MSc by Research projects

You can start the process by contacting an individual principal investigator relevant to your research interests, or find out more about our research in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

You may wish to start your search with our pre-defined research projects available, listed below. 

Dr Borko Amulic (Lecturer in Immunology)

Mechanism and function of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs):

Neutrophils are essential immune cells with important roles in defence against pathogens. They can trap microbes by producing neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), consisting of the neutrophil’s own DNA that is extruded from the cell in a type of altruistic cell death. NETs are sticky and contain toxic antimicrobial proteins that prevent bacteria from spreading. The project investigate the molecular mechanism of NETs and their role in innate immunity.  

Professor Matthew Avison (Professor of Molecular Bacteriology)

Understanding Envelope Permeability Control in Bacteria to Combat Antibiotic Resistance:

A major area of study in my group is to investigate how bacteria restrict the entry of antibiotics, causing antibiotic resistance. Knowledge of this helps us better predict when bacteria will become resistant to antibiotics and highlights ways we might reverse antibiotic resistance in patients. We can offer a bespoke MSc by Research or PhD project in this area tailored to fit your interests, covering one or more of: molecular bacteriology, functional genomics, genome sequence analysis and a little bit of bioinformatics.

Dr Siang Boon Koh (Lecturer)

Drugging the cell cycle of cancer:

The goal of our group is to identify cancer-specific vulnerabilities that are pharmacologically targetable and therefore clinically actionable. To this end, one of our research themes is to investigate the regulation of the cell cycle. Specifically, we study (1) how the cell cycle checkpoints can be rewired in cancer cells, and (2) how this rewiring can be therapeutically modulated.   We have tailored graduate-level projects on this theme, encompassing among others the subject of DNA damage response, major cellular pathways such as the RAS signalling, and drug synergy. Selected candidates will have the opportunity to lead/contribute to these projects.

Dr Adam Chambers (Clinical Lecturer)

Understanding the role of BCL-3 in radiation response in colorectal cancer:

This project aims to understand the mechanism by which BCL-3 promotes radiation resistance in colorectal cancer. The project will focus on the role of BCL-3 in chromatin modification with and without gamma irradiation. This work will be performed in 2D and 3D tissue culture models. 

Professor Andrew Davidson (Professor of Systems Virology)

Identification of biomarkers for the prediction of dengue disease severity using high-throughput proteomics:

The project will use clinical proteomic data from dengue patients with different disease outcomes to identify potential protein biomarkers for the disease severity. The protein biomarkers will be validated using clinical samples and the mechanisms behind the alterations in protein biomarkers investigated using cell based models.

Dr Stephanie Diezmann (Senior Lecturer)

Molecular chaperones in fungal biology and virulence:

Each year as many people die of fungal infections as of malaria or tuberculosis. This much-underappreciated problem is exacerbated by the lack of efficacious antifungals and evolution of resistance against existing drugs. To mitigate this, we study molecular chaperones in the leading fungal pathogen of humans, Candida albicans, aiming to identify novel drug targets and pathways essential in causing disease. 

Understanding how Hps90 phosphorylation modulates fungal virulence:

The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans causes >400,000 life-threatening infections each year world wide with mortality rates of >50%. Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) is a key regulator of fungal virulence mechanisms but little is understood about how Hsp90 is regulated. We recently identified the first Hsp90 phospho-switch ( This project aims to further characterise the role of Hsp90 phosphorylation in C. albicans virulence by investigating down-stream effects using Western blotting, RT-PCR and a neutrophil-based host system.

Dr Abdelkader Essafi (Senior Lecturer)

The paradox of obesity-induced cancer:

One of the major cofactors in developing many epithelial cancers is obesity but although obese patients are at higher risk of developing these neoplasms, the progression of the diseases in these patients to the fatal stage is slower when compared to leaner patients. This conflicting finding is termed the obesity paradox and our understanding of its molecular mechanism remain vague. In this project the student(s) will use our cell models of pancreatic and breast cancer progression with the  main aim of delineating the molecular mechanisms underlying this paradox using basic molecular and cellular biology techniques alongside non-biased global approaches: RNA-seq, ATAC seq and mass spectroscopy for analysing the changes in RNA, DNA and protein changes, respectively.

Dr Gareth Jones (Senior Research Fellow)

Exploiting cytokine action to treat chronic inflammation: 

We have identified a key role for the cytokine interleukin-27 in suppressing chronic joint inflammation in arthritis. The project will now investigate mechanisms underpinning this suppression, with a particular focus on how interleukin-27 alters the behaviour of pathogenic CD4+ T helper cells.

Dr Anu Goenka (Clinical Lecturer)

Group A Streptococcus mucosal vaccine development by understanding memory immunity in the human tonsil: 

Tonsils are secondary lymphoid organs located in the upper aerodigestive tract adapted to generate mucosal immune responses to respiratory pathogens. One such important pathogen, Group A streptococcus (GAS), is responsible for responsible for half a million deaths per year globally, and a disability burden equivalent to one-quarter of all forms of cancer. This project involves defining the frequency and phenotype of GAS-specific tonsil memory T and B cells to discover the most immunogenic and clinically meaningful GAS epitopes for inclusion in a novel vaccine. The student will develop skills in bacterial techniques as well as flow cytometry and ELISpot of primary human cells isolated from tissue and blood.

