Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded three-year PhD, to start in October 2020 or February 2021.

The PhD will be based in the School of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Qian An and Prof. Darek Gorecki.

The work on this project will:

  • Employ a number of cellular and molecular techniques including bioinformatics analysis
  • Assess mitochondria-targeting therapeutics
  • Investigate mitophagy in the context of oxidative stress
  • Identify novel biomarkers to predict cancer outcome

Previous studies have indicated mitochondria as a promising anti-cancer target. Mitochondria are considered a primary intracellular site of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Generally, cancer cells with mitochondrial genetic abnormalities (copy number change and mutations) have escalated ROS levels compared to normal cells. Since high levels of ROS can trigger apoptosis, treating cancer cells with low doses of mitochondria-targeting / ROS-stimulating agents may offer cancer-specific therapy.

Our previous work has shown a correlation between the baseline ROS level and drug sensitivity in several cancer cell lines. A synergistic effect of combining conventional and mitochondria-targeting compounds was also observed with ROS being the key contributor in cell death. The proposed study will continue to delve into mitochondrial redox status and genetic alterations in cancer cells undergoing mitochondria-targeting therapy.

Implications of mitophagy in cancer cells’ survival and the potential link between mitophagy and oxidative stress will also be investigated. A number of cellular and molecular techniques as well as bioinformatics analysis will be required in this project, including cell culture, cytotoxicity assays, ROS assays, PCR, qPCR, DNA sequencing, western blotting, flow cytometry, electron microscopy, fluorescent microscopy, etc.

The student will be co-supervised by Dr An and Prof. Gorecki who have long-standing research experience in the relevant areas. The student will also have access to a skills development program run by the University’s Graduate School. Skills and knowledge obtained from this project will be beneficial for the student to develop a future career in academia or industry.

Fees and funding

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

2020/2021 entry (for October 2020 and February 2021 entries)

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a

International full-time students: £16,400 p/a

International part-time students: £8,200 p/a

PhD by Publication

External candidates £4,407 p/a

Members of staff £1,680 p/a*

2021/2022 entry (for October 2021 and February 2022 entries)

PhD and MPhil

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a*

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a* 

International full-time students: £17,600 p/a

International part-time students: £8,800 p/a

All fees are subject to annual increase.

PhD by Publication

External Candidates £4,407 p/a*

Members of Staff £1,720 p/a*

If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2021/22 please visit this page.

*This is the 2020/21 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) maximum studentship fee; this fee will increase to the 2021/22 UKRI maximum studentship fee when UKRI announces this rate in Spring 2021. 

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

  • Practical experience in cellular and molecular biology
  • An interest in cancer research

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Qian An ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code PHBM4990220 or project title.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PHBM4990220 or project title when applying.

October start

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February start

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