Postgraduate research 

Molecular Pathology PhD

body cells


Research in pathology is about understanding of disease mechanism. Our history of research and teaching in pathology extends over 200 years and our current Department of Pathology, opened in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital May 2012, is one of the largest in Europe. With £3.4 million of MRC/EPSRC awards for our campus Glasgow Molecular Pathology Node (2015-2019) , our aim is to bring the Precision Medicine research into diagnostic practice.

Research projects

Self-funded PhD opportunities


Neutrophils and Chemokine Signalling in the Tumour Immune Micro-environment and Progression

Supervisor: Dr Tomoko Iwata

Checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy is promising, however still requires an improvement in response and development of markers to predict the patients who would benefit from this therapy. 

Neutrophils are abundant blood cell population and known to play anti- or pro-tumour roles depending on the context. Expressed in the neutrophils, a chemokine receptor CXCR2 plays an essential role in their recruitment to inflammatory cites, and its inhibition has been shown to suppress tumorigenesis and metastasis in various cancer types. Furthermore, studies in the pancreatic cancer model have shown that Cxcr2 inhibition resulted in a reduction of pro-tumour neutrophils in tumours, allowing T cells to repopulate, thereby sensitizing them to the checkpoint inhibitor. 

In the bladder, an increased expression of CXCR2 ligands is reported to be associated with tumour progression and poor prognosis, however the roles of tumour infiltrating neutrophils remain largely undefined. In order for neutrophils to be targeted in bladder cancer, it is essential to obtain a better understanding of neutrophil biology in the bladder, in comparisons to other tumour types. 

The project asks the following questions: 

  • What are the roles of tumour-infiltrating neutrophils in tumour progression in the bladder? 
  • What are the characteristics of immune phenotype of neutrophil-enriched tumours, and how do they related to the disease progression? 

We will explore the neutrophil-enriched tumour microenvironment by characterizing the topography of immune cell populations and gene expressions in mouse and human tumour tissues. 


  1. to establish methodologies in multiplex immunohistochemistry (mIHC) followed by the quantitative pathology imaging (QPI) and evaluate the validity of artificial intelligence (AI) / machine learning-based analytical processes in digital pathology platforms 
  2. to characterise the relationships between tumour infiltrating lymphocytes and Cxcr2+ myeloid cells by topographical analysis 
  3. to identify the critical factors leading to the above immune phenotype by gene expression profiling and analysis at the tissue level. 

The overall goal of this study is to understand the roles of neutrophils in bladder cancer progression, and to evaluate the potential of neutrophils or CXCR2 as a new target of immunotherapy. 

Techniques: Through this project, the student is expected to gain a significant expertise in tissue-based research based on hands-on experiences in a variety of cutting-edge histopathology technologies, quantitative digital pathology image analysis, immune and gene profiling, management of tissue resources and large-scale data based on model and clinical specimens. 


  1. Powles, T., Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors for Urologic Cancer: The Tip of the Iceberg? Eur Urol, 2015. 68(2): p. 280-2. 
  2. Coffelt, S.B., M.D. Wellenstein, and K.E. de Visser, Neutrophils in cancer: neutral no more. Nat Rev Cancer, 2016. 16(7): p. 431-46. 
  3. Jamieson, T., et al., Inhibition of CXCR2 profoundly suppresses inflammation-driven and spontaneous tumorigenesis. J Clin Invest, 2012. 122(9): p. 3127-44. 
  4. Steele, C.W., et al., CXCR2 Inhibition Profoundly Suppresses Metastases and Augments Immunotherapy in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma. Cancer Cell, 2016. 29(6): p. 832-845. 
  5. Foth, M., et al., Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 activation plays a causative role in urothelial cancer pathogenesis in cooperation with Pten loss in mice. J Pathol, 2014. 233(2): p. 148-58. 
  6. Foth, M., et al., FGFR3 mutation increases bladder tumourigenesis by suppressing acute inflammation. J Pathol, 2018. 246(3): p. 331-343. 
  7. Gartrell, R.D., et al., Quantitative Analysis of Immune Infiltrates in Primary Melanoma. Cancer Immunol Res, 2018. 6(4): p. 481-493. 



Our concept of Molecular Pathology research stems in the tissue-based investigations that provide the important bases for Precision Medicine. Understanding the disease mechanism helps development of new therapies. Therapy stratification could be enhanced by better prediction of therapy response by molecular, and non-invasive, novel biomarkers. The disease area we work on encompasses cancer, inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, and many others. The research projects can address biological questions (basic science) and/or those in alignment with clinical gap of knowledge and diagnostic needs (clinical).

