Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain (SIDB) PhD Studentships

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Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain

Applications are invited for 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, 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.


This is a Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain funded award. It will provide an annual stipend for 3.5 years of £15,235 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, genetics, computational biology or psychology for the Stanfield project). 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. International students are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply and Deadline

The call for applications for September 2020 ARE NOW OPEN. The deadline for all applications is 5pm on Sunday 12th January 2020. Two-day interviews will be held on 4th and 5th February 2020.

Our projects are listed individually under the "Available Projects" tab. Our project codes follow the format 2020-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 supporting 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. It is your responsibility to follow-up on your references.

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.

Download application form

2020 Projects Available 

The projects on offer for the SIDB PhD programme are:

2020-SIDB-01: Is the presynapse subject to an altered developmental trajectory in autism?

1st supervisor: Mike Cousin; 2nd supervisor: Peter Kind; 3rd supervisor: Katherine Bonnycastle

2020-SIDB-02: Sensorimotor decision-making in a mouse model of Rett Syndrome

1st supervisor: Ian Duguid; 2nd supervisors: Stuart Cobb & Peter Kind; 3rd supervisor: Sophie Thompson

2020-SIDB-03: Developmental and therpeutic intervention of EEG abnormalities in early life in rodent models of autism and intellectual disability

1st supervisor: Alfredo Gonzalez-Sulser; 2nd supervisor: Cathy Abbott

2020-SIDB-04: Studies of excitatory and inhibitory balance in autism

1st supervisor: Seth Grant; 2nd supervisor: Noboru Komiyama

2020-SIDB-05: Identifying mistranslating mRNAs in specific neural circuits of mouse models of autism

1st supervisor: Emily Osterweil; 2nd supervisor: Chris Sibley

2020-SIDB-06: Investigating interneuron development in autism

1st supervisor: Thomas Pratt; 2nd supervisor: David Price; 3rd supervisor: Idoia Quintana Urzainqui

2020-SIDB-07: Convergent molecular mechanisms of autism resulting from mis-processing of RNA-binding proteins

1st supervisor: Chris Sibley; 2nd supervisor: John Mason; 3rd supevisor: Aida Cardona

2020-SIDB-08: Testing computational mechanisms for cognitive differences in human ASD populations

1st supervisor: Andrew Stanfield; 2nd supervisor: Matthew Nolan

2020-SIDB-09: Imaging cortical codes for learning and memory in models of autism spectrum disorders

1st supervisor: Gulsen Surmeli; 2nd supervisor: Emma Wood; 3rd supervisor: Matthew Nolan

2020-SIDB-10: Investigating a role of Cdkl5 in cortical development involving the primary cilium

1st supervisor: Thomas Theil; 2nd supervisor: Pleasantine Mill

2020-SIDB-11: Assessing convergence in models of ASD: Physiology and behaviour in 16p11.2 deletion rats

1st supervisor: David Wyllie; 2nd supervisor: Peter Kind; 3rd supervisor: Emma Wood

2020-SIDB-12: Sensory hypersensitivity in autism spectrum disorders: Disrupted postnatal wiring of tactile spinal circuits?

1st supervisor: Carole Torsney; 2nd supervisor: David Wyllie


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