PhD Studentship in Multi-omics in Population Cohorts

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The Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge is looking for an ambitious self-motivated student to undertake a 3-year PhD studentship to combine multi-omics data (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics etc) and electronic health record (EHR) data in multiple large-scale population cohorts to address questions relating to causes and predictors of common complex disease.

The studentship is funded by the Health Data Research (HDR) UK Molecules to Health Records (MTHR) grant at the University of Cambridge. The project will be based within the 'Population System Genomics and EHR' subtheme.

Background: The aim of this programme is to capitalise on the UK's great strengths in well-established longitudinal population cohorts (e.g., UK Biobank, INTERVAL) that combine linkage to NHS health record systems, genetic and genomic information, and wide-angle multi-omics assays that capture thousands of molecular analytes in blood. These powerful large-scale resources can be harnessed to understand biological processes, evaluate causes of diseases singly and in combination (multimorbidity), identify potential drug targets, discover disease subtypes, and create disease prediction algorithms. The project will build on the HDR UK Multiomics Cohorts Consortium, a collection of 15 UK population cohorts involving >800,000 participants and involve cohorts in low- and middle-income countries to enhance diversity.

Project: Examples of specific research projects could include:

  • Understanding the role of the genome in regulating levels of molecular analytes;
  • Evaluating specific protein/metabolite pathways for causal effects on disease, informing therapeutic targets;
  • Conducting wide-angle causal inference studies to prioritise causal risk factors for complex diseases;
  • Testing the ability of multi-omics platforms to improve existing clinical risk prediction algorithms;
  • Assessing novel multi-omics assay platforms.

Specific topics will be developed by the student and supervisory team, led by Professor Adam Butterworth.

Research Environment: The PhD studentship will be hosted at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care (https://www.phpc.cam.ac.uk/). The student will be based at the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Heart and Lung Research Institute (HLRI, https://www.hlri.cam.ac.uk/) in the BHF Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit (CEU, https://www.phpc.cam.ac.uk/ceu/). The CEU is one of the world leaders in using multi-modal, high-dimensional molecular and health data to both predict risk of future disease and to understand underlying aetiology. Set within the HLRI, our unit has state-of-the-art facilities and interdisciplinary linkages with experimental and clinical researchers. Located at the centre of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the largest of its kind in Europe, we collaborate with neighbouring institutions including Addenbrooke's Hospital, Royal Papworth Hospital, MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, CRUK Cambridge Institute, MRC Biostatistics and other Units, as well as industry partners (e.g., AstraZeneca and others).

HDR UK is the national institute for data science and healthcare and provides a multi-faceted environment for PhD studies. The Molecules to Health Records Driver Programme, led by the Wellcome Sanger Institute in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, provides an exciting and comprehensive programme of research which will enhance any research project. The student will also be encouraged to closely interact with other groups within the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, and to work with our academic and clinical partners to ensure their work could have real-world impact.

Value to the Student: The student will develop valuable skills in working with large-scale data (including genomics, multi-omics, and electronic health records), programming in statistical software packages (e.g., in R, Python), and working as part of a team. They will have the opportunity to conduct analyses such as genome- and exome-wide association studies, multi-trait colocalization, Mendelian randomization, time-to-event regression analyses, prediction modelling etc.

The student will benefit from a collaborative environment that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion, and values all individuals. Our strategy is to train researchers to work fluently across quantitative and clinical domains, by engaging with the broader Unit and Department, which includes biologists, statisticians, epidemiologists, clinicians, bioinformaticians, methodologists etc. The student will benefit from opportunities to collaborate across studies, HDR UK sites and countries, participate in Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) activities (e.g., involving the public in your research and presenting work at public events). The student will have access to training courses and events at the University and the Genome Campus, as well as taught modules and lectures in relevant subjects.

Requirements: Applicants are expected to hold (or to have achieved by the start date) at least a good upper second class (good 2:1) honours degree from a UK university or an equivalent standard from an overseas university; and preferably a Master's degree (or equivalent) in a biological or quantitative subject, such as epidemiology, biostatistics/medical statistics, genomics, bioinformatics, mathematics, (bio)chemistry. They should have strong quantitative skills and experience with programming (e.g., R, Stata, Python, etc) and enjoy working in a team environment.

To check if your international qualification meets the University minimum requirement, please consult the International section of our website.

Benefits: We invite applications from UK and non-UK students. Each studentship provides a stipend of £18,622 per year for 3 years. UK-level tuition fees are covered; other applicants will need to secure additional funding for overseas student fees. Please ensure you meet the University of Cambridge entrance requirements: see https://www.postgraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/application-process/entry-requirements.

Enquiries: We welcome informal discussions about this studentship. Please contact Professor Adam Butterworth (asb38@cam.ac.uk).

How to apply

To apply please visit https://www.postgraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/cvphpdhpc and click 'Apply Now'.

Course details: PhD in Public Health & Primary Care (Full-time) Start Date: October 2024 or earlier. Supervisor(s): Professor Adam Butterworth Research Title: PhD Studentship ¿ Multi-omics in Population Cohorts

Please quote reference RH39545 on your application form and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

In order to apply for this opportunity, you will need: - Details of two academic referees (references will be taken up immediately). - Transcript(s) - CV/resume - Evidence of competence in English - Statement of Interest outlining your suitability, why you are interested in a PhD in this area, your background and research interests

Interview and Selection process

The deadline for applications is 22 December 2023 Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by w/c 8th January 2024 Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview w/c 8th January 2024 Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their interview soon after.

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.

Apply now


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