Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain (SIDB) PhD Studentships

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Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain

Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain (SIDB) PhD Studentships 2024

Applications are invited for 3.5-year full time PhD studentships, fully-funded with a generous stipend, in subjects 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. The projects on offer are (alphabetical by 1st supervisor):

 2024 Entry Projects Available:

  1. Investigating the role of PAX6 in neural connectivity during human forebrain development using organoids (1st supervisor: Sam Booker)
  2. Development of gene circuits therapies for the treatment of gene dosage sensitive neurodevelopmental disorders (1st supervisor: Stuart Cobb)
  3. Dissecting the molecular functions and regulation of local SHANK3 protein synthesis (1st supervisor: Paul Donlin-Asp)
  4. Network mechanisms underlying cognitive deficits but motor resilience in a mouse model of Rett syndrome. (1st supervisor: Ian Duguid)
  5. Neuronal Activity During Epileptic Activity in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (1st supervisor: Alfredo Gonzalez-Sulser)
  6. Synaptome complexity in autism (1st supervisor: Seth Grant)
  7. Defining the Molecular and Developmental Basis of Bohring-Opitz Syndrome. (1st supervisor: Rob Illingworth; 2nd supervisor: John Mason)
  8. Investigation of the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive dysfunction in rat models of autism (1st supervisor: Marino Pagan)
  9. Visual discrimination deficits in a mouse model of SYNGAP1 haploinsufficiency (1st supervisor: Nathalie Rochefort)
  10. Exploring Primary Cilia Function in Autism Spectrum Disorders (1st supervisor: Thomas Theil)
  11. Tactile and pain sensitivity in a CRISPR/Cas9 Grin2b rat model of autism (1st supervisor: Carole Torsney)
  12. Investigating the origins and consequences of deficient neural coding of self-motion in a rat model of Fragile X Syndrome. (1st supervisor – Emma Wood, 2nd supervisor TBC).

About the 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, second supervisor and, depending on the project, a third supervisor to support and guide them towards submission of a PhD thesis within 3.5 years.

The successful candidates will be based within the 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.

Eligibility and Funding

This is a SIDB-funded award. It will provide an annual stipend for 3.5 years of £21,080 per annum which will be annually amended in line with RCUK stipend percentage changes (currently based on the GDP deflator), plus tuition fees (including international).

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, genetics, or computational biology).

Applicants should also meet the English language requirements for admission to the relevant postgraduate programme at the University of Edinburgh (see entry requirements under Neuroscience (Biomedical Sciences - Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences) PhD).

How to Apply and Deadline

  • SIDB are now recruiting for entry in September 2024. Projects are advertised on the SIDB website where you can find full details of all projects.
  • Applicants should submit 1 application form, specifying up to three of the PhD projects listed.
  • Please note: When you apply, you are applying to join the SIDB cohort to complete a SIDB-funded PhD. You are not applying to each project individually, but identifying your top 3 favourite projects offered by SIDB. Therefore, on the application form, please indicate why you are interested to join SIDB, though you are welcome, in addition, to mention why you have selected specific projects.
  • Please download the Application Form from the SIDB website and, when completed, email it to
  • Please ensure your two references are also submitted by the deadline to the above email address (directly by your referees).
  • Deadline: 5 pm, 21st January 2024
  • Interviews will be held in February 2024

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. The studentships will begin in September 2024.

If you have an enquiry about the programme, please email SIDB Centre Administrator: Jane Wright at