The effect of pressure modulation on cell fate decisions during early development


This exciting project offers an opportunity for a motivated student to contribute to new understanding of the influence of physical/mechanical signalling on cell decision making during development. Embryos undergo numerous, discrete cell-fate decisions that are often binary in nature. However, the processes by which individual cells actively adopt one fate at the expense of another is still an unresolved key question in biology. Most studies have focussed on disentangling the chemical and genetic inputs required for cell fate specification, without taking into account mechanical/physical signalling, and the pressures/forces that are present during early development.

We will take a multidisciplinary, embryonic stem cell (ESC) approach to dissect the relationship between physical and chemical signalling by developing an environmentally controlled system which will allow us to precisely modulate the pressure cells will be exposed. We will expose mouse ESCs to culture regimes that promote different cell fates, and determine whether there is a relationship between both the frequency or magnitude of pressure changes, and the dynamics of cell fate acquisition. This will allow us to extract general principles underlying fate choices during early embryo development, and the role of physical and chemical signalling has in underpinning these decisions.

The multidisciplinary supervisory team will provide training and support in all relevant laboratory, experimental and computational analysis techniques. The student will be based in the ILCaMS at the University of Liverpool, which has strong bioengineering and developmental biology expertise. They will also spend time working in the Retinal Stem Cell Research Group at Newcastle University, where they will be trained organoid growth methods, as well as gaining exposure to a more biologically-focused research area.

All postgraduate research students (PGRs) undertake formal, personalised training at Liverpool, co-ordinated by the Liverpool Doctoral College. This creates a learning environment that allows PGRs to enhance their skills for a successful research experience and career. Participation in public and patient engagement events, for which the host department have won awards, is strongly encouraged. This project is ideally suited to a candidate with a Bachelors (2:1 or above) or Masters degree in biological sciences discipline; knowledge of developmental biology and cell signalling would be useful.

Informal enquiries may be made to 


Applications should be made by emailing  with a CV and a covering letter, including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project/s and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected. We will also require electronic copies of your degree certificates and transcripts.

In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Application Details Form (Word document) to , noting the additional details that are required for your application which are listed in this form. A blank copy of this form can be found at:


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

Studentships are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for 4 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.