INSPIRE Summer Studentships - 2016 - applications now live.

Phase 1 students are invited to apply to undertake a one-month, Summer Research Studentship in one of the Medical School's affiliated research departments or centres starting in June 2016*.

These studentships are sponsored by the Academy of Medical Sciences INSPIRE scheme.

There are 8 studentships available and each one will have a £1250 bursary available to the successful applicant (£1000 stipend to the student, and £250 research consummables to the supervisor) - with the stipend to be paid at a weekly rate of £250 over a 4-week period.

The studentships are aimed at students who are interested in a career in academic medicine and mentoring support will be given to successful applicants during and after the studentship to pursue appropriate academic goals to enter the research career pathway. Such support will include advice on intercalation, opportunities for further SSC work and career guidance on applying for the Academic Foundation Training Programme.

Projects available 2016:

Studentships are available in the following areas - all projects will have an element of patient involvement/information to be carried out during the studentship or after its completion - please see attached document for more information on each project:

Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease - Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) - Dr Roger Thompson

Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Science - Gene expression in low wall shear stress in atherosclerotic plaques development - Dr Feng Shuang

Neuroscience - Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) - Professor Oliver Bandmann

Academic Unit of Primary Care - Evaluation of an alternative care pathway for emergency care after a suspected seizure - Dr Jon Dickson

Academic Unit of Primary Care - Exploring the link between Gestational Diabetes and developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus - Dr Brian McMillan

Academic Unit of Medical Education - A scoping literature review of the impact of social accountability interventions in healthcare education - Professor John Sandars

INSIGNEO - Genetic causes of ataxia - Dr Alisdair McNeill

CMIAD - Breast cancer survival and the expression of adhesion protein tensin-3 - Dr Elena Rainero

Neuroscience - Astrocytes and the Central Nervous System - Dr Laura Ferriauolo

Neuroscience - Alzheimer's and disease modifying therapy - Dr Heather Mortiboys

Oncology and Metabolism - Long Coding RNAs in the cell regulation process in cancer - Dr James Bradford

Oncology and Metabolism - Macrophages and muscular dystrophy in the mouse model - Dr Gaynor Miller


All students will be assigned an INSPIRE Mentor who will continue to offer support and career guidance throughout the MBChB and all successful studentship holders will become part of a Sheffield community of INSPIRE scholars and will, as such, be invited to future INSPIRE events.

Please use this form to submit your application. You must give a full statement of your interest in academic medicine. As a condition of the studentship you are expected to be or become a member of the Sheffield Academic Medicine Society (SAMS). One of the studentships is reserved for applicants from widening participation/SOAMS backgrounds.

Please apply by Monday 16 May 2016.

* Studentships to take place in a 4-week block between: 20th June and 16th September 2016. The supervisor and the student must agree the dates together.

Inspire logo

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)

Supervisor: Dr Roger Thompson, Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease

Project Description

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a devastating condition characterised by progressive pulmonary vascular remodelling and right heart failure and has a prognosis worse than many cancers. The mechanisms of vascular remodelling are poorly understood but a key problem is abnormal pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell (PASMC) proliferation. New ways of controlling proliferation may lead to new treatments. Double-stranded RNA inhibits growth factor-induced PASMC proliferation. This project will investigate the effect of double-stranded RNA size on PASMC proliferation. Students will learn about cell culture, gel electrophoresis and techniques to measure cell proliferation.

Patient Involvement

The patient group,PHA UK, organises events such as its family weekend and 3-day annual conference providing opportunities to present this work. The student will be welcome to attend clinics and the weekly MDT.

