Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

February and October

Application deadline

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.

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

Fees and Funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.


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

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Biomedical Sciences PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. 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.