Closing date

We invite applications for a PhD student to work with Professor Helen Byrne at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford. This is a 4-year fixed term position, funded by Bowel Research UK. The work will be jointly supervised by Professor Helen Byrne, Dr Joshua Bull (Mathematical Institute) and Professor Simon Leedham (Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics).


The successful candidate will work as part of a larger, multidisciplinary team, in collaboration with the research groups of Professors Byrne and Leedham and colleagues from the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre. They will apply methods from mathematics, statistics and data science to quantify the spatial distribution of different cell types within colorectal cancer and understand how these relationships influence tumour progression and response to radiotherapy. 


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common tumours and cancer killers in the UK, with 40,000 people diagnosed each year. Colorectal cancer arises from epithelial cells lining the gut wall. These cancerous cells are surrounded and supported by a constellation of other cells, including immune and stromal cells, all embedded within a complex extracellular matrix. Some cells support and nourish the cancer cells, and may influence cancer cell fate by secreting chemical messages. Other cells, including specialised immune cells, are capable of killing cancer cells, but tumours evolve ways to evade immune cell killing in order to minimise the impact of an individual’s own cancer defences. Understanding how these different cell types interact as tumours evolve and how different treatments affect these interactions, is a major challenge and an exciting research opportunity.


This project will identify new mathematical and statistical descriptions of spatial cell interactions which more accurately describe colorectal tumours. In particular, we will identify “spatial biomarkers”, patterns of spatially interacting cell types which define cellular neighbourhoods that distinguish adenomas from carcinomas, and that can predict response to radiotherapy. We will identify how spatial information about cell locations can be best integrated with other, more traditional, biomarkers, and, in so doing, show how spatial analyses can be used to improve diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer.


The PhD studentship is open to applicants ordinarily resident in the UK, and the start date is 01 October 2023. The successful candidate will be based in the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford. The PhD position is fully-funded for four years, including stipend and university fees.


APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE MADE ONLINE TO THE MATHEMATICAL INSTITUTE at and should include a CV, cover letter (1 page), 2-3 reference letters, and transcript(s) of all previous degrees. In the section of the application form “Departmental Studentship Applications” applicants will be asked whether they are applying for an advertised studentship. In this section please state “Yes” followed by “23MATH02WEB”.


Applications are now open and must arrive by noon on 01 March 2023.


For further information please contact @email.

Please contact us for feedback and comments about this page. Last updated on 09 Feb 2023 10:15.