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 around £15,000 per year 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.

2018 Entry Projects Available

The projects on offer are:

  1. Developing and evaluating novel genetic therapies in models of SynGAP deficiency, Dr Stuart Cobb and Dr Ralph Hector (Glasgow) 
  2. Does dysregulation of the presynaptic critical period contribute to autism?, Professor Mike Cousin
  3. The Impact and Reversibility of Autism-Associated De Novo Mutations on Neuronal Differentiation, Professor David Fitzpatrick
  4. Cell specific proteomics and translation in rodent models of autism spectrum disorders, Dr Christos Gkogkas
  5. Application of synatome technology to the study of autism, Professor Seth Grant
  6. Building brains in a dish – cerebral organoids as tools to explore mechanisms underlying Autism Spectrum Disorders, Professor David Price
  7. Testing positive modulation of GluN2B as a convergent therapeutic strategy for ASD/ID, Dr Emily Osterweil
  8. Predictive coding impairment in mouse models of autistic spectrum disorders, Dr Nathalie Rochefort
  9. Investigating hippocampal-prefrontal network changes underlying the changes and deficits in cognition across development in rat models of ASD, Dr Emma Wood​

How to Apply

Visit our page on applying and download the EdNeuro.PhD application form. 

Candidates can select up to three of the PhD projects listed. The personal statement in the application form should cover:  which projects you are interested in and why, also why you would be a good fit for the projects you have selected.  

Once you have fully completed the application form please email it to  Please contact your referees and arrange for them to send your references directly to the '' email address with your full name and project codes in the subject line (see the 'References' section of the Applying web page). The deadline for receipt of references will be 3 days after the application deadline.  If you have an enquiry about the studentships please email Dr Beverly Roberts (SIDB Scientific Administrator).

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. 


The call for applications is now open with a deadline of Monday 15th January 2018.

Two-day interviews will be held on 8th and 9th February 2018. The studentships will begin in September 2018.