Job Opportunities

Job Opportunities

PhD studentship in Molecular Cell Biology, Centre for Biomedical Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London Laboratory of Prof Robin SB Williams


Closing Date: 20 August 2014

Project title:

Identifying novel molecular mechanisms for cannabinoids in epilepsy control using a simple non-animal model system

Project description:

Epilepsy is a common and severe neurological condition affecting up to 1% of the population worldwide. Despite the development of a range of new anti-epileptic drugs around 30% of diagnosed patients continue to experience seizures. Therefore the development of new treatments for epilepsy provides a solution to a major unmet need. Recently a range of components of cannabis that lack psychoactive effects have demonstrated promising anti-epileptic activity. Surprisingly, the molecular mechanism of these components remains unclear. We have employed the simple biomedical model system, Dictyostelium, to identify unknown molecular mechanisms of a range of compounds used in epilepsy control and for other therapeutic treatments and natural products. In this PhD, we will extend the use of Dictyostelium to identify the molecular mechanism of cannabinoids in relation to epilepsy control.

The successful applicant will use Dictyostelium and other models to identify and characterize molecular mechanisms of cannabinoids involving a range of molecular cell biology techniques. The project forms part of a wider preclinical investigation and so the successful applicant will form part of, and be supported by, a wider research team based at other academic sites, and by ongoing clinical studies. Thus, the project will involve an integrated approach for the analysis of cannabinoid function in health in multiple systems. All equipment, expertise and facilities necessary for the conduct of the project have been fully funded or are already in place. Appropriate training will be given as necessary.

This will be an extremely competitive program and applications are requested from outstanding Masters graduates or undergraduate students in their final year of a degree, with background knowledge in the areas of biochemistry, molecular biology, or cell biology.

The project will provide a stipend of £12 593 p/a. Please note that successful applicants must have appropriate UK/EU residence eligibility. Funding is provided by our industrial partner, GW pharmaceuticals.

Some recent references:
Dictyostelium and molecular cell biology studies:
• Walker and Williams (2013) The search for better epilepsy treatments: from slime mould to coconuts. Biochem. Soc. Trans. 41(6):1625-8.
• Waheed et al (2013) Naringenin inhibits the growth of Dictyostelium and MDCK-derived cysts in a polycystin-2 (TRPP2)-dependent manner. British Journal of Pharmacology. 171(10):2659-7.
• Robery et al (2013) A novel human receptor involved in bitter tastant detection identified using the model organism Dictyostelium discoideum. Journal of Cell Science, 126(23):5465-76.
• Chang et al (2012) The anti-epileptic valproic acid and other medium chain fatty acids acutely reduce phosphoinositide levels independently of inositol in Dictyostelium. Disease Models and Mechanism, 5(1):115-24.
Cannabinoids and epilepsy:
• Devinsky et al (2014) Cannabidiol: Pharmacology and potential therapeutic role in epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Epilepsia, 55(6):791-802.
• Hill et al (2012) Cannabidivarin is anticonvulsant in mouse and rat. Br J Pharmacol, 167(8):1629-42.
• Jones et al (2010) Cannabidiol displays antiepileptiform and antiseizure properties in vitro and in vivo. J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 332(2):569-77.


For further enquiries, please contact Prof Robin SB Williams (email) Application forms and a description of the application procedure are available at (Application). Please mark your application (under field of study) as ‘to work with Prof Robin Williams’.

(posted July 24, 2014)

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