Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

October and February

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

This is a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship. The project is supervised by Dr Susanne Dietrich.

Joint diseases have a serious impact on the quality of life of the elderly, and are on the increase in an ageing population. Frequently, the condition worsens when bony spurs form within the joint.

When cartilage and bone first form in the embryo, developing joints are kept bone-free. Likewise, in healthy joints, the space between the adjoining bones is kept free of hard tissues.

We have identified Dact proteins as novel players in joint formation and joint health. We believe Dact proteins are able to suppress unwanted bone formation, and they do so by simultaneously controlling several cell-cell communication pathways. On this project, you'll establish the biological and molecular function of Dact proteins in joints.

The work will include:


  • analysis of phenotypes through in situ hybridisation, immunohistochemistry, skeletal preparations and by quantitative methods such as qPCR
  • designing and engineering molecular constructs to knock-down or to misexpress Dact genes
  • introducing these constructs into the developing joints of chicken embryos

You'll investigate the function of Dact proteins using the developing joints of a chicken embryo as a model. You'll engineer molecular constructs to misexpress Dacts, to knock down Dact function, and introduce constructs into the limbs prior to bone formation, using in-ovo electroporation. You'll then establish how bone formation may be affected.

On this project, we will collaborate with bioinformaticians to model regulatory cascades. This will help identify molecules and pathways that can be targeted by novel drugs for osteoarthritis.

The experimental and analytical skills developed during this project will prepare you for future work in academia or industry.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

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

A good honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject or a master’s degree in an appropriate subject.

Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. All applicants are subject to interview.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Make an enquiry

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to apply

To start your application, or enquire further about the process involved, please contact Dr Susanne Dietrich (, quoting both the project code PHBM3571017 and the 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.

You can also visit our How to Apply pages to get a better understanding of how the PhD application process works.

October start

Apply now

February start

Apply now