Undergraduate summer studentships

Dean's Vacation Research Scholarships

Deadline for applications is 3rd February 2023 at noon.  Please send your application via email to fbsris@leeds.ac.uk.  Applications should consist of a covering letter, along with your curriculum vitae.  A maximum of two projects can be applied for.  If applying for two projects, please state your order of preference.

These projects are offered by Faculty postdocs and internally funded.  Applicants will be shortlisted and invited for interview.  The intention of these awards is that successful candidates will be supervised in the lab by the postdoc leading the project.  However, whilst every effort will be made to offer lab placements, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be that an alternative literature project has to be offered.  The stipend offered to the undergraduate is £200 per week.

Project supervisor Project details

Dr Emily Churchill

Job description


Identifying important social cues for egg laying decisions

Social and physical environments are highly variable, and so females must adjust their behaviours to increase their reproduction. Female Drosophila fruit flies can cooperate and group their eggs together to avoid searching costs and thus maximise their reproductive output, but little is known about what cues they use to do this. This project aims to answer two key questions:

1) How does female mating status impact egg location decisions?

You will test whether unmated females make similar egg location decisions to mated females, to understand whether unfertilised eggs would provide mated females with information regarding the quality of potential laying sites.

2) How does egg status impact cooperation?

As larvae can be cannibalistic there is likely a trade-off between the benefits of cooperation and the costs of cannibalisation risk, when choosing to join an existing egg cluster. You will test female responses to different egg statuses (unfertilised, recently laid, and close to hatching) to investigate whether females can differentiate between these in their egg placement decisions

Dr Sophie Hazelden

Job description

Identifying the effect of piglet rearing environment on their gastrointestinal tract structure

The successful candidate will learn how to process samples for histological analysis and determine differences in gastrointestinal tract structure of pigs reared either indoors or outdoors before weaning. As part of this project you will conduct a literature review to determine a successful method to measure and analyse villus height and width, crypt depth and the villus height to crypt depth ratio of pig gastrointestinal tract samples. You will learn how to process and section gastrointestinal tract samples for staining and scanning of histology before accurately measuring gut structure parameters using the method previously determined. The candidate will gain experience in statistical analysis and use the results obtained to compile a report documenting and discussing findings in relation to their relevance to the UK pig industry.

Dr Varinder Lall

Job description

Peripheral gate in somatosensory system. 

Working in a world-leading pain laboratory, you will further investigate the potential peripheral gate control theory of pain. Using transgenic mouse lines in which cells involved in either nociceptive or proprioceptive signalling can be optogenetically ‘switched on and off’ the Gamper group aims to shed light on some of the mechanisms involved in the potential peripheral gate. A successful candidate will plan and utilise immunofluorescence experiments to reveal the locations of these genetically modified cells of interest 1) within the DRG, 2) in the associated fibers in both the peripheral and central aspects of the nerve, 3) within the forepaw of mice and rats. In addition, C-Fos (a marker for neuronal activity) immunofluorescence staining will be conducted after stimulations to the forepaw during simultaneous recordings from the arterially perfused preparation to reveal which neurons were active during the stimulation. The successful candidate will use confocal microscopy to image sections of animal tissue, analyse and present the data to the group.

Dr Molly Patterson

Job description

Elucidate the role of LPP in HPV-driven cancer 

The student will aim to unveil the role of LPP in HPV-driven cancers to understand how the LASP1-LPP interaction contributes towards HPV-driven malignancies. This will provide new knowledge of how HPV dysregulates host cell biology and will reveal new therapeutic targets. Models to research LASP1 activity have been established in the lab and the student will be responsible for confirming the interaction between LPP and LASP1 before characterising the role of LPP in HPV+ cancers. This will be done using a combination of shRNA-mediated knockdown of LPP (LPP KD) and transient overexpression to investigate effects on proliferation, invasion and migration. Given the proposed role of LPP in metastasis, the student will use specific assays to investigate cell motility and cell spreading such as filopodia measurement. 

The successful applicant will become proficient in many cell biology techniques essential for continuing further in molecular or cell biology research including; western blotting, RNA extractions, qRT-PCR, luciferase reporter assays, microscopy and various tissue culture assays (including proliferation and colony formation assays). The successful applicant will be able to work with both HPV- and HPV+ cell lines derived from multiple sites including cervical and oropharyngeal carcinomas.

Dr Shihab Shah

Job description

Divide and rule: localised Ca2+ signalling in sensory neurons  

One important question we would like to answer is if these complexes are independent of each other or if this is part of one ‘wider’ domain. The following work will be undertaken by the student: 

The student will be tasked with performing immunostaining on dorsal root ganglion (DRG) slices with ANO1 and Orai1/STIM1/JPH4 antibodies. This will include hands-on extraction of DRG from rats, fixation, slicing and the process of staining for the protein(s) of interest. If successful, double or triple protein staining may be attempted. Images will be taken using confocal microscopes, allowing the student to experience using such technology. 

Proximity Ligation Assay (PLA) 
PLA is a technique which allows us to visualise proximity between 2 proteins (<30nm). ANO1 and Orai1/STIM1/JPH4 protein pairs will be tested to confirm if there is any proximity between these proteins. If positive data is gathered with this technique, stimulation of inflammatory pathways can be performed to see if there is any change in protein dynamics after such an event. For example, will there be a change in the proximity between proteins after stimulation with bradykinin? Overall, this will allow us to get an idea of the type of signalling domains present during inflammatory signalling.