PhD Opportunity

Improving the power of genetic studies for complex diseases with deep learning


Apply for this fully funded 4 years PhD scholarship to be part of new exciting collaboration between the University of St Andrews and Canon Medical Research Europe


The project
The field of genomics has made huge advances for a number of diseases for which extremely large sample sets (e.g hundreds of thousands) can be achieved. This is not the case for all conditions including language disorders (e.g. dyslexia, developmental language disorders and stuttering) because of the complexity around diagnosis and assessment. Through advanced computational approaches, we will develop novel methods to integrate this huge and valuable biological information into genomic studies. By making an intelligent use of pooled information, we will reduce the number of tests so that meaningful genetic studies can be carried out on relatively small samples, such as those currently available to study language disorders. However the tools that we will develop will be applicable to wider range of diseases.

The project builds on a three-way interdisciplinary partnership. Dr Silvia Paracchini (School of Medicine), Dr John Thomson (School of Computer Science) at the University of St Andrews are investigating the application of machine learning (ML) methods on genomics data. Dr Ian Poole, principal scientist at Canon Medical Research Europe with expertise in the development and application of ML approaches brings in the industry perspective.

The person
Applications are encouraged from graduates with backgrounds in bioinformatics, biology, statistics, mathematics, computer science and related disciplines. The ideal candidate will have an interest in the genomics of human diseases  and an aptitude for computational approaches. Some experience of working with genetic data would be desirable but not essential. A Masters degree in relevant disciplines would be an advantage.

Funding and training This projects provides a unique training opportunity for the student who, at the end of the PhD, will have the skills to work with large genomic datasets at the interface between medicine, bioinformatics and artificial intelligence (AI). The student will receive training for all scientific areas required by the project and in addition, through internship at Canon, will get exposed to different aspects of research commercialization.

The project is funded by Medical Research Scotland for four year, including a competitive scholarship and fees.

How to apply
For further details on the project and informal enquiries please contact to Dr. Silvia Paracchini with a CV and a covering letter. The start date for the PhD Studentship is negotiable and can start as soon as successful candidate is available.