UK/EU students

PhD Studentship in Cell and Molecular Biosciences - Virulence factors of human and bird Trichomonad parasites targeting host proteoglycans: integrating evolutionary genomics and molecular cell biology

Value of award

100% of UK/EU tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £14,553 (full award). A partial award covers fees at the UK/EU rate only. 

Number of awards


Start date and duration

25 September 2017 for 3.5 years.

Application closing date

Applications will be considered until a suitable candidate is found.


Species of the genus Trichomonas are parasitic protozoa of vertebrates that include important pathogens inflicting morbidity and in some contexts mortality. Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) is the most common human cellular STD worldwide. TV induces significant health sequelae including facilitating the spread of HIV, preterm birth and is associated with cervical and prostate cancers. Another Trichomonas species emerged as a novel fatal disease of finches in some UK bird populations. Despite this major role in both human and animal disease little is known about the molecular basis of Trichomonas pathobiology.

This project will exploit three sets of important new data to characterise Trichomonas virulence factors: (i) identification of a novel TV cell surface metallopeptidase mediating human cell cytolysis via binding to proteoglycans, (ii) close phylogenetic relationships between human and bird Trichomonas species suggesting zoonotic origins for human parasites and (iii) novel genome sequence data for several Trichomonas species from birds and humans.

Comparative genomics and transcriptomics will be integrated to select proteins shared across human and bird parasites for functional characterisation. The three supervisory teams will provide a highly complementary and active research and training environment in next generation sequencing, bioinformatics, biochemistry, molecular cell biology, microbiology and parasitology.


BBSRC-DTP, Newcastle University

Name of supervisor(s)

Professor Robert Hirt (Newcastle University), Dr Dave Bolam (Newcastle University) and Dr Andrew Jackson (University of Liverpool).

Eligibility Criteria

You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 honours degree or international equivalent, in a subject relating to Molecular Biology/Genetics or Microbiology/Parasitology.  A further qualification such as an MRes is advantageous.

The award is available to UK/EU applicants only. Depending on how you meet the BBSRC’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’.

Only mandatory fields need to be completed. However, you will need to include the following information:


Professor Robert Hirt
Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences,
Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University.
Tel: 0191-208-6963