PhD position available in the field of autophagy at the Department of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finland6.11.2017
PhD position available in the field of autophagy at the Department of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finland
Location: Department of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Supervisor: Prof. Eeva-Liisa Eskelinen
Length of appointment: 4 years
Indicative Starting date: May 2018
Type of Contract: temporary
Hours per week: 36 (full time)
Description: The PhD position is part of a collaborative project, DRIVE (Driving next generation autophagy researchers towards translation). DRIVE is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA) Innovative Training Network (ITN) H2020-MSCA-ITN-2017, funded by the European Commission under Grant Agreement number 765912. More information on the DRIVE consortium: https://drive-autophagy.eu/
The manipulation of autophagy has a vast therapeutic potential to revolutionize the way cancers, neurodegenerative disorders, inflammatory diseases and infectious diseases are treated. Despite the promises made by pioneering medical studies, limited applied research on autophagy has hampered the translation of fundamental knowledge into clinical grade products and improved healthcare. Applied autophagy research is essential to understand the roles of autophagy in the different physiological and pathological situations, to generate (disease) models and develop biomarkers and assays to assess its progress. The goal of the ITN Driving next generation autophagy researchers towards translation (DRIVE) is to train 15 young scientists to fill this gap. DRIVE will equip its PhD students with a unique combination of knowledge and experimental expertise that are brought together in this consortium by the different partners. The realization of their projects in applied autophagy research will benefit from an exceptional interdisciplinary platform integrating cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, chemistry and “omics” approaches. In addition, DRIVE PhD students will acquire competencies to exploit the results for the development of products and techniques of commercial value.
Eligibility (who can apply): Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs).
Eligibility will be checked based on the following cumulative criteria:
a) Applicants Career Stage: Only Early Stage Researchers (ESR) can apply, that is, researchers of any nationality who, at the date of recruitment by the partner of DRIVE  have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree and  are in the first 4 years of his/her research career, counted from the date he/she obtained the degree (MSc degree or equivalent) that allows him/her to embark in a doctoral degree. Date of Recruitment means the first day of the employment of the researcher for the purposes of this project (i.e. the starting date indicated in the employment contract or equivalent direct contract).
b) Mobility: Applicants are required to undertake physical, transnational mobility (i.e. move from one country to another). That is, at the date of recruitment, the researcher must not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the partner of DRIVE he/she is applying for, for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the his/her recruitment under the project. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account. For international European interest organisations or international organisations, recruited researchers must not have spent more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date at the same appointing organisation.
IMPORTANTE NOTE: the career stage of eligible applicants and the mobility rule is determined in terms of fulltime research equivalent years. This means that research experience is measured from the date when a researcher obtained the degree which would formally entitle him/her to embark in a PhD degree, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the researcher is recruited, irrespective of whether or not a PhD degree is or was ever envisaged.
Application: Eligible candidates should fill in the application form and upload a cover letter stating their motivation and research interests, an updated CV with the dates of relevant diplomas (day, month and year), and the contact information of 2 referee persons, at https://drive-autophagy.eu/recruitment/
In case you wish to apply for the PhD student position available at the University of Turku, Finland (ESR3/UH), please indicate Prof. Eskelinen/ESR3 as the preferred research team within DRIVE’s network (see details below). You are welcome to indicate secondary and tertiary preference locations within the network in your application.
Project Title: The role of RAB24 in healthy and diseased neurons
The goal in this project is to elucidate the physiological function of the small GTPase RAB24 in neuronal cells. We showed recently that RAB24 is required for the clearance of autolysosomes under nutrient-rich conditions (Ylä- Anttila et al. 2015, Autophagy 10:1833-48). This suggests that RAB24 is needed for basal autophagy, which is particularly important in postmitotic cells like neurons that are not able to dilute non-functional organelles and aggregate-prone proteins by cell division. Our results also showed that RAB24 facilitates the degradation of mutant huntingtin protein, which forms aggregates and causes the hereditary neurodegenerative Huntington’s disease. Others have revealed that huntingtin is normally degraded via autophagy. Importantly, mutations in RAB24 were shown to cause hereditary ataxia in dogs, due to loss of cerebellar Purkinje neurons because of defective autophagy (Agler et al, 2014, PLoS Genet 10, e1003991). These findings indicate that RAB24 is important for the neuronal survival and that RAB24 dysfunction causes disease.
To elucidate the physiological functions of RAB24 in neurons, the PhD student will investigate the effect of the disease-causing RAB24 mutation on both RAB24 function and autophagy in neuronal cells, using cell and molecular biological methodologies available on our laboratory and new assays that we will develop. In addition, the PhD student will search for RAB24 interacting proteins, and the most interesting hits in these screens will be verified in neuronal cell cultures and in mouse tissues. Co-immunoprecipitations and co-localization of
endogenous proteins in mouse tissues will be done in collaboration with the Boya laboratory. Finally, to elucidate in which regions of the central nervous system RAB24 is expressed and likely to play roles in neuronal survival, the PhD student will clarify the expression of RAB24 protein in the central nervous system of mice of different ages. More information about the host laboratory can be found athttp://www.helsinki.fi/autophagy.