PhD Student

MRC Toxicology Unit, Cambridge

University of Cambridge, Trinity Ln, Cambridge, UK


  • Posted on: 19th Feb 2021
  • Funding amount: Funding Available
  • Funding for: EU Students, International Students, UK Students
  • REF: PU25772
  • Closes: 14th March 2021
  • Hours: Full Time

Adverse impact of drugs on gut-brain axis communication

The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is an attractive system to study host-microbiome-drug interactions due to its tractability and the potential to conduct experimental evolution coupled to multi-omics and deep-phenotyping. Further, recent studies have shown that the fly microbiome has a fundamental impact on the nervous system and decision making. In this project, we will make use of these advantages to investigate how therapeutic, non-antibiotic, drugs can modulate the microbiome and the animal’s behaviour.

Given the increased recognition of the gut-brain axis and its importance for mental health, this project will help us gain mechanistic understanding into these links and assess safety of medicinal molecules from the mental health perspective.

The MRC Toxicology Unit is a leading international research Unit providing state of the art research facilities, with excellent opportunities for collaborative interaction within a vibrant community at the University of Cambridge.

There are a variety of training modules and courses which students are encouraged to attend. In addition, students follow the Toxicology Unit’s weekly external and internal seminar programs and are included in the postdoc/student forums which take place each month and offer excellent opportunities for collaboration and career development.

Candidates must expect to obtain qualifications at the level of a first-class or 2.1 Honours Degree in a related discipline and must be enthusiastic to collaborate closely with other members of the team.

In addition to an excellent academic record, we are also looking for candidates with hands-on experience in the area of Drosophila genetics and behavioural assays.

Key references:Maier, L., Pruteanu, M., Kuhn, M., Zeller, G., Telzerow, A., Anderson, E. E., et al. (2018). Extensive impact of non-antibiotic drugs on human gut bacteria. Nature, 555(7698), 623-628.

Henriques, S. F., Dhakan, D. B., Serra, L., Francisco, A. P., Carvalho-Santos, Z., Baltazar, C., et al. (2020). Metabolic cross-feeding in imbalanced diets allows gut microbes to improve reproduction and alter host behaviour. Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-15.

Funding is available at the level of Home Fees and a stipend of £17,500 per annum.

Information regarding eligibility for Home Fee classification can be found at:

It is strongly encouraged that you contact the supervisor prior to making your formal application:L Miguel Martins; and/orKiran Patil

Further information can be found at the MRC Toxicology Unit Website:

If you have any queries regarding the application process please contact Bronwen Chamberlain at

Please quote reference PU25772 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

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