School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

The epigenetic regulation of early annelid development

A PhD position is available to start in September 2020 at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in the Martín-Durán Lab (, to work on the project “The epigenetic regulation of early annelid development”.

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 development of an entire animal from a single totipotent cell – the zygote – is arguably one of the most fascinating processes in Nature. Strikingly, how this process is regulated at the lower levels of biological complexity, such as at the level of the genome and its regulation during the early phases of development, is still poorly understood. Moreover, our understanding relies on what is known for only a handful of species, such as mammals and flies. To solve this major knowledge gap, my lab is establishing annelid embryos as experimental systems to understand the genomic regulation of early animal development. Annelid embryos are unique in that they exhibit interspecific variation in the way the zygote gives rises to the major progenitor cells during early cleavage. What are the epigenetic mechanisms controlling annelid development? How do these mechanisms generate variability among species? How can annelid development inform us of the fundamental principles of animal embryogenesis?
  • 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.


This studentship is open to UK/EU applicants and is funded by the European Research Council. It will cover tuition fees, and provide an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at the Research Council rate (£17,009 in 2019/20).

Eligibility and applying

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.

Potential candidates may contact Dr Chema Martin with informal enquiries about the project ( Formal applications must be submitted through our online form by the stated deadline.

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.

Apply Online