Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain (SIDB) PhD Studentships

Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain (SIDB) PhD Studentships


Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain logo

Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain

Applications are invited for four 3.5 year full-time fully funded PhD studentships spanning basic and translational brain sciences in the biological mechanisms underlying autism. These studentships represent an exceptional opportunity for well-qualified, motivated individuals to conduct new research in an expert and highly-supportive environment. 

Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain (SIDB)

SIDB ( is a philanthropic Centre funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI, The over-arching purpose of SIDB is to discover the biological mechanisms underlying autism and to use this information to deliver rational therapeutic interventions. To achieve this, it brings together neuroscientists at the University of Edinburgh studying the brain at the level of molecules, cells, circuitry and behaviour, alongside clinical studies. This approach allows SIDB to address key aims in the study of autism:

  1. To determine whether there are critical periods during development when treatments are most effective and, if so, whether critical periods are treatment specific.
  2. To determine whether genetic convergence predicts convergence of phenotypic pathophysiology.
  3. To prepare deep-phenotyped trial ready cohorts.

The range of research themes within SIDB offer a unique opportunity to contribute to world-class research within autism studies. SIDB researchers within these research themes utilise a range of techniques to explore the biological mechanisms underlying autism. Students will have a principal and second supervisor to support and guide them towards submission of a PhD thesis within 3.5 years.


This is a Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain funded award. It will provide an annual stipend for 3.5 years of £15,000 per annum which will be amended annually in line with annual RCUK stipend percentage changes (currently based on the GDP deflator), plus fees at Home/EU level.  


Applicants should have a good (2:1 or higher) undergraduate degree in a relevant subject (including, but not necessarily limited to, neuroscience, biomedical sciences, molecular biology or genetics). Applicants should also meet the entry requirements – including English language requirements – for admission to postgraduate programmes at the University of Edinburgh. The successful candidate will be based within the new Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (CMVM) at the University of Edinburgh. They will join a vibrant, successful, highly-collaborative community of researchers across the University of Edinburgh examining the biological mechanisms underlying autism.

How to Apply and Deadline

The call for applications for September 2019 entry is now open. The deadline for all applications is Monday 14th January 2019. Two-day interviews will be held on 11th and 12th February 2019.

Our projects are listed under the "Available Projects" tab. Our project codes follow the format 2019-SIDB-01, 02 etc. Please apply following the instructions in the "Applying" tab.

Candidates should select up to three of the SIDB PhD projects listed. Your personal statement in the application from should cover: which projects you are interested in and why, and why you personally would be a good fit for these projects. Once you have completed the Edinburgh Neuroscience PhD application form please email it to Please contact your referees and arrange for them to send your references direct to with your full name and project code in the subject line. The deadline for receipt of references is 5 days after the application deadline.

Shortlisted candidates will be asked to make contact with the named supervisor(s) for their chosen project(s) to discuss the project in more detail; in most cases this will take the form of meetings in person on or near the interview day, but discussions can take place by phone or Skype if necessary.

2019 Projects Available 

The projects on offer for the SIDB PhD programme are:

1. Understanding how neurodevelopmental disorder-causing missense mutations in EEF1A2 impact on neuronal protein synthesisFirst supervisor: Cathy Abbott; Second supervisor: Jennifer Darnell

2. Cellular and circuit dysfunction and impaired decision-making in a mouse model of Rett SyndromeFirst supervisor: Ian Duguid; Second supervisors: Stuart Cobb, Peter Kind

3. What drives NMDA receptor dependent metaplasticity and how is it altered in monogenic models of ASD?First supervisor: Giles Hardingham; Second supervisors: Peter Kind and David Wyllie

4. Epigenetic balance in the developing brain – Understanding how the loss of opposing chromatin modifiers leads to convergent pathophysiologyFirst supervisor: Rob Illingworth; Second supervisor: John Mason

5. Role of microglia in brain development and plasticityFirst supervisor: Peter Kind; Second supervisor: Giles Hardingham, Claire Pridans

6. Convergence of spatial representation deficits in autism spectrum disordersFirst supervisor: Matt Nolan; Second supervisor: Emma Wood

7. Identifying mistranslating mRNAs in specific neural circuits of mouse models of autismFirst supervisor: Emily Osterweil; Second supervisor: Peter Kind

8. Predictive coding impairment in mouse models of autistic spectrum disordersFirst supervisor: Nathalie Rochefort; Second supervisor: Matthias Hennig

9. Long-term imaging of cortical representations in autism spectrum disordersFirst supervisor: Gulsen Surmeli; Second supervisor: Matt Nolan

10. Investigating hippocampal-prefrontal network changes underlying the changes and deficits in cognition across development in rat models of ASDFirst supervisor: Emma Wood; Second supervisor: Peter Kind

11. Finding, replenishig and repairing the damanged synapses in autism spectrum disordersFirst supervisor: Seth Grant; Second supervisor: Matthew Horrocks

12. Regulation of protein synthesis in early postnatal brain developmentFirst supervisor: Christos Gkogkas; Second supervisor: Oliver Hardt


If you have an enquiry about the programme please email Dr Beverly Roberts (SIDB Scientific Administrator).