The West research group is home to bright and highly motivated researchers interested in all that is chromatin, epigenetics and CRISPR. We employ a wide range of chromatin, genomic and epigenomic techniques to address fundamental aspects of gene regulation during vertebrate development and human disease. We recently moved into the state-of-the-art Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, home of the Institute of Cancer Sciences and world class 'omics facilities.
If you are interested in joining the group, either as a postdoctoral researcher as postgraduate PhD student, you should first consider what scientific project area you would be interested in working on and what funding is available to you. Excellent candidates with a clear goal will be supported in their funding applications.
Grant funded postdoctoral research or bioinformatics positions will be widely advertised as they become available. We are always interested to hear from suitably qualified researchers with a passion for epigenetic gene regulation and all things CRISPR who have the potential to make a significant impact on the field. We welcome approaches from talented scientists who can construct exciting research programmes that are allied to our interests. Glasgow is an ideal place to build your research career. We fully expect that such individuals can generate support for their stay by applying for internationally competitive fellowships such as those awarded by the funding bodies below. Guidance will be offered when you are making fellowship applications.
Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851
European Commission (Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Actions)
International Union Against Cancer
We recruit PhD students each year. Three example projects that are available are listed below. Ideal applicants have a first class degree in a Molecular Biology/Genetics subject. A relevant Masters degree and laboratory research experience are an advantage. Fully funded studentships are administered centrally and are widely advertised by the University and will be copied here as they become available.
Most of the students in the West group have been successful at gaining their own scholarships for their PhD studies. Students looking for funding may find these links to be helpful. Note that many schemes are restricted to particular nationalities. PhD funding opportunities
We have a track record of attracting and supporting excellent international students from across the globe, who have gained PhDs and published their work in high impact journals. There is an official application procedure which leads to a formal offer of studies letter that you require to secure your funding. Before this stage, it is recommended that you contact Dr. West directly with your CV, degree scores/transcript and english language documents. Detail the nature of any scholarship offers you have or intend to apply to. Describe your research interests and whether any of the projects below are of interest to you.
Project 1: Novel chromatin opening elements for stable gene expression
Recombinant genes are typically silenced when integrated into the genome of mammalian cells as most of the genome is repressive to transcription at any given time. This represents a major bottleneck to experimental biology, the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals, and also limits the efficacy of gene therapies. DNA sequence elements with dominant chromatin opening activity can be used to overcome this substantial problem. We have recently developed a sophisticated high throughput assay platform that allows the functional characterisation of novel elements at pre-defined chromosomal locations. You could study novel chromatin opening elements using this assay and combine this approach with our established CRISPR genome and epigenome editing technologies. You would study the epigenetic mechanisms employed by chromatin opening elements and work with our industrial collaborators to establish their utility in biotechnological applications. A placement at our industrial collaborator’s research facility may be available. The project will both provide fundamental insight into the DNA elements that organise mammalian genomes and deliver powerful new tools for biotechnology and gene therapy applications.
Project 2: Epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation during blood cell differentiation
A number of common genetic diseases result in in blood disorders and anaemias. Intense research has focused on gene and cell therapies to treat these diseases, which has produced some successes, but remains very challenging. There are instances where a disorder can be overcome by simply changing gene expression. The most prevalent example is that of thalassaemia, a defect in the α- or β-globin proteins that form haemoglobin in red blood cells, resulting in severe anaemia that is often fatal. Different globin genes are expressed at different stages of development. It is known that reactivation of otherwise silent embryonic or foetal genes can compensate for the defects in the adult genes. Current treatments are only partially effective. More thorough understanding of how genes are regulated during development is required to design better treatments. The precise regulation of cell type-specific genes during development and differentiation involves an interplay between transcription factors that bind to gene promoters and enhancers. These factors assemble Excellent modification and chromatin remodelling events that enable gene transcription. We are investigating a family of poorly characterised transcription factors that we have found to function at blood genes and are required for normal blood differentiation. You can use our established CRISPR methodologies, whole genome chromatin assays and gene expression profiling to study how these factors work. Our CRISPR effector technology can be used to test your ideas of how gene regulatory patterns can be altered to improve genetic and cellular treatments for blood disorders.
Project 3: Development of novel CRISPR strategies for targeted gene therapies
Recent advances in genomics and epigenomics are uncovering the determinants of a wide variety of genetic and Excellent disorders. Coupled with the rapid progress of stem cell biology, there are many opportunities for novel and powerful genetic therapies using a patient’s own cells. Classical approaches of transgene delivery, often using viral vectors, encounter a number of problems such as the efficiency of gene delivery, chromosomal silencing and insertional mutagenesis. Powerful CRISPR technology has been used by many groups to perform accurate gene correction in patient stem cells or induced pluripotent cells. This is an exciting step, but these methods are very inefficient and require time consuming isolation and characterisation of corrected cells. We have devised novel genetic insertion methodologies that use CRISPR for highly efficient gene correction. Initial experiments using these methodologies look promising. You could develop and apply our methods to develop gene correction strategies for common genetic diseases. You would work in mammalian cell lines and stem cells and would focus on the efficiency and accuracy of your strategy and then the performance of the corrected gene locus. We collaborate with several groups that are developing gene correction strategies for blood and neurological disorders. Your work would also have impact on our industrial biotechnology projects.
Masters project placements
We are only able to offer research projects to Masters students from the University of Glasgow due to space limitations. Students should refer to project lists circulated internally and can contact Dr. West (include your CV and research interests) to enquire about availability. Please state your course of study.
The two CRISPR projects for summer 2017 have been allocated. We have no lab space to take on further students, so please seek an alternative project.
Occasionally we may have space to take on one undergraduate, typically a Scottish student over the summer break. Interns would be averaging a first class score and would be expected to apply for a studentship. Note: Places for summer 2016 are now taken.
Summer studentship schemes