World-Leading St Andrews Scholarship in Neuroscience2021 entry
The University of St Andrews is pleased to offer a full scholarship funded by St Leonard’s Postgraduate College, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following project:
Targeting Neurodegeneration: Developing New Treatments and Drug Discovery Tools
Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease remain one of the main non-communicable causes of ill health generating a huge social care burden. Globally, the numbers of people living with dementia will increase from 50 million in 2018 to 152 million by 2050, creating a devastating impact on patient lives and the lives of their carers and loved ones. No disease modifying therapies have been developed thus far.
Recent collaborative efforts between the Schools of Psychology and Neuroscience and Biology have uncovered a link between the anti-obesity hormone leptin and an intra-mitochondrial enzyme 17βHSD-10 connecting two important targets in anti-neurodegeneration drug research. The University of St Andrews holds patent applications for molecules to target both of these enzymes and as this project aims to fully characterise how leptin modulates 17βHSD-10 expression & activity, it has the potential to reveal novel drug development opportunities.
There is robust evidence that smaller fragments of leptin can elicit the same neuroprotective effects as the full length molecule and that simple chemical modifications can enhance their stability and suitability as drug candidates. Therefore, the candidate will use leptin as a template to design small peptides and screen them to assess their suitability as a drug candidate using a variety of research methods. By implementing a combination of cell biology, biochemistry and advanced imaging techniques they will also investigate the molecules and pathways that link leptin to 17βHSD-10 as they work together to protect neurons from the molecular changes associated with neurodegeneration and prevent nerve cells from dying. The student will be given guidance to develop a novel imaging-based screening assay for leptin mimetic compounds and peptides to rapidly determine which of these interact with nerve cells and thus represent potential new drugs. This single molecule imaging technique will allow us to visualise the effects of the enhanced peptides on the receptor at the cell surface that is necessary for their action. This will be followed by proof of concept (cell culture) studies to demonstrate retained signalling and anti-neurodegenerative capacity following modification from the original leptin molecule. This will involve demonstrating protective actions of these peptides through prevention of neuron death and repressing the activity and presence of disease-linked biomarkers, with particular focus on 17βHSD-10.
Overall, the training offered from this project will enable the student to develop skills in a range of biological and neuroscience techniques. They will work at the intersection of three research teams with a common aim to investigate the pathways that lead to neurodegeneration and uncover novel ways to target them. Working at the forefront of advances in the fields they will have opportunities to present their work to colleagues across Scotland and beyond as they develop transferrable skills in conjunction with their scientific training.
The student will be supervised by Dr Gayle Doherty (School of Psychology and Neuroscience) and Dr Juan Varela and Dr Laura Aitken (School of Biology).
Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to Dr Gayle Doherty – email firstname.lastname@example.org
Domicile for fee status
Level of study
Postgraduate Research (Doctoral)
Year of entry
2021-2022 academic year
The student can start their degree in September 2021, October 2021, January 2022, or May 2022. However, a start date of September or October 2021 is preferred.
School of Psychology and Neuroscience and School of Biology
Applicants must not already (i) hold a doctoral degree; or (ii) be matriculated for a doctoral degree at the University of St Andrews or another institution.
Duration of award
Up to 3.5 years. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.
Value of award
The award covers full tuition fees for the award term as well as an annual stipend payable at the standard UK Research Council rate (the 2021-22 annual rate is £15,560).
Tuition or maintenance award
Tuition and maintenance.
Doctoral Research at St Andrews
As a doctoral student at the University of St Andrews you will be part of a growing, vibrant, and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community. St Andrews is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world and offers a postgraduate experience of remarkable richness.
St Leonard’s Postgraduate College is at the heart of the postgraduate community of St Andrews. The College supports all postgraduates and aims to provide opportunities for postgraduates to come together, socially and intellectually, and make new connections.
St Leonard’s Postgraduate College works closely with the Postgraduate Society which is one of the most active societies within the Students’ Association. All doctoral students are automatically welcomed into the Postgraduate Society when they join the University.
In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home School, doctoral students at St Andrews have access to GRADskills – a free, comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.
- Apply for admission as a doctoral student. Please see the advice on Research programmes.
- After you have applied for your chosen Postgraduate Research course, you can apply for scholarships and funding by logging into My Application. After applying for your chosen course beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year, you must allow at least two working days for processing and issue of your log in details before you can apply for this scholarship.
- Select 2021/2 as the Academic Year and click Refresh list.
- Locate World-Leading St Andrews Doctoral Scholarships in the list of scholarships (using the filter box if necessary), click Apply and complete the application form.
- You can also use the catalogue to search and apply for other scholarships for which you are eligible.
If you are a current student at St Andrews, you can access Scholarships and Funding through MySaint. However, you should wait until after you have applied for your intended postgraduate programme before doing so, to ensure that the scholarship application is linked to that course.
As part of the scholarship application you will be required to upload a personal statement. This should serve as a cover letter for the research project application as a whole, and should include:
- An outline of your suitability for the project (project criteria can be found in the "Eligibility" and "Project Description" sections above).
- Why the project interests you.
- What you would bring to the project in terms of previous skills and expertise.
- Any ideas that you may have for the realisation of the project.
Please contact email@example.com with any enquiries about the scholarship application process.
When do applications open?
Scholarship application deadline
1 March 2021
When should I apply for the scholarship?
Apply for the scholarship as soon as possible after you have applied for admission.
When will I hear if my application has been successful?
Within two months of the application deadline.