Dr Wa'el Kafienah (Senior Lecturer in Stem Cell Biology)

Cellular reprogramming for cell-based therapy of osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects the joints leading to disability. Treating this disease using regenerative medicine and tissue engineering approaches requires ample number of functional chondrocytes - the cells that make up cartilage. This project aims to employ a bioinformatics approach to predict critical transcription factors necessary for reprogramming any cell into chondrocytes thereby providing an unlimited source of these cells for cell-based therapies. The project can investigate mechanisms of the reprogramming process, tissue engineering using the converted cells and the evaluation of converted cells stability. 

Professor Karim Malik (Professor of Molecular Oncology)

Two projects available

The roles of aberrant alternative splicing in childhood cancers:

It is becoming increasingly evident that the cancer cell proteome (and therefore phenotype) can be altered due to alternative splicing of mRNAs. However, the pathways and mechanisms by which alternative splicing contributes to tumorigenesis remain largely obscure. We therefore propose to characterize aberrant alternative splicing in childhood cancer models, particularly those driven by Myc oncogenes.

Overcoming drug resistance in poor prognosis neuroblastoma:

Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer accounting for ~15% of all paediatric cancer deaths. Drug-resistance is a major factor influencing poor survival rates with about 50% of high-risk patients succumbing to resistant disease. This project will seek to identify and validate target genes, proteins and pathways that act as mediators of drug resistance in relapsing neuroblastoma in order to improve future therapies.

Dr Parthive Patel (Sir Henry Dale Research Fellow)

Three projects available

Regulation of tissue regeneration by stress signalling:

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) promote regeneration in many contexts. In the adult Drosophila (fruit fly) intestine, ROS are produced by damaged intestinal epithelial cells (IECs). This promotes intestinal stem cell (ISC)-mediated regeneration, partly via stress-activated p38 MAPK signalling in enterocytes (Patel et al., 2019). You will further determine the molecular mechanism underpinning ROS-mediated fly intestinal regeneration.

Circadian regulation of tissue renewal:

Many of our tissues are rhythmically exposed to environmental stress, due to our circadian-regulated behaviour (e.g. eating). However, the impact of the rhythmic stress exposure on tissue renewal is not well understood. You will determine if maintenance and regenerative signals have circadian activity in the adult fly intestine and determine the cause of their activation.

Identifying adaptive mechanisms of epithelial cell lifespan extension:

When the production of new adult fly intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) from ISCs is inhibited, IECs increase their lifespan to ensure tissue maintenance (Jin et al., 2017). This indicates that IEC resilience and lifespan are adaptive and respond to local cues. You will determine the molecular mechanism controlling this process. 

These studies will use Drosophila genetics, dissection and immunostaining of Drosophila tissues, fluorescent microscopy, Western blotting and enzymatic assays. For more info, please visit

Investigate how intestinal damage responses support enteropathogenic bacterial colonisation and virulence.

Enteropathogenic bacteria damage the intestinal epithelium through the secretion of virulence factors. This causes the host to mount damage responses, such as ROS production and macrophage recruitment. While many of these responses are known to inhibit infection, you will investigate whether some host damage responses can support enteropathogenic bacterial colonisation and virulence.

Professor Anne Ridley FRS (Professor of Cell Biology and Head of School)

Rho GTPase signalling in cancer migration and invasion:

Once cancers have spread from their site of origin to other sites in the body they are difficult to treat.  This project will investigate the first step of cancer spreading: migration and invasion.  We have identified several Rho GTPases that are important for this step, and the project will use RNAi, timelapse microscopy and biochemical analysis to test how they affect cancer cell migration and invasion.

Dr Laura Rivino (Senior Lecturer)

Human T cell immunity to dengue virus:

Virus-specific T cells constitute an essential line of defence during viral infection, however the role of these cells in the context of dengue virus infection remains unclear, with evidence suggesting that they can mediate pathogenesis and/or immune protection. Our work aims to define the features of the T cell response to dengue virus that associate with differential disease outcomes, particularly in patient groups with higher risk of severe disease, such as those that are overweight/obese. This project will use multi-parameter flow cytometry and the Seahorse XF platform to study the phenotypic, functional and metabolic features of T cells.

Professor Stefan Roberts (Professor of Cancer Biology)

Transcriptional regulation by the WT1-BASP1 complex:

WT1 and BASP1 play a central role in regulating the transcription programmes involved in development and cancer. This project will explore the mechanisms that are involved in the modulation of the chromatin environment by WT1-BASP1 that leads to transcriptional repression.

Professor Christoph Wuelfing (Professor of Immunology)

Two projects available

Rebuilding tumour-mediated immune suppression in vitro:

Tumours suppress the immune response directed against them. Using three-dimensional tissue culture models you will rebuild the interactions of tumours with immune cells from defined components to elucidate mechanisms of tumour-mediated immune suppression. 

Vesicular trafficking of inhibitory receptors:

Inhibitory receptors attenuate T cell activation with a critical role in tumour-mediated immune suppression. Curiously, they are largely located inside the cell in vesicles rather than on the cell surface where they can engage their ligands. You will use imaging, biochemical and functional approaches to learn what the vesicles are that harbour the inhibitory receptors and how they travel to control T cell activation.

Dr Yohei Yamauchi (Reader in Viral Cell Biology)

Mechanism of influenza A virus entry into host cells:

How influenza viruses enter cells is not fully understood, including how host factors at the cell surface receptors and cytoplasmic chaperones and enzymes facilitate viral entry and uncoating. As viral entry steps are important for virus infectivity, understanding their cell biology and targeting them is a viable strategy for intervention. This project involves fluorescence microscopy, cell biology, virology and biochemical techniques.

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