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PhD position - Revealing host-pathogen interactions in tonsillar diseases using optical mesoscopy
Deadline 30 November 2023

A PhD position (fully funded for UK/EU students only) is available at the University of Strathclyde in the Centre for Biophotonics, in collaboration with researchers at the University of the West of Scotland and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The aim of this studentship is to assess the basic biology of diseased tonsils using advanced technologies not normally found in a clinical setting. The studentship will start in Autumn 2024, and will be of 3.5 years duration.

Acute recurrent tonsillitis (ART) is a common disease accounting for 1.3% of outpatient visits in the UK. It is predominantly the result of microbial infection and presents as a sore throat. However, ART can have significant consequences. Patients often have to take time off nursery/school, negatively impacting their education and quality of life. Moreover, the standard treatment is to receive multiple courses of antibiotics from their GP, which raises serious concerns about antibiotic resistance. If the patient has ≥7 episodes of ART a year tonsillectomy is recommended but this is a high-risk operation: 20% of tonsillectomy patients are readmitted to hospital within two weeks of their operation due to pain and bleeding. ART is a clinical diagnosis but very little is known about how the pathogens and immune system interact in this disease.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder in the UK. It causes repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep, resulting in periodic drops in oxygen saturation in organs and tissues. Studies have indicated a pro-inflammatory status in OSA patients, but there is limited information on the effects of OSA on the cellular immune system. Current research focuses on individual immune cell types and subtypes, neglecting the tonsil host environment or pathosome.

The Mesolens is a new microscope that was developed by the project supervisor at the University of Strathclyde specifically for high-resolution study of unusually large tissue volumes. We have recently applied the Mesolens to reveal the spatial location and burden of gram positive bacteria in tonsil tissue in three-dimensions. The proposed work builds on this pilot study to provide further, much-needed insights into the biology of tonsillar diseases.

The PhD project will use a combination of fluorescence imaging and sequencing methods to understand the host immune profile in tonsillar diseases and revealing the extent of correlation between the host immune profile and tonsil pathosome.

The project will primarily be based at the University of Strathclyde, in the city centre of Glasgow. The student will receive cutting-edge research training in optics, biophotonics and biophysics, tissue culture, histology and immunohistochemistry, as well as postgraduate teaching and training as part of the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance partnership through the Graduate School.

The successful applicant will have – or be expected to be awarded – a 2:1 Honours degree or above in a relevant technical subject. The student is expected be motivated and enthusiastic for multi-disciplinary research, and will have good communication skills. No formal research experience is required.


To apply, please send a CV (maximum of 2 pages) and a cover letter to Professor Gail McConnell (

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