Four Funded PhD Studentships

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The School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University is pleased to offer four funded PhD studentships. Please refer to the descriptions below for details on the four PhD studentships.
1) PhD Studentship in Genomics and Molecular Evolution
We have a fully funded studentship for a doctoral student to join Dr Maxim Kapralov in an exciting project at the interface between Genomics, Molecular Evolution and Plant Sciences. The position is available immediately and applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Please note that due to funding regulations the position is available to UK or EU nationals only.
Project title: Disentangling three billion years of coevolution between Rubisco and its chaperones for crop biotechnology.
Project description:
Population growth puts increasing demands on agriculture while the world’s crop productivity is stagnating. At the same time efficiency of photosynthesis has been little changed, and remains below its biological limits. The next green revolution will be based on increasing the efficiency and productivity of photosynthesis in crop plants via its re-engineering using computational and genetic techniques, and will be one of the greatest scientific challenges in the coming decades for both academia and business alike.
The aim of this project is to answer the question “Could we improve global crop yield by re-engineering key photosynthetic enzymes and their chaperones using evolutionary algorithms?” which involves understanding of molecular coevolution between the Rubisco enzyme complex and its numerous assembly and catalytic chaperones, which performance limits photosynthetic efficiency in plants. Bioinformatics analysis will be combined with genetic engineering of model organisms to prove the validity of the concept that plant productivity could be increased by re-engineering Rubisco and its chaperones.
The student will develop skills in bioinformatics and biotechnology – two areas with high employability in academia and private sector alike. Training in computational and molecular laboratory techniques will be provided at the Liverpool John Moores University by Dr Maxim Kapralov, while training in the state of the art plant transformation and biotechnology techniques will be provided by Dr Spencer Whitney during student’s visit to the Australian National University.
Whitney SM, Birch R, Kelso C, Beck JL, Kapralov MV (2015). Improving recombinant Rubisco biogenesis, plant photosynthesis and growth by coexpressing its ancillary RAF1 chaperone. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(11), 3564-3569.
Any specific eligibility requirements:
The project is predominantly computationally-based and can accommodate a person with bioinformatics/modelling/computational/structural biology background who is willing to get his/her hands ’wet’ for a short period during PhD and develop experimental skills to broaden his/her horizons. However, candidates with ‘wet’ laboratory background who have some bioinformatics/coding experience and are willing to walk this extra mile and develop their computational skills are encouraged to apply too. Applicants should have a first or a very good upper second undergraduate degree (or overseas equivalent) in either bioinformatics or biology.
In the first instance make an informal enquiry by e-mail to Dr Maxim Kapralov by sending a CV with contact details of two academic referees.
2) PhD Studentship: Media-multitas king and executive functioning in young adults
Research Centre for Brain and Behaviour, Faculty of Science, Liverpool John Moores University
Research Supervisors: Dr Anna Law, Dr Anne-Marie Adams & Dr Fiona Simmons
Funding: Fees paid plus annual stipend of £13,863.
Project Summary
How many windows do you have open on your computer while reading this advert? Or, are you reading it onyour phone/tablet, browsing the web whilst also listening to music or watching the television? If so, you are engaging in media-multitasking, an increasingly common type of behaviour since the rise of mobile technology. You may ask: what’s wrong with that? Although there have been alarmist tabloid headlines about media- multitasking or media use in general doing us harm or making us perform poorly, we may have dismissed these as an old-fashioned moral panic from people resistant to change. However, empirical studies of media- multitasking have found differences in some aspects of cognitive control (executive functions) between people who media-multitask frequently, and people who hardly multitask at all. Is this really because media-multitasking affects our ability to control our cognitions, or just because people with particular styles of cognitive control tend to enjoy (or are better at) media-multitasking? What specific aspects of cognitive control are most relevant? These are important questions because high levels of media-multitasking have also been linked to poorer academic performance and reduced well-being.
The aim of this PhD project is to extend previous research by examining the relationship between media-multitasking frequency and a full range of executive functions, and then to move beyond self-reports to look at media-multitasking performance (assessed by comprehension of the information obtained from different media streams). The project will employ both correlational and experimental designs, investigating the relationship between media-multitasking and executive functioning in a systematic fashion. In this way you will have the opportunity to develop your research skill-set while expanding the evidence base relating to an important contemporary issue. You will be part of the Cognition, Education & Language Group within the Research Centre for Brain and Behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University, which will provide a supportive and friendly environment during your studies. Your programme of research will also be supported by funds of up to £1,500 per annum for associated costs (e.g., to facilitate the recruitment and management of participants).
