Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

October 2021

Closing date

11 July 2021 (midnight)

Applications are invited for a fully-funded four-year PhD to commence in October 2021.

This studentship will be based in the Brain and Behaviour Lab in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science (Faculty of Science), and will be supervised by Dr Matt Parker (University of Portsmouth), and co-supervised by Dr James Kearn and Dr Chris Green from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). 

The studentship is only open to UK nationals (unfortunately dual nationals cannot be considered for this position). Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK rate for four years, and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£15,609 for 2021/22). All costs for the research will also be covered (including but not limited to consumables and travel). This PhD is funded by Dstl, which performs research on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence.

The work on this project will involve:

  • Planning and conducting behavioural pharmacology experiments with both larval and adult zebrafish.
  • Carrying out laboratory-based assessments of neural and physiological effects of drugs (eg qPCR, in situ hybridization, mass spectrometry, UPLC, imaging).
  • Placements at the partner organisation Dstl, offering an opportunity to experience working at one of the UKs principle defence and security research establishments.
  • Writing papers for publication, delivery of presentations to academic and industry audiences (in the later stages of the project).

Substances of abuse are a major global health and security issue. This has been exacerbated in recent years by, for example, the emergence of highly potent synthetic narcotics. Novel mixtures of such substances have the potential to interact within the body to produce profound and unexpected effects. There is a need to understand such interactions and the implications these could have for law enforcement and public health. This project aims to investigate the interactions of mixtures of narcotics and pharmaceuticals using zebrafish as a model organism. This will enable the critical assessment of the utility of the zebrafish model for predicting the effects of such substances in humans. This project will give the student a solid foundation in the field of neuropharmacology. The student will be trained in a broad range of techniques and approaches, including larval and adult zebrafish pharmacological and behavioural experimentation, advanced imaging, analytical methods and genetic techniques. This project also provides a unique opportunity to work with and at the partner organisation Dstl, a world leading institute for defence and security research. Working with Dstl will give the student the unique experience of interacting with partners within government. During placements at Dstl, the student will gain hands-on experience of working in a government scientific establishment.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a 1st or 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Pharmacology, Molecular Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Physiology, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, or a closely related discipline. Students with a first degree in Psychology will be considered, but only if they can demonstrate a significant Biological Psychology/Psychopharmacology component to their degree. Students who have a 2.2 honours degree and a Master’s degree may also be considered, but we reserve the right to shortlist for interview only those applicants who have demonstrated high academic attainment to date. 

The candidate must be a UK national, due to the security requirements of working at the partner organisation Dstl.

Experience working with animals on behavioural experiments will be an advantage, but is not essential.

Candidates should be prepared to work as part of a team.  

How to apply

We strongly encourage you to contact Dr Parker ( and Dr Kearn ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please do so using 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 (if applicable) 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 PHBM5081021 when applying.