PhD Studentships


Research groups

We currently have three funded studentships available.

1. Mathematical modelling of macromolecular capillary permeability

Dr Kenton Arkill (Medicine), Dr Reuben O’Dea (Maths), Professor David Bates (Medicine), Dr Matthew Hubbard (Maths)

The primary function of blood vessels is to transport molecules to tissues. In diseases such as cancer and diabetes this transport, particularly of large molecules such as albumin, can be an order of magnitude higher than normal.

The project is to model transient flow of macromolecules across the vascular wall in physiology and pathology. The doctoral student will join a team that includes medical researchers, biophysicists and mathematicians acquiring structural and functional data.


Detailed microscale models of vascular wall hydrodynamics and transport properties will be employed; in addition, powerful multiscale homogenisation techniques will be exploited that enable permeability and convection parameters on the nanoscale to be linked through the microscale into translatable information on the tissue scale.  Computational simulations will be used to investigate and understand the model behaviour, including, for example, stochastic and multiphysics effects in the complex diffusion-convection nanoscale environment. The project will afford a great opportunity to form an information triangle where modelling outcomes will determine physiological experiments to feedback to the model. Furthermore, the primary results will inform medical researchers on potential molecular therapeutic targets.

  • apply online via the University of Nottingham application page

  • in the personal statement section indicate that you are applying to the 'Modelling and Analytics for Medicine and Life Sciences' programme
  • make sure to include project this in a ranked list of your three preferred projects

  • 3. Modelling the alternative splicing of tissue growth regulators and its implications for tumour growth

    Supervisors: Professor Markus Owen (School of Mathematical Sciences), Professor David Bates (Division of Cancer and Stem Cells, School of Medicine)

    Normal and pathological tissue growth is regulated by diverse growth factors and related molecules, many of which are produced in cells via the transcription of associated genes and translation of mRNA to protein. In many cases, alternative splicing, regulated by splicing factors, leads to different isoforms of proteins, which can have different effects. This is particularly pertinent to angiogenesis, the process whereby new blood vessels are produced from existing ones, which is crucial in cancer and also diseases such as diabetic retinopathy.

    Different isoforms of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), whose balance is regulated by alternative splicing, can promote or inhibit angiogenesis. In fact, the relevant splicing factors seem to regulate alternative splicing of families of genes controlling cell death, growth factor signaling, the cell cycle, invasion and immune responses. Thus it important to consider the overall effect of splicing factors in the context of a whole tissue where all these processes are modulated.


    This project will focus on mathematical modelling of the various aspects of alternative growth factor splicing, regulation of angiogenesis, and tumour growth, with the following objectives:

    • model splicing control at network level;
    • model the implications for tissue growth of altered splicing control
    • couple O1 and O2 to predict the efficacy of interventions that modulate alternative splicing in cancer.

    This will require the develop and application of advanced mathematical and computational techniques to make the link from molecules to cells to tissues. A significant challenge is to use a blend of mathematical and statistical approaches to allow the translation of varied experimental data and knowledge into tractable parameterised mathematical frameworks that combine dynamics over a range of scales.

    This project would also involve co-operation with Exonate, a biopharmaceutical company focussed on the discovery and development of small molecule drugs that modulate alternative mRNA splicing to address diseases of high unmet medical need. Exonate will provide relevant data and scientific input, and also contribute to the student training, for example by through hosting them within the company on secondment.

  • apply online via the University of Nottingham application page

  • in the personal statement section indicate that you are applying to the 'Modelling and Analytics for Medicine and Life Sciences' programme
  • make sure to include project this in a ranked list of your three preferred projects
  • References

    1. M R Owen et al. Cancer Res 71(8) 2826-37 (2011)

    2. Investigating the neurovascular unit in diabetic neuropathic pain

    based at Nottingham Trent University with Dr Richard Hulse as the primary supervisor.

    A fully funded 3 year PhD studentship is available within the School of Science and Technology at Nottingham Trent University, supported by EFSD/Boehringer Ingelheim European Research Programme in Microvascular Complications of Diabetes. The project is based in research laboratories specialising in pain (Dr Richard Hulse) and diabetes (Prof Philip McTernan), in collaboration with the Tumour and Vascular Biology Laboratories, University of Nottingham (Prof David Bates).

    Neuropathic pain is a burden many people with diabetes suffer from. Despite this extensive clinical need for effective analgesic treatment, many current painkilling treatments are ineffective and/or have significant adverse side-effects. Our research focuses upon understanding the diabetes induced pathology surrounding sensory neuronal degeneration and pain. Diabetic patients are highly susceptible to microvascular disease, which is associated with neurodegenerative disease in these patients. Our recent work demonstrates that diabetes damages the blood vessels in the sensory nervous system (Ved et al. 2018. J. Physiol). Your research project will find out how these neuro-vascular interactions can alter pain processing. Identifying how blood vessels and sensory neurons communicate will allow you to find out how alterations in these pathways contribute to the development of diabetic neuropathy, opening up new treatment options for people with diabetic pain. Working closely with Dr Hulse, you will gain high quality training in in vivo and in vitro methodologies including rodent models of diabetes, electrophysiological recordings and measurement of microvascular blood flow in vivo, experimental design and analysis and work within a growing team of scientists passionate about understanding disease processes in diabetes.

    You should have a good quality BSc in a relevant subject (neuroscience, physiology, biomedical science, or equivalent).

    To enquire about the project and for more information on applying, please email

    Tumour and Vascular Biology Laboratories

    Cancer Biology

    Division of Cancer and Stem Cells

    School of Medicine

    The University of Nottingham
    C Floor, West Block, Queen's Medical Centre
    Nottingham, NG7 2UH

    telephone: +44 (0) 115 82 31135

    Last edited, 17/6/2016.