Apply for this project here

Back to top

Inspire logo

Gene expression in low wall shear stress in atherosclerotic plaques development

Supervisor: Dr Feng Shuang, Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease

Project Description

Atherosclerotic plaques develop predominantly branches and bends of the arterial tree that are exposed to disturbed blood flow, which generates low wall shear stress (WSS). By contrast, straight, unbranched arteries exposed to non-disturbed flow are protected from lesion development. We hypothesise that wall shear stress affects endothelial cell injury and protection by activating novel signaling pathways that control apoptosis and inflammatory activation. By using microarray technology, we have already identified genes that are differentially expressed at low or high WSS regions. In this project we will validate the differential expression of some candidate genes by using orbital shear stress model and qPCR.

Patient Involvement

We will invite a group of cardiology patients to a presentation from the student after his/her completion of the project. Patients at cardiology clinic at the Northern General Hospital will be invited by their consultant physicians. We expect considerable interest from the patient group since they are motivated to learn more about the cardiovascular system.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)

Supervisor: Professor Oliver Bandmann, Department of Neuroscience

Project Description

This project will focus on Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). LBD is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. The relevance of genetic risk factors for LBD is increasingly recognized. The student will study the interaction of different genetic risk factors for LBD in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Whole mount in situ hybridisation and Q-PCR will be performed for a range of different genes previously implicated in LBD in wild type zebrafish larvae and compared to the expression pattern in a mutant zebrafish line carrying a mutation in the glucocerebrosidase 1 gene which is the most important risk factor for LBD.

Patient Involvement

The Alzheimer Society has a special forum to which the student would be invited. S/he would then have the opportunity to present their data at this meeting.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Genetic causes of ataxia

Supervisor, Dr Alisdair McNeill, INSIGNEO Institute for in silico medicine

Project description

Different genetic causes of ataxia are characterised by overlapping symptoms and physical signs. In a significant proportion of individuals, genetic screening tests identify multiple genetic variants, therefore clinical markers are needed to diagnose causal variants. This project is part of ongoing work implementing gait analysis techniques to detect subtle gait characteristics of ataxia which elude clinical detection, in order to identify distinguishing motor phenotypes of different genetic causes of ataxia. It will involve the recruitment and assessment of healthy individuals as control subjects and of patients with Spinocerebellar Ataxia 6 (who present with “pure ataxia”) for comparison

Patient Involvement

Direct contact with patients

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Evaluation of an alternative care pathway for emergency care after a suspected seizure

Supervisor: Dr Jon Dickson, Academic Unit of Primary Care

Project Description

Evaluation of an alternative care pathway for emergency care after a suspected seizure.

Patient Involvement

Students will engage with a pre-formed PPI group for a larger programme of research into Pre-hospital Care after a Seziure.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Exploring the link between Gestational Diabetes and developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Supervisor: Dr Brian McMillan, Academic Unit of Primary Medical Care

Project description

Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) are over seven times more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM), the health effects of which include an average reduced life expectancy of 10 years. Maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise reduces the risk of these women developing T2DM. We hope to design an intervention aimed at reducing the risk of T2DM amongst women who have had GD. This project would involve conducting a literature review of research in this area, generating a laypersons summary of this, and running a PPI group with patients to discuss the findings from the review.

Patient Involvement

The student will discuss the findings from the literature review with a PPI group in order to provide further insights into how we might intervene in this patient group to reduce their risks of developing T2DM.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

A scoping literature review of the impact of social accountability interventions in healthcare education

Supervisor: Professor John Sandars, Academic Unit of Medical Education.

Project Description

A scoping literature review of the impact of social accountability interventions in healthcare education. There is increasing interest in social accountability, including the Sheffield Medical School, but the impact of these interventions on both student learning and health of the community is uncertain. This review will identify gaps in core knowledge and guide further research. There is a high potential for publication in medical education journals.

Skills will be developed in literature review methodology, realistic synthesis methodology and presentation skills.

