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Current opportunities at Aitken Lab

Jobs: Open Positions


01 November 2022

AstraZeneca-Funded Non-Clinical PhD Studentship:

Error-corrected sequencing of carcinogenic nitrosamines in a human liver spheroid model

Applications are invited for a 3.5 year PhD studentship based within the MRC Toxicology Unit, University of Cambridge, with extended industry experience at AstraZeneca (Cambridge, UK). The student will be working on a collaborative project jointly supervised by Dr Sarah Aitken (MRC Toxicology Unit, University of Cambridge) and Dr Anne Ashford (Genetic Toxicology, AstraZeneca).

We are seeking a highly motivated individual to undertake a combined experimental/computational project on drug-induced genotoxicity using human models. This is a mixed wet/dry lab project combining human liver models and sequencing. The purpose of the studentship is to apply NGS approaches to (i) understand mechanisms of nitrosamine-induced mutagenesis and (ii) advance the scientific understanding of carcinogenic risks associated with the exposure to nitrosamine impurities.

This studentship offers a unique training opportunity for engagement with leading academic and industry partners to change the current perception of the carcinogenic risk associated with nitrosamine impurities in drug products. Rotating between laboratories at the University of Cambridge and AstraZeneca the student will gain experience in a breadth of experimental and analytical techniques, including: molecular biology, cell culture, drug assays, error-corrected DNA sequencing, and statistical data analyses.

Deadline: 05 December 2022 

Full details:


Closing date: 24 October 2022

Postdoctoral researcher (Research Associate) in Genomics. 

We are searching for a highly collaborative Research Associate (postdoc) to join our team working on the molecular and phenotypic consequences of DNA damage. The project will investigate mutagenesis in the context of gastrointestinal and liver disease/cancer, with a specific focus on disease initiation and mechanisms of progression. 

The Aitken Lab is a diverse team of researchers spanning multiple scientific disciplines, including cancer biology, genomics, digital pathology, mathematical modelling, and bioinformatics. We are looking for a postdoctoral molecular biologist with experience in genome biology and genomics to join us. 

The successful candidate will have, or be in the final stages of obtaining, a PhD in a relevant field (biomedicine, biology, bioinformatics, medicine, or equivalent), and experience with a range of molecular biology, library preparation, and genomics techniques; computational experience is highly desirable. We are particularly interested in candidates with experience working with human tissue and cell lines. Enthusiasm to develop and apply spatial transcriptomics/genomics would be advantageous. Candidates are expected to have excellent communication, organisational, and problem-solving skills, as well as creativity, curiosity, and aptitude to work both independently and contribute intellectually to other projects developed in the laboratory.

Full details: 


Closing: 28 April 2022

Postdoctoral researcher (Research Associate) in Computational Biology or Bioinformatics. 

We wish to recruit a Computational Biologist / Bioinformatician, for the analysis of large-scale genomic and image-based datasets to support our mechanistic and translational research. They will be expected to develop their own projects, in line with the strategic interests of the lab, as well as liaising with the bioinformatics core to provide informatic support to other researchers in the group. 

The overall aim of our interdisciplinary research group is to investigate mechanisms of cellular damage, and to understand their consequences for human health and disease. We use experimental and computational approaches to study genomic, cellular, and tissue-level responses to environmental and drug-induced insults. By exploiting genomics and pathomics techniques, we study normal and diseased cells and tissues to identify molecular mechanisms which are dysregulated in disease, including cancer. 

The successful candidate will have a Masters or PhD in a relevant field (biomedicine, biology, bioinformatics, mathematics, medicine or equivalent), experience analysing large datasets using Python and/or R, and strong knowledge of statistics. Candidates are expected to have excellent communication, organisational, and problem-solving skills, as well as creativity, curiosity, and enthusiasm to work both independently and contribute intellectually to other projects developed in the laboratory


Closing: 02 December 2021

Characterisation of 3D liver models for discovery toxicology and pathology (Project M22-09)

Human cells endure a lifetime of exposure to endogenous and exogenous toxicants. For example, the gastrointestinal tract, including the liver, is exposed to a vast array of dietary metabolites, drugs, and other xenobiotics, as well as commensal and pathogenic organisms. These tissues are prone to accumulate damage due to their role in absorption and detoxification, which can cause mutations in both normal and diseased tissues. 

In this project, the student will develop liver organoids and use innovative experimental and computational approaches to characterise their 3D structure and function. We will then investigate cellular responses to environmental and drug-induced insults, the resultant disease phenotypes, and the potential consequences for human health and disease. 

The student will receive training in state-of-the-art molecular cell biology, imaging, and genomics as well as bioinformatics.

Full details:


Closing: 27 September 2021

Molecular and genomic responses to DNA damaging agents in the context of liver toxicity and disease

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD student to join our new research group at the MRC Toxicology Unit at the University of Cambridge. She/he will work on an experimental and/or computational biology project to understand the mechanisms underlying liver toxicity and disease.

Liver disease usually develops in the context of chronic cellular injury caused by exogenous insults, including drugs and environmental exposures [1]. The incidence of liver disease is rapidly increasing in the UK and other developed countries due to rising alcohol consumption and an epidemic of type 2 diabetes leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This is a research area of substantial unmet needs in prevention, detection, and treatment, and the MRC Toxicology Unit offers the ideal environment to pursue this research. We recently discovered lesion segregation [2], which occurs when DNA lesions persist though cell division and can generate multiallelic and combinatorial genetic diversity. Lesion segregation can be caused by exogenous mutagens [3] such as chemotherapeutics, and is a unifying property of mutagens in human cells and tumours.

The aim of this PhD project is to study the persistence of lesions caused by different DNA damaging agents, including existing and novel therapeutics, and explore the molecular and genomic consequences for cellular phenotypes. This work will advance our study of how the liver responds at a molecular level to exogenous insults. The recruited candidate will use a combination of molecular biology, experimental pathology, and image analysis approaches to address these problems with the overall goal of gaining a mechanistic understanding of the direct links between exposure/injury and disease outcomes, including cancer.

The successful candidate will gain experience in a breadth of experimental and analytical techniques, including molecular biology, cell culture, drug assays, high-throughput sequencing, and statistical data analyses. She/he should have strong analytical skills, in addition to creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, and the ability to work in a team.


1. Brunner, S. F. et al. Somatic mutations and clonal dynamics in healthy and cirrhotic human liver. Nature 574, 538–542 (2019).

2. Aitken, S. J. et al. Pervasive lesion segregation shapes cancer genome evolution. Nature 583, 265–270 (2020).

3. Connor, F., Rayner T., Aitken, S. J. et al. Mutational landscape of a chemically-induced mouse model of liver cancer. J. Hepatol. 69, 840–850 (2018).

Full application details here:

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