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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Uncovering 3D genome architecture in annelid worms

Research environment

The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 160 PhD students working on projects in the biological, chemical and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.

The Martín-Durán Lab is a multidisciplinary research group studying the evolution of animal development at multiple levels of biological complexity. Currently consisting of 2 postdoctoral researchers and 3 PhD students, the Martín-Durán Lab is funded by the European Comission through a prestigious ERC Starting Grant, as well as by UK national funding bodies (Royal Society and Wellcome Trust). For more information about the lab and general projects, visit or contact Chema Martin at

Training and development

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

In this project, you will be trained in state-of-the-art molecular techniques for epigenomics (HiC, ATAC-seq, ChIP-seq) and developmental biology (in situ hybridisation, immunostaining, confocal microscopy). You will get hands on experimental approaches, but also develop proficiency in computational and statistical analyses. In addition to focused training, you will be trained in project management and presentation skills and encouraged to develop international collaborations and networking.

Project details

The DNA inside the nucleus is folded in loops and higher order 3D structures that are essential for proper gene activity. Strikingly, mammals, flies and roundworms use different mechanisms to control this 3D genome architecture, which has obscured identifying the general principles organising animal genomes. To solve this knowledge gap, we need to study more animal genomes belonging to different lineages, in particular those of the largely unexplored marine invertebrates. My lab is establishing the marine segmented worm Owenia fusiformis as a slow evolving model for genomic studies. What is the 3D architecture of Owenia’s genome? How is this architecture established and maintained? How can Owenia inform of the evolution of 3D architecture in animal genomes?

- In this project you will rigorously answer these questions combining state-of-the-art experimental and computation approaches.
- You will have access to large genomic databases, and in-house live organisms to fuel your investigation.
- You will gain experience of developmental biology and molecular techniques (gene expression analyses, epigenomics), bioinformatics (pipelines to analyse ATAC-seq, ChIP-seq and HiC), and statistics.
- You will be encouraged to develop your own ideas and hypotheses.

For informal requests and a more detailed explanation of the project, do not hesitate to contact Dr Chema Martin at 


Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree or have received a MSc in an area relevant to the project (i.e. molecular biology, genetics, developmental and cell biology, bioinformatics) or are about to finish their MSc.

In a multidisciplinary project like this, candidates are unlikely to have a background in all disciplines involved. The most important qualification is motivation, enthusiasm and that the project appeals to you. However, previous computational experience would be a plus. We can envisage strong candidates coming through a variety of routes including:

- practical molecular biology
- developmental and cell biology
- computational biology

Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details:

The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences is committed to promoting diversity in science; we have been awarded an Athena Swan Bronze Award. We positively welcome applications from underrepresented groups.


This project is open to applicants who have obtained or intend to apply for external funding (such as CONACyT or the China Scholarship Council), or who are able to self-fund.

See also

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