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PhD Studentship (4 years) - The role of electromagnetic fields in neuronal health

Aston Medical School

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Sunday 28 February 2021
Reference:  R210071
Release Date:  Monday 22 February 2021

Supervisor:  Dr Irundika Dias

Associate Supervisors: Professor Andrew Ellis and Dr Lissette Sanchez

Project Reference: MIBTP CASE_Dias_Neuronal Health

Applications are invited for a four year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), to be undertaken in the Translational Medicine Research Group at Aston University. The studentship is offered in collaboration with ElectroMagnetic Technologies Ltd. 

The position is available to start October 2021.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate, plus a maintenance allowance of at least £15,285 (subject to eligibility). This application is only available to Home-fee paying students.

Background to CASE Studentships 

CASE studentships are designed to provide students with a first-rate challenging research training experience within the context of a mutually-beneficial research collaboration between academic and non-academic partner organisations. Joint supervision should provide the student with a unique and broadening perspective on the impact of collaborative research, and allows the student to acquire novel skills and expertise.

Through the industrial placement a CASE student will gain a wider understanding of, for example, applied research or policy development that will enhance their future career prospects. In addition to experience of an industrial research environment, the student will receive business-related training, for example, in project-management, business strategy and/or finance. BBSRC stipulates a placement period of a minimum of 3 months, and up to a maximum of 18 months. The required placement period can be accrued through a number of shorter placements, if appropriate. Click here for full details on CASE studentships.

Project Outline

Modern technologies increasingly rely on wireless communication systems and increase the human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). While the proposals for new technologies aimed at high data-rates, connectivity and reliability, the impact on human health is often overlooked. There is compelling evidence that EMFs affect cell physiology by altering redox-related processes. As the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria play a central role in cellular homeostasis and changes in cellular redox state. Imbalanced redox state proposed as a regulatory element in ageing and various neurological disorders. We previously described that oxidised lipids and proteins contribute to poor neuronal health.

Based on this evidence, we aim to investigate the hypothesis that the mitochondrial health in neurones is affected by EMF influencing mitochondrial bioenergetics and altering redox state. We bring together a strong team coving mitochondrial health (Dr Dias), health impacts of oxidative stress (Dr Sanchez), communication networks (Professor Ellis), and EMF compliance (Industrial partner: EMT Ltd). This team will enable us to emulate both EMF emulating those from next generation technologies such as deployed for 5G and planned for 6G wireless networks, and conventional applications such as the EMF from switched mode power supplies where product qualification often reveals high levels of both conducted and radiated EMF. A controlled environment (anechoic chambers and Faraday cages) will be developed to ensure uniform exposure of cell cultures to EMF over a frequency range of 50 MHz to 5GHz, with power spectral densities up to current FCC limits (7mW.cm-2 at 3 GHz). For emulation of 5G networks, continuous wave carriers will be modulated with bandwidths up to 200 MHz, to investigate potential demodulation effects within the cell structure. Within various controlled EMF environments, we will explore the generation of reactive oxygen species in neuronal cells and (i) their effects on mitochondrial bioenergetics and overall health (ii) the oxidative damage/modifications to mitochondrial proteins and lipids and (iii) the impact on neuronal excitability derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). By studying the effects of EMF on neurones and mitochondrial bioenergetics, this project will inform safe applications of future wireless communication systems.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in a relevant subject. Full entry requirements for Aston University can be found on our website

Evidence of quantitative training is required. For example, AS or A level Maths, IB Standard or Higher Maths, or university level maths/statistics course. Full entry and eligibility requirements for MIBTP can be found on their website

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Dr Irundika Dias by email at diashki1@aston.ac.uk.

Submitting an application

In order to apply for the MIBTP CASE PhD studentship you must: 

  1. Check your eligibility.  
  2. Complete a PhD application form on the Aston University website. From the drop-down options select School of Life and Health Sciences; October; Full time; Postgraduate Research; “Research Biomedical Sciences October 2021 Entry (Full-time)”. 
  3. Notify MIBTP of your application by completing the online notification form; ensuring that you upload a current CV to the form. 
  4. Review the MIBTP Data Privacy Policy to understand how we process your personal data. 
  5. When completing the Aston University application form, you will need to ensure to include the following documents: 
  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree (if studied); this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated in to English. 
  • A personal statement* 
  • A copy of your current CV 
  • Two academic references  
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency for non-Native English speakers, further details can be found on our website 

*Please note that a project proposal is not required, however your Personal Statement should address your ability & knowledge of the research area.  Where applying for a specific project, please include the supervisor name, project title and project reference in your Personal Statement.  

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at pgr_admisssions@aston.ac.uk

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Further particulars and application forms are available in alternative formats on request i.e. large print, Braille, tape or CD Rom.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact HR via recruitment@aston.ac.uk


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