeneration? | Macquarie University

Project Description

Accumulation of proteins into insoluble aggregates in neurons and glia is now recognized as a common pathological hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. in Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease). In Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the intracellular accumulation of proteins in neurons is also well established. Importantly, clinical evidence indicates the transmissibility or spread of these aggregates in patients from a focal onset to other regions over time. This spread of aggregation is beginning to substantiate but is entirely limited to studies using cultured nerve cells (in-vitro studies).

This project will investigate this potential pathogenic mechanism using an animal model (in-vivo). Our team has established comprehensive preliminary data that establishes the release, survival and spread of aggregated ALS-proteins from neurons into other cells in the zebrafish spinal cord. We will use an innovative series of experiments to selectively trigger the death of a single neuron containing these aggregates and investigate their fate after being   released, and if they are incorporated into neighbouring cells.

Hypothesis

This project will investigate the hypothesis that ALS proteins have propagating characteristics, such that insoluble aggregates can transfer between cells and seed aggregation and degeneration in non-affected cells.

Aim 1: Observe the fate of TDP-43 and SOD1 released from a single dying motor neuron and the impact upon the viability of surrounding motor neurons.

Aim 2: Assess aggregation of ALS proteins released from dying motor neurons in vivo

Aim 3: Histological verification of the intercellular transfer of ALS proteins

Outcome

We predict that we will be able to track ALS aggregates and visualize their disintegration or survival in the living organism. This will provide important insights into the pathogenic mechanisms underlying ALS-mediated neurodegeneration

Enquires

Professor Roger Chung, roger.chung@mq.edu.au

Dr Marco Morsch, marco.morsch@mq.edu.au

Dr Albert Lee, albert.lee@mq.edu.au

Dr Bingyang Shi, bingyang.shi@mq.edu.au

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Investigating the regulatory and functional roles of Cyclin F in the development of ALS | Macquarie University

Project Description

This project will investigate the cellular and functional roles of a new ALS/FTD gene discovered by researchers at the Macquarie University Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Centre. Mutations in this new ALS/FTD gene, CCNF, which encodes the protein Cyclin F, is involved in maintaining cellular health by tagging unwanted proteins (ubiquitylation) for breakdown and recycling within the cell. Mutant versions of Cyclin F, found in some ALS patients, are defective in that they lack the necessary features needed to regulate proper function, which ultimately leads to impaired ubiquitylation and accumulation of proteins. This project will systemically investigate the regulatory and functional role of each mapped phosphorylation site of Cyclin F focusing on those that have been mapped to ALS mutations, and determine whether upstream kinases can be modulated to promote survival responses in ALS cell models. Moreover, this project will investigate the role Cyclin F phosphorylation on its nuclear and cytoplasmic translocation and degradation.

Hypothesis 1: Cyclin F contains >80 predicted phosphorylation sites some of which are hypothesised to be involved in nuclear/cytoplasmic shuttling.

Hypothesis 2: What is the effect of mutations to cyclin F to its E3 ligase activity? And consequently how does this affect the ubiquitylation of substrates and formation of protein inclusions

Hypothesis 3: Does cyclin F (and its ALS mutants) influence upstream kinases through a feedback

Aim 1: Determine whether phosphorylation plays a role in nuclear/cytoplasmic shuttling through dephosphorylation treatments and artificial cyclin F constructs.

Aim 2: Measure the E3 ligase activity using our customised ELISA and other biochemical techniques and determine to effect does mutated versions of cyclin F influence protein inclusion formation.

Aim 3: Generate phosphomimetic versions of cyclin F and monitor the effect of upstream kinase activity that are predicted to phosphorylate cyclin F.

Enquires

Professor Roger Chung, roger.chung@mq.edu.au

Dr Marco Morsch, marco.morsch@mq.edu.au

Dr Albert Lee, albert.lee@mq.edu.au

Dr Bingyang Shi, bingyang.shi@mq.edu.au

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: Why are neurons selectively vulnerable in MND? Optogentic approaches to understand the role of oxidative stress in ALS | Macquarie University

Project Description

Motor neurons are selectively vulnerable to oxidative stress in comparison to other neurons, and mutations in the anti-oxidant enzyme SOD1 are associated with 20% of all inherited cases of ALS. We have generated experimental zebrafish models that allow us to selectively induce oxidative stress within a single spinal motor neuron, in the presence or absence of co-expression of ALS genes (SOD1, TDP-43).

The aim of this project is to investigate how sub-lethal and lethal levels of oxidative stress, delivered specifically to motor neuron subpopulations, contribute to the etiology of ALS. Our newly designed transgenic zebrafish allow us to induce different levels of oxidative stress in single spinal motor neurons and to visualize real-time responses of both the individually stressed neurons and surrounding cells such as neurons, microglia and astrocytes.

Our approach will determine the cellular mechanisms of stress induced motor neuron degeneration using a range of different techniques, including molecular biology, transgenic zebrafish lines, optogenetic techniques and confocal live-imaging protocols.

