PhD Studentships

Interdisciplinary PhD studentships at the ISMB

PhD studentships are awarded on a competitive basis with applications being considered by a shortlisting and interview panel that is specific to each programme. Potential applicants may apply for all of the studentship opportunities below but must follow the instructions for applicants described on each of the programme webpages.

Bacterial cell-cell interactions in microbial communities, ISMB-funded studentship with Dr. Brian Ho

*Applications open until 13 September 2019*

Project Overview

The microbiome plays a critical role in the wellbeing of its host, as microbes are involved in a number of important biological processes ranging from metabolism to immune system development. Numerous studies have investigated the compositional changes that occur in this microbial ecosystem during various disease states, however, there still exists a major gap in our understanding of how the microbial members of this ecosystem interact with each other, and how these interactions scale up to generate stable, health-promoting communities. Research in our lab focuses on one of these interactions involved in interbacterial antagonism. Specifically, the bacterial type VI secretion system (T6SS) is used by a diverse range of bacteria to deliver a wide range of different cytotoxic effectors into neighboring eukaryotic or bacterial cells. Interestingly, some bacteria have actually evolved specific defense mechanisms against these antagonistic interactions. We are interested in understanding how all of these cell-cell interactions combine together to affect larger population dynamics and microbial community structure.

The specific project for this studentship can be flexibly defined based on the prospective student’s interests, but will generally involve investigation of the regulation, localization, or function of the T6SS in the context of multi-species bacterial communities. The main model organisms we study in the lab are Escherichia coli, Vibrio cholerae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. During their PhD training, students will learn techniques required for basic microbiology, molecular genetics & cloning, mutagenesis & screening, protein engineering, fluroescence microscopy, and biochemical analyses. Because the ISMB fosters an interdisciplinary environment and collaborative research, there will also be opportunities to learn research techniques used by other labs within the ISMB.

Programme, Funding & Eligibility

The prospective student will be virtually associated with the Wellcome Trust Interdisciplinary PhD programme, i.e. will be able to participate in all of the student activities.

The ISMB will cover 3.5 years of studentship, including a tax-free maintenance stipend of £17,009 per annum and all tuition fees at the home/EU rate. Overseas students are eligible to apply but if successful, would need to fund the difference between the home/EU fees and overseas fees for the duration of the award.

All applicants will be required to satisfy English language entry criteria and a minimum upper-second class (2.1) honours degree (or overseas equivalent) in a science field. Given the flexibility and potential interdisciplinary nature of the research, individuals of any scientific background are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply

Prospective students can apply through the Birkbeck College portal:

In the application 'Funding' section, please indicate that you are applying for “studentship with Dr. Brian Ho” and in lieu of uploading a 'Research Proposal', please write a short personal statement about your scientific background, your research interests, and career goals.

Initially applications will be open until Friday 13 September. Formal inquiries can be made to Dr. Brian Ho ( at any time.

Wellcome Trust 4-year Interdisciplinary PhD Programme

This outstanding PhD programme in Structural, Computational and Chemical Biology is funded by the Wellcome Trust and provides the opportunity to study at UCL, Birkbeck and Francis Crick Institute.

Applications for September 2019 are closed.

UCL-Birkbeck MRC Doctoral Training Programme

This programme provides state-of-the-art PhD training across four strategic themes that exploit the unique research strengths and training infrastructure of UCL and Birkbeck. The programme has a four year pathway and a three year pathway, which includes industrial CASE students.

Applications for September 2019 are closed.

BBSRC funded London Interdisciplinary Doctoral (LIDo) programme in biosciences

BBSRC PhD studentships offer the opportunity to study within the ISMB at Birkbeck and UCL as part of the LIDo PhD programme. This interdisciplinary PhD programme provides the mathematical and computational skills necessary to understand and model biological processes and function, while maintaining the training in world-class bioscience that underpins all living systems. Students complete research training and rotation projects in year 1 before choosing and beginning their PhD project.

Applications for September 2019 closed.