In March 2020, we planned to announce the results of a £2 million funding round – our latest in over 30 years of supporting dementia research. However, the financial impact of the pandemic forced us to delay our announcements. We’re pleased to say that we are now able to award eight PhD studentships and one Research Fellowship from this delayed round.
In funding this research, we have two aims. First, as always, we want to back cutting-edge research into the best care and treatments for people living with dementia. Second, we want to make sure we carry on providing support and opportunities to you, the next generation of dementia research experts. You are crucial team members in the joint effort to prevent, treat and one day cure dementia.
Our new Research Fellowship has been awarded to Annabelle Long at the University of Nottingham, who will be investigating how to improve exercise classes for people with dementia. Annabelle’s project will improve our understanding of what stops and encourages people to attend exercise classes. She will also produce a toolkit, to advise on how to develop exercise classes for people living with dementia.
All our other awards are to PhD supervisors, many of whom are or shortly will be looking for students to take on these projects.
We know that 2020 brought with it many challenges for the dementia research community, especially for early career researchers, so we’re excited to be able to tell you more about these PhD positions and how you can apply for them.
PhD positions in dementia care research
- Supporting conversations about end-of-life care – Many GPs report that they lack confidence in having end of life care conversations with people living with dementia and their carers. In this project, you’ll analyse end of life conversations had by GPs and develop practical support for GPs. This support will help GPs talk more confidently with people affected by dementia about end-of-life care.
- What factors affect the attitudes of young people to dementia? – Many people with dementia still encounter stigma from society. In this project, you’ll explore the attitudes of people under 18 towards dementia and what influences their attitudes. By understanding how this stigma arises, we can understand more about how best to tackle it.
This PhD will be supervised by Dr Nicolas Farina at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and is open to applications now (deadline: 28 May 2021). You can also follow Nicolas on Twitter.
- Does gum disease play a role in cognitive decline? – Some studies have shown that poor oral health is associated with increased dementia risk. However, it has not been shown that the increased risk is a direct result of poor oral health. In this project, you’ll analyse genetic information to help determine whether there is a direct link or not.
This PhD will be supervised by Dr Jing Kang at the University of Leeds, and is open to applications now (deadline: 4 June 2021).
- Redesigning care homes to improve the wellbeing of people with dementia – Care home environments can directly improve quality of life for residents. This project will explore whether sensory stimulation and environments that encourage storytelling might benefit people living with dementia in care homes.
This PhD will be supervised by Professor Catherine Hennessy at the University of Stirling, and the position is already filled.
PhD positions in biomedical dementia research
- Investigating how to clear toxic amyloid protein from the brain in Alzheimer’s disease – Neprilysin is a special protein found in the brain, which can break down amyloid protein. Amyloid build up in the brain is a hallmark of AD, and reducing these build ups is a focus of many treatments currently being developed for AD. In this project, you’ll investigate how neprilysin works in more detail, with a view to finding new drug targets for the future.
This PhD will be supervised by Professor Ravi Acharya and Dr Vasanta Subramanian at the University of Bath, and is open to applications now (deadline: 9 May 2021). You can also follow Vasanta on Twitter.
- Exploring the waste disposal system in brain cells and what it means for Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia – Both Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia can be characterised by toxic protein build ups in the brain, which might be connected to a deficit in the brain cells’ “waste disposal system”. In this project, you’ll explore if there’s a link between brain cell “waste disposal” and the spread of disease to identify new biomarkers to distinguish between Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia.
This PhD will be supervised by Dr Gemma Lace at the University of Salford. You can follow Gemma on Twitter and look out for announcements on the University of Salford job board if you’re interested in applying.
- Getting a ‘Clu’ about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease – In this project, you’ll be investigating the causal role of the clusterin gene in Alzheimer’s disease and developing an accurate test to measure levels of clusterin protein from blood and spinal fluid.
This PhD will be supervised by Professor Paul Morgan at Cardiff University, and is open to applications now (deadline: 30 June 2021).
- Understanding the effects of the diabetes type 2 drug metformin on models of Alzheimer’s disease – Previous research has shown that metformin has both good and bad effects when used as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In this project, you’ll investigate which parts of a brain cell metformin targets to have a beneficial effect, which could help design future Alzheimer’s disease treatments.
This PhD will be supervised by Dr Teresa Niccoli at University College London, and is open to applications now (deadline: 3rd May 2021). You can also follow Teresa on Twitter.
Dr Clare Jonas is a Research Communications Officer at Alzheimer’s Society and enjoys being a two-way conduit between researchers and people affected by dementia. A former psychology lecturer, she left academia behind several years ago to become a science communicator and has never looked back. Aside from her work, she enjoys the music of Four Tet, climbing large hills, and attempting to guess the names of other people’s dogs. She firmly believes that her homeland of Cornwall is “a bit of the north that fell off,” an assertion which is received with some scepticism in Manchester, where she now lives.
You can follow Clare on Twitter Follow @thatthinkfeel