Applicants must be UK or EU citizens, and hold a minimum 2.1 or First Class Honours degree and/or Masters qualification in Psychology (or equivalent). Applicants should have a keen interest in the real-world applications of cognitive psychology.
Application Procedure
All enquires and requests for further detail about the project are welcome. Please contact: Dr Anna Law on or +44(0)151 904 6227.
For applications, please submit a single file containing your CV and a covering letter explaining your interest in the topic and your motivations for pursuing a PhD. Please also include letters from two academic referees who can comment on your academic ability and suitability for postgraduate study (although these can follow at a later date if necessary).
Applications should be emailed to .
Application Deadline: Friday 23rd October 2015
Interviews will be held for short-listed applicants.
Applicants must be able to enrol on the programme by the end of December 2015.
3) PhD Studentship: Mobility and hydrodynamic implications for the long neck in Pleis ios aurs
Project Title: Mobility and hydrodynamic implications for the long neck in Pleisiosaurs
Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Supervisor: Dr Peter L. Falkingham, Dr Carlo Meloro, Dr David Wilkinson
Contact: Dr Peter Falkingham ( )
Funding: Fully funded through an LJMU Faculty studentship. Funding available to UK and EU students only.
Project description: Plesiosaurs are an extinct group of marine reptiles that flourished during the Mesozoic era (250 - 66 million years ago). One of the defining characters of the Plesiosauromorpha is an extremely long neck, capped by a relatively tiny head. What this long neck was used for is unclear. Various hypotheses have been proposed regarding its use, including snapping at fast moving shoals of fish, or enabling feeding while the animal floated at the surface or lying immobile at the bottom. However, the biomechanical implications of these scenarios remain untested. Indeed, even the effects on locomotion are poorly understood. It is clear that movement of such a long protruding neck would have drastic effects on the hydrodynamics of even a relatively slowly moving plesiosaur. This project aims to combine advanced imaging and simulation techniques to explore the functional and biomechanical implications of the long neck in Plesiosaurs. The successful applicant will combine 3D recording of range of motion in extant taxa and apply this data to reconstructing the range of motion of Plesiosaur necks. The student will then employ computational fluid dynamics to simulate the effects of moving the neck in a number of hypothesised life scenarios.
The ideal candidate will have a strong background (undergraduate 2.1, and/or Master’s degree) in biology, palaeontology, or engineering, preferably with experience of 3D CAD, simulation software, and/or programming.
Note: To apply send CV and cover letter directly to Dr Peter Falkingham. Applications must be received by 5pm October 30th 2015. The student needs to be able to start in December.
4) PhD Studentship for Research on the Autonomic Correlates of Listening Effort
The Effort Lab ( ) in the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University is pleased to offer a Faculty of Science PhD Studentship for research on the autonomic correlates of listening effort.
Project summary:
Many hearing-impaired patients with or without hearing aids show good results in standard clinical assessment tools but complain nevertheless about increased fatigue due to effortful listening. Researchers in audiology try to solve this problem by validating physiological measures (like heart rate or pupil dilation) as indicators of listening effort and predictors of fatigue. Such indicators of listening effort would provide valuable information for counselling and for the adaption of hearing aids to the patients' needs. Unfortunately, the considerable number of empirical publications on listening effort did not lead to conclusive evidence, so far. The project aims at advancing our understanding of listening effort by providing a systematic, theory-driven examination of the link between autonomic activity, listening effort, and subjective feelings of effort and fatigue. In a series of laboratory experiments, determinants of listening effort (e.g., the difficulty to understand speech in noise, the importance of understanding the speech) will be manipulated and their impact on sympathetic and parasympathetic functioning will be examined. Moreover, changes in autonomic activity will be used to predict changes in experienced effort and fatigue.
To be eligible for the PhD studentship, you must demonstrate outstanding academic qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 3 years. You should hold at least a good 2.1 Honours or Masters Degree in a psychology related subject (or an equivalent non-UK degree). Familiarity with laboratory and psychophysiological research would be advantageous. You must hold a UK or EU citizenship.
Funding notes:
The PhD studentship cover tuition fees and provide a stipend at the LJMU standard rate (in 2015/2016 this is £13,863 per annum) for three years. Possible start dates are November or December 2015.
How to apply:
If you would like to apply, please email a single PDF file including a covering letter (explaining your interest in the project), an academic curriculum vitae, and reference letters from two referees with knowledge of your academic suitability for undertaking a PhD to Dr. Michael Richter ( ). The closing date for applications is 9th October 2015. However, we review all applications on a rolling basis and therefore advise you to apply as soon as possible. For informal inquiries, please contact Dr. Michael Richter by email ( ). Share this PhD