PhD Studentship (Developmental Mechanics) at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge

The Wellcome/Cancer Research UK Gurdon institute is a leading institution in basic research of development and cancer, embedded in the first-class interdisciplinary environment of the University.

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD studentship in the group led by Dr Fengzhu Xiong, on a project titled Tissue mechanics in body axis symmetry. For further information about Dr Xiong’s group, please go to

Xiong Lab is interested in the role and regulation of tissue mechanics in morphogenesis (shape change) during development. We integrate a variety of tools from imaging to soft matter physics with the long-term goal of quantitatively predicting morphogenesis. Early vertebrate embryos increase the length of the body significantly during somitogenesis while maintaining straightness. The cell dynamics and tissue forces that prevent axis curvature remain unknown. The project will involve: observing and analysing the dynamics and variability of tissue symmetry and cell behaviours in avian embryos; performing microsurgeries and quantitative tissue force measurements to understand the mechanical constraints on the body axis; developing computational models linking signalling, cell dynamics to tissue mechanics to assess robustness of symmetry. A variety of other projects on tissue mechanics are possible, depending on the student’s interest and background. The student is expected to complete the PhD thesis in the fourth year of study.

Applicants must have (or expect to obtain) a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in developmental biology, genetics, physics and/or engineering disciplines relevant to the project. Motivation, creativity and intellectual independence are desirable as are excellent communication skills with the ability to work collaboratively. This project includes full funding for University and College fees and a stipend. Applicants are encouraged to seek external funding sources. For example, applicants eligible for various scholarships at Cambridge ( should submit a copy of the application through the University portal and select Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience graduate course before the deadline.

To apply, please send the following as a combined PDF file to, please indicate “Application – PR21447” in your email subject:

  • CV (PDF file listing awards and honours, publications and research/work experiences),
  • Copy of your undergraduate transcript (and certified English translation if applicable)
  • A research writing sample (e.g., a publication, undergraduate or masters dissertation, internship project report, etc)
  • A statement of interest (limit of 2,500 characters) should explain your research career motivation and how this PhD training will help you improve your knowledge and skills.

In addition, please arrange 3 recommendation letter to be sent to directly from the referees with the reference number PR21447 and your name in the title.

The closing date for applications is 7 January 2020, with interviews expected to take place in February.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 4 years in the first instance.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity. Benefits include generous maternity/paternity leave, flexible working and funds for returning carers and other family friendly schemes. The Gurdon Institute is committed to equality and diversity in the workplace, for more information go to

Click the ‘Apply’ button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

If you have any questions about this vacancy or the application process, please contact

Please quote reference PR21447 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

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