International PhD Programme research topics

When you apply for the EMBL International PhD Programme, you are asked to select two EMBL research groups and to indicate up to four research areas that interest you. A variety of backgrounds - such as biology, chemistry, computational science, mathematics and statistics - are relevant to PhD projects at EMBL-EBI. As well as purely computational projects, there may also be possibilities to incorporate some experimental biology in collaborating laboratories.

Here, we show research groups that are currently accepting PhD students at EMBL-EBI. You can find other EMBL research units on the EMBL website, and browse all EMBL research groups in our Research at a Glance brochure.

Enright research group

Functional genomics and analysis of small RNA function

Dr Anton Enright's research group aims to predict and describe the functions of genes, proteins and regulatory RNAs as well as their interactions in living organisms. Regulatory RNAs have recently entered the limelight, as the roles of a number of novel classes of non-coding RNAs have been uncovered. The group's work involves the development of algorithms, protocols and datasets for functional genomics. The focus is on determining the functions of regulatory RNAs including microRNAs, piwiRNAs and long non-coding RNAs. The Enright group collaborates extensively with experimental laboratories on commissioning experiments and analysing experimental data.

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Overington research group

Drug discovery informatics

The ChEMBL team, led by Dr John Overington, develops and manages EMBL-EBI’s database of quantitative small molecule bioactivity data focussed in the area of drug discovery. Although great progress has been made in developing biological drugs, synthetic small molecule and natural product-derived drugs still form the majority of novel life-saving drugs. The process complexity and costs of discovering new drugs has recently risen to the point where public-private partnerships are coming to the fore. Central to this is data sharing and availability of structure, binning, functional and ADMET data). The ChEMBL database stores curated two-dimensional chemical structures and abstracted quantitative bioactivity data alongside calculated molecular properties. The majority of the ChEMBL data is derived by manual abstraction and curation from the primary scientific literature, and therefore cover a significant fraction of the structure–activity relationship (SAR) data for the discovery of modern drugs. Our associated research interests focus on data-mining ChEMBL data applied to drug-discovery challenges.

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Teichmann research group

Gene expression regulation and protein complex assembly

Dr Sarah Teichmann's research group seeks to elucidate general principles of gene expression and protein complex assembly. They study protein complexes in terms of their three-dimensional structure, structure evolution, and the principles underlying protein complex formation and organization. Another major focus is understanding regulation of gene expression during switches in cell state, and in their wet lab at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute the group uses mouse T-helper cells as a model of cell differentiation.

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Thornton research group

Proteins: structure, function and evolution

Prof Dame Janet Thornton's research group seeks to understand more about how biology works at the molecular level, with a particular focus on proteins and their 3D structure and evolution. They explore how enzymes perform catalysis by gathering relevant data from the literature and developing novel software tools, which allows for the characterisation of enzyme mechanisms. In parallel, they investigate the evolution of these enzymes to discover how they can evolve new mechanisms and specificities. In close collaboration with colleagues at University College London (UCL), the group investigates ways to improve the prediction of function from sequence and structure and to enable the design of new proteins or small molecules with novel functions, and to understand more about the molecular basis of ageing in different organisms.

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