Hypothesis

This project will demonstrate if oxidative stress is a primary instigator of the disease (e.g. if motor neurons in ALS patients are more vulnerable to oxidative stress than healthy motor neurons), and if oxidative stress can trigger secondary neurodegeneration in surrounding MNs.

Aims

1.Compare the susceptibility of individual spinal motor neurons expressing either ALS-wildtype or ALS-mutant genes to experimentally induced oxidative stress

2.  Investigate the effect of oxidative stress induced degeneration of a single spinal MN upon surrounding motor neurons that express either ALS-wildtype or ALS-mutant genes

Outcome

This approach will provide compelling in vivo evidence that oxidative stress could be involved in the propagation of neurodegeneration in ALS, and will provide critical insights into potential therapeutic interventions that could halt the progression of neurodegeneration in ALS.

Enquires

Professor Roger Chung, roger.chung@mq.edu.au

Dr Marco Morsch, marco.morsch@mq.edu.au

Dr Albert Lee, albert.lee@mq.edu.au

Dr Bingyang Shi, bingyang.shi@mq.edu.au

Click here for more details.

PhD Project: New approaches to plasma biomarker studies in MND | Macquarie University

Project Description

There is an urgent need to identify a series of biomarkers that can be used to improve the speed of diagnosis, and predict more accurately prognosis and other clinical parameters in MND.  This project will utilize a new proteomic technology to identify potential protein biomarkers in plasma samples from MND patients. This will include identification of maps of proteins that can be used to distinguish between different clinical parameters, and evaluation of specific proteins biomarkers.  We predict that these biomarkers may be useful in future for improving diagnostic and prognostic clinical evaluations.  These protein biomarkers may identify also novel biological processes associated with disease pathogenesis, and this may lead to new insight into the causes of MND.

Importantly, this biomarker study will be undertaken using samples from two unique patient cohorts; i) identical twins with disease discordance (one with disease, the other without), and ii) multi-generational families with disease discordance.  This allows us to screen for disease-associated biomarkers with reduced variation across samples (ie: less genetic variation).  Identified biomarkers will subsequently be validated in a cohort of sporadic MND patients.  This provides a systematic approach towards identifying robust biomarkers of disease in MND.

Hypothesis

We hypothesize that low-abundance plasma biomarkers are present that will be informative of disease pathogenesis.  We will use a new proteomic technique to screen for the presence of robust protein biomarkers that can be used in future for early diagnosis of MND and for tracking the prognosis of patients. New biomarkers may also add to our understanding of disease pathology and thereby could possibly highlight new avenues for research towards future therapies.

Aims

1. Unbiased proteomic profiling of plasma from cohorts of familial MND patients displaying disease discordance.

2. Validation of potential proteomic biomarkers in a cohort of sporadic MND patients.

Outcome

We ultimately expect that a “toolbox” of biomarker parameters will be required to adequately address the clinical requirements for improved measures for diagnosis, prognosis and evaluation of disease progression and response to current and future therapeutic strategies.  The proteomic biomarkers identified through this project may become an important component of such a future “toolbox”, together with other existing biomarkers such as clinical examinations, genetic testing, electrophysiological recording and neuroimaging.  Such a biomarker toolbox is likely to be critical in improving the design of future clinical trials, as stratification of patients into subgroups and more sensitive predictors of disease progression and severity are essential for improving recruitment and analysis in clinical trials.

Enquires

Professor Roger Chung, roger.chung@mq.edu.au

Dr Marco Morsch, marco.morsch@mq.edu.au

Dr Albert Lee, albert.lee@mq.edu.au

Dr Bingyang Shi, bingyang.shi@mq.edu.au

Click here for more details.

MSc by Research programme - ADP-ribosylation in dementia and motor neuron disease | University of Dundee

Project Description

ADP-ribosylation is a fundamental posttranslational modification where ADP-ribose is linked on to target proteins by ADP-ribose transferases and removed by the ADP-ribose hydrolases. Emerging data implicate ADP-ribosylation in maintaining the health of the nervous system; mutations in the genes that encode the enzymes that reverse ADP-ribosylation cause neurodegenerative disease in humans and pharmacological inhibition of the ADP-ribose transferases is therapeutically beneficial in various cellular and animal models of human neurodegenerative diseases such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease (reviewed in 1). This suggests that ADP-ribosylation regulates key proteins involved in brain aging, however what these proteins are and how they are regulated by ADP-ribosylation is unknown. To elucidate the proteins and underlying mechanisms that regulate brain aging, the student will use an interdisciplinary approach that combines genetics of the fruit fly with molecular and cellular approaches to determine the role of nuclear ADP-ribosylation in the ageing and diseased nervous system of the fly (AIM1) and in human cells (AIM2).

At the end of this project the student will have identified novel aspects of ADP-ribosylation in the normal and diseased nervous system. 

Expressions of interest most be submitted by Thursday, August 05, 2021

Enquires

For further details and how to apply visit https://www.dundee.ac.uk/study/pgr/life-sciences-msc-research/  or send an email enquiry via https://www.findaphd.com/phds/project/msc-by-research-programme-adp-ribosylation-in-dementia-and-motor-neuron-disease/?p128290 

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