PhD at Ulster University, UK, in virtual reality modelling of pathway biology

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    We have a PhD studentship available at Ulster University, UK, in the development of virtual reality tools for visualising pathway biology in 3D.  The deadline for applications is the 7th February, 2020, and the studentships will start September 2020, though there may be some flexibility.

    Visualising high dimensional data is challenging and a significant constraint is the need to render in 2D for the screen or page. With the arrival of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) comes the opportunity to explore and share biomedical data in new ways. VR/AR can extend 2D analyses intuitively to higher dimensions, providing richer interaction with data. Critically, they also provide us with new ways to explore the topological structure of data, particularly valuable for network graphs of arcs and vertices. 2D renders of network graphs are inherently ambiguous due to the crossing of arcs, something that grows polynomially with graph size, making large graphs unintelligible. 3D rendering eliminates this problem completely.

    Network graphs are routinely used to depict the Interactome: the networks of interactions that drive physiological function. We will develop the first VR tools to facilitate 3D rendering, navigation and manipulation of the pathways of cell, gene, protein and small molecule interactions that drive the interactome. The tools will be enable the interactome to be embedded in other renderings, such as the spatial structure of cells, tissues, organs or organisms and can be reused across diseases. As an exemplar, the tools will be first applied to disrupted cellular processes in the motor neuron disorder, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). By cross-relating the structure of the human molecular interaction network against genomic data, we have previously identified clusters of interacting genes with newly identified mutations that we believe are involved in the development of ALS. 3-D modelling will greatly help us to understand their role in disease development.

    For further details of the project, see

    Applications must be made through the Ulster University website (  Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the lead supervisor (S Watterson) prior to submission.

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