Patient Involvement:

Presentation of the project will be to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Social Accountability Steering Group which includes patient and public members.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Breast cancer survival and the expression of adhesion protein tensin-3

Supervisor: Dr Elena Rainero, CMIAD

Project description

My lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms controlling cancer cell invasion and how cell-extracellular matrix interaction contributes to this. The adhesion protein tensin-3 is associated with poor survival in breast cancer patients. In this project, tensin-3 expression will be assessed in a panel of normal and breast cancer cells by Western Blot analysis, to confirm its up-regulation in cancer. Moreover, 3D invasion assays, coupled with high resolution microscopy, will be used to determine the consequences of tensin-3 down-modulation in breast cancer cell invasion. The outcome of these experiments will assess whether tensin-3 represents a novel regulator of breast cancer invasiveness.

Patient Involvement

Under my supervision, the student will write a lay article about the project and its impact on cancer research. This will be shared as a blog post using medium.com.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logoAstrocytes and the Central Nervous System

Supervisor Dr Laura Ferraiuolo, Department of Neuroscience

Project Description

Astrocytes from different areas of the central nervous system (CNS) express different markers, specific sets of ligands and receptors to communicate with neighbouring neurons and the other glial cells.

This can have important implications for Alzheimer’s and motor neuron disease, where astrocyte-neuron communication is likely to be impaired.

We have transcriptomics data available to identify gene expression differences between astrocytes isolated from different CNS areas and will validate the findings via immunohistochemistry.

In addition to the laboratory research, the project will include attendance at some memory clinics and an introduction to the wider AD and dementia-related research ongoing at Sheffield.

Patient involvement

The project will include attendance at some memory clinics and an introduction to the wider AD and dementia-related research ongoing at Sheffield

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Alzheimer's and disease modifying therapy

Supervisor: Dr Heather Mortiboys, Department of Neuroscience

Project description

Despite recent scientific and clinical advances there is still no disease-modifying therapy for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Mitochondrial abnormalities is an important pathogenic mechanism. We have patient cells in which we have identified a mitochondrial abnormality; however the cause of this mitochondrial dysfunction is unclear. The proposed project will investigate the transcript level of several mitochondrial genes in fibroblasts derived from controls and patients with AD. Complementing the laboratory research, the student will also attend memory clinics, participate in in clinical and dementia research tutorials to provide an introduction to the wider AD and dementia-related research ongoing at Sheffield.

Patient involvement

The student will attend memory clinics with direct patient contact and attend patient public involvements groups to interact with patients and carers alike.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Long Coding RNAs in the cell regulation process in cancer

Supervisor: Dr James Bradford, Oncology and Metabolism

Project description

"Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are emerging as crucial regulators of cellular processes and diseases such as cancer. However, their functions remain poorly understood. To address this, we are developing novel computational approaches to functionally characterise lncRNAs and establish their importance in tumour progression. In collaboration with the Sheffield siRNA screening facility (Dr Stephen Brown), the student will perform phenotypic screens to establish the function of several lncRNAs determined by the in silico pipeline as uniquely expressed in cells surrounding the tumour. Since these cells are critical in supporting tumour growth, validated lncRNAs have rich potential as novel cancer biomarkers/therapeutic targets.

Patient Involvement

The student will arrange for a presentation to an appropriate patient group at the end of the project.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top

Inspire logo

Macrophages and muscular dystrophy in the mouse model

Supervisor: Dr Gaynor Miller, Oncology and Metabolism

Project description

Suppressing macrophages at early stages of muscular dystrophy is beneficial but has many side effects. Therefore, we generated a transgenic mouse in which we can induce depletion of CD68+ve macrophages specifically. We hypothesis that DEPLETING CD68+ve macrophages will reduce muscle cell damage and increase muscle strength in muscular dystrophy. Our transgenic line has been crossed with the mdx mouse model of muscular dystrophy and depletion has been induced for 6 weeks. Muscles from depleted and control mice will be assessed for the following hallmarks of disease: centrally nucleated myofibres, infiltration of immune cells, fibrosis and membrane damage.

Patient Involvement

The student will attend a local neuromuscular clinicians clinic for patients and their carers.

Apply for this project here.

Back to top