Use of modern technologies by the well-trained, skilled scientists and healthcare practitioners play an important role in delivering Precision Medicine. Our research projects can involve approaches such as:

  • histopathology
  • multiplex immunofluorescence
  • quantitative pathology image analysis
  • immune profiling
  • digital pathology
  • machine learning
  • genetics, such as Next Generation exome and genomic sequencing and expression profiling.

Our research groups are located in the University of Glasgow labs within Laboratory Medicine Building, Queen Elisabeth University Hospital campus. Across our clinical and academic staff interests, the opportunities for Molecular Pathology research is offered to both medical and life science students. Our projects benefit from the close working relationship with Glasgow Tissue Research Facility (GTRF) as well as collaborations with the research institutes and schools in the college of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences.

Our PhD programmes offer training in tissue-based research using modern technologies in the forefront of Molecular Pathology. The project could address important biological questions or clinical needs and may involve use of model and/or clinical specimens, as well as images, numerical and clinical data. Supervisors are clinical and/or non-clinical academics in UofG and NHS, in close collaboration with research institutes and schools of UofG, such as Institute of Cancer Sciences, Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, and Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences.

Study options


  • Duration: 3/4 years full-time; 5 years part-time

Individual research projects are tailored around the expertise of principal investigators.

Entry requirements

Awarded or expected 1st class or high upper 2nd class BSc degree.

English Language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English.

Fees and funding



  • £4,407 UK/EU
  • £21,920 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Re-submission by a research student £525
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,315
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £340
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £765

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee (also known as research support costs) to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Funding for EU students

The UK government has confirmed that EU nationals will remain eligible to apply for Research Council PhD studentships at UK institutions for 2019/20 to help cover costs for the duration of their study. The Scottish Government has confirmed that fees for EU students commencing their studies in 2019/20 and 2020/21 will be at the same level as those for UK students.

2019/20 fees

  • £4,327 UK/EU
  • £21,020 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Re-submission by a research student £500
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,250
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £320
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £730

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee (also known as research support costs) to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.


The College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences  provides a vibrant, supportive and stimulating environment for all our postgraduate students. We aim to provide excellent support for our postgraduates through dedicated postgraduate convenors, highly trained supervisors and pastoral support for each student.
Our overarching aim is to provide a research training environment that includes:

  • provision of excellent facilities and cutting edge techniques
  • training in essential research and generic skills
  • excellence in supervision and mentoring
  • interactive discussion groups and seminars
  • an atmosphere that fosters critical cultural policy and research analysis
  • synergy between research groups and areas
  • extensive multidisciplinary and collaborative research
  • extensive external collaborations both within and beyond the UK 
  • a robust generic skills programme including opportunities in social and commercial training

How to apply

Identify potential supervisors

All Postgraduate Research Students are allocated a supervisor who will act as the main source of academic support and research mentoring. You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply. Please note, even if you have spoken to an academic staff member about your proposal you still need to submit an online application form.

You can find relevant academic staff members with our staff research interests search.

Gather your documents

Before applying please make sure you gather the following supporting documentation:

  1. Final or current degree transcripts including grades (and an official translation, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original document
  2. Degree certificates (and an official translation, if needed): scanned copy in colour of the original document
  3. Two references on headed paper (academic and/or professional).
  4. Research proposal, CV, samples of written work as per requirements for each subject area.

Submitting References

To complete your application we will need two references (one must be academic the other can be academic or professional).

There are two options for you to submit references as part of your application.  You can upload a document as part of your application or you can enter in your referee’s contact details and we will contact them to request a reference.

Option 1 – Uploading as part of the application form

Your references should be on official headed paper. These should also be signed by the referee. You can then upload these via theOnline Application form with the rest your documents to complete the application process.

Please be aware that documents must not exceed 5MB in size and therefore you may have to upload your documents separately. The online system allow you to upload supporting documents only in PDF format. For a free PDF writer go to

Option 2 - Entering contact details as part of the application form

If you enter your referees contact details including email on the application form we will email them requesting they submit a reference once you have submitted the application form.  When the referee responds and sends a reference you will be sent an email to confirm the university has received this.

After submitting your application form

Use our Applicant Self Service uploading documents function to submit a new reference. We can also accept confidential references direct to, from the referee’s university or business email account.  

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