Biological Sciences (Biochemistry) MPhil/PhD

Major code: BIMR/BIPR

About us

Institute of Integrative Biology

The Institute is managed in thre departments: Biochemistry; Functional and Comparative Genomics; Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour.

  • Academic and research staff: 220
  • Postgraduate research students: 150

The Institute is managed in three departments: Biochemistry; Functional and Comparative Genomics; Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour.

Academic and research staff: 220
Postgraduate research students: 150
As an Institute devoted to Integrative Biology, we span the range of biosciences from the fine-scale resolution of biomolecular structure through the genome-wide analysis of cells and organisms, to the evolution and ecology of organisms in their natural environment.

Underpinning this diversity, we offer World class facilities and infrastructure for research, and superb links to internationally excellent partners in both the academic and industrial sectors.

Our research seeks to answer fundamental questions, and to address key issues of contemporary concern. We were awarded a prize in the UK-wide BBSRC 2011 ‘Excellence with Impact’ competition, which commended the work of our graduate students in impact activities.

Our PhD completion rates are ranked amongst the highest in the UK by the Times Higher Education Supplement, one of only two Universities to have repeatedly ranked in the top four Institutions. Furthermore, our complementary training programme was awarded the highest grade in the QAA review of all HEI PGR training.

Our PhD programme is financed by substantial training grants from the main UK Government Research Councils, including the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council and The Medical Research Council , as well as charitable trusts, such as North West Cancer Research, overseas governments and industrial collaborators.

Staff research interests

Violaine See

The life of a postgraduate student is busy and fun and includes a broad variety of activities.

What do you consider a postgraduate degree from your department has to offer and benefit a prospective student both within their academic discipline and outside? (For instance, what transferable skills are gained; what knowledge do you consider is applicable to other career paths)?

A research project involves performing experiments and analysing them, reading publications… Yet, this is only a part of the life of a PG student. Scientists are also expected to communicate their science, which means to present their findings at national and international conference, hence to prepare posters or slides, and also to network and discuss with their colleagues within the department and also with international collaborators.  This means that a significant part of a PG student’s time is spent chatting about experiments to do and their interpretation. PG students are also encouraged to be involved in teaching and demonstrating, and receive training for intellectual property protection, science communication to the public and media etc. The life of a PG student is therefore busy and fun and includes a broad variety of activities.

Please describe your research interests and any research projects you are involved with.

In my lab, we aim to understand on how cells adapt to a changing environment and more specifically how they adapt to oxygen deprivation. This does not only happen at high altitude but also during development, tumour growth, ischemia etc. It has therefore important therapeutic implications. For example, in solid tumours, cells proliferate faster than the production of new blood vessels needed for tumour cell irrigation. Hence, the centre of the tumour lacks a proper blood supply. The consequence is that the cells experience very low levels of oxygen (less than is found at the top of Mount Everest), a phenomenon called hypoxia. Hypoxia is associated with tumour aggressiveness, metastasis, drug resistance and poor prognosis. To improve cancer treatment, we need to understand the intracellular signals activated in these hypoxic conditions. We use different approaches ranging from classical cell biology techniques to state-of-the-art live cell imaging in order to elucidate how cells adapt to hypoxia in real time. We collaborate with mathematicians who have built a computational model of the signals activated inside the cells to predict how the cells will react. We also collaborate with chemists and physicists to develop new techniques for cellular imaging using gold nanoparticles and oxygen nanosensors. In addition, we have strong links with paediatricians and surgeons at hospitals in Liverpool (Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, The Walton Centre specialist neurosciences hospital) who provide clinical input and tumour samples from patients who have had tumour resection that we can analyse in the laboratory.

Who funds or contributes funding to your research – is it a particularly prestigious or renowned organisation or business?  Does your research have commercial potential or application?

BBSRC, Neuroblastoma Society, Alder Hey Oncology Fund, CRUK

Does pursuing your research involve travel to particularly interesting or prominent places?  Does it involve collaboration with particularly interesting or prominent institutions or organisations?

It involves travel for conferences and for collaboration. One of my PG students has presented his work in New-York, Switzerland and Italy. Another PG student travelled with me to Banff (Canada) to attend a very prestigious Keystone Symposium. We also travel to perform experiments in other laboratories; one member of my group has been to Cork in Ireland. I spent 3 months in Japan during my own PhD studies.