Based at Cancer Research UK – Cambridge Institute

Epigenetic Features of the Genome

The state-of-the-art Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute is a joint venture between Cancer Research UK and the University of Cambridge, researching basic cancer and computational biology through to translational research and clinical application. Graduate students play a pivotal role in the continuing success of our research programmes and the Institute affords an excellent opportunity to start a research career in an environment committed to training outstanding cancer research scientists of the future. Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian is seeking a student to work on the Epigenetic Features of the Genome. This position will be primarily based in the Balasubramanian lab in the CRUK Cambridge Institute and is likely to involve collaborative interactions with the group’s sister lab in the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, in Cambridge.

Project details

The lab exploits both chemistry and biology to address fundamental mechanisms of genome function (  While many genetic determinants of cancer are known, alternative nucleic acid secondary structures and chemically modified DNA (or RNA) bases can be epigenetic features of nucleic acids that are important to normal biology and in oncogenesis. The project will explore chemical modifications as epigenetic features and how these influence secondary structure formation and function in the genome of normal and cancer cells. The scope of the project may include exploring the formation and dynamics of G-quadruplex structures as well as modified DNA bases in the genome and their roles in gene 3D chromatin structure, gene expression, DNA replication and genome stability. We have developed methods to show that G-quadruplexes are enriched in cancer-related genes and have a profound impact on transcription (e.g., Nature Genetics 2020,; Nature Biotechnology 2022, Nature Communications 2022, We have also developed genome-wide mapping and sequencing of modified bases and are now exploring further base modifications (e.g. Nature Biotechnology 2023,; Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 2018, doi: 10.1002/anie.201804046; Nature Chemical Biology 2015,

Preferred skills/knowledge

The student will be highly motivated, capable of independent thought and have excellent communication skills with the ability to work collaboratively.  Ideally, the candidate will have a strong background in molecular biology and/or biochemistry.  A good knowledge of genomics and the chemistry/chemical biology of nucleic acids is highly desirable.


This studentship is funded by Cancer Research UK and includes full funding for University and College fees and in addition, a stipend of £21,000 per annum, for 4 years.


No nationality restrictions apply to Cancer Research UK funded studentships.  Applications are invited from recent graduates or final year undergraduates who hold or expect to gain a first/upper second-class degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject from any recognised university worldwide.

How to apply

Please send your academic CV and a covering letter as attachments to Jo Lockhart, Science Administrator, (, including ‘PhD – CI’ in the subject.

Your CV should include the names and contact details of two academic referees who have agreed to act on your behalf, a list of the examinations taken at undergraduate level and if possible, your examination results.

Your covering letter should explain why you wish to be considered for the studentship and which qualities and experience you will bring to the role. Please also state how you learned of the studentship.


The closing date for applications is Tuesday 14th November 2023