Using functional measures of autonomic dysfunction to define novel MRI imaging biomarkers of Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2022.


To apply please use the online application form. Simply search for PhD Medical Studies (and select the entry point of October 2022), then clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship and name the project at the top of your personal statement.

Online application

Before applying, please ensure you have read the Doctoral College’s general information on applying for a research degree.

For more information on the admissions process, please contact

Director of Studies: Dr Stephen Mullin

2nd Supervisor: Professor Stephen Hall

3rd Supervisor: Dr Victoria Haunton (

4th Supervisor: Dr Holly Roy

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2022.

Project description

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is a rare neurodegenerative condition, which initially presents very similarly to Parkinson’s disease (PD). MSA however has a faster progression with disproportionate involvement of the ‘autonomic nervous system’, leading to an inability to maintain standing blood pressure and/or bladder control. Diagnosing MSA early has become a priority, as clinical trials of drugs to slow down MSA progression are ongoing.

The project aims to improve the sensitivity and specificity of MRI to diagnose MSA and broaden our understanding of the structural basis for autonomic dysfunction in MSA. This will be achieved by performing a range of tests which assess the autonomic nervous system in those with MSA and PD and mapping these findings to MRI targets.

The successful candidate will, with appropriate training and supervision, recruit participants, acquire MRI scans, undertake a range of clinical and autonomic assessments, manage governance related aspects and analyse clinical/imaging data from the project. These skills will be developed during the PhD, however, prior human neuroimaging or clinical physiology experience is desirable.

The successful candidate would be based within the Applied Parkinson’s Research Group (APRG) and the Brain Research and Imaging Centre (BRIC) of the University of Plymouth. The latter is a new £9 million centre dedicated to functional neuroimaging, which includes a dedicated Siemens Prisma 3T MRI scanner. They will have access to scheduled teaching aligned to the MSc Human Neuroscience and a taught module programme, which allows development of generic research skills including academic writing, statistics, research design and governance.


Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject and preferably a relevant masters qualification.

The studentship is supported for three years and includes full Home tuition fees plus a stipend of £16,062 per annum (2022/23 rate). The studentship will only fully fund those applicants who are eligible for Home fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants normally required to cover International fees will have to cover the difference between the Home and the International tuition fee rates (approximately £12,670 per annum).

NB: The studentship is supported for three years of the four-year registration period. The fourth year is a self-funded ‘writing-up’ year.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Stephen Mullin

Please see a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

This vacancy will involve working with children and/or vulnerable adults and any appointment will be subject a Disclosure and Barring Service check.

For more information on the admissions process generally, please contact

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 10 June 2022. 

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview week commencing 27 June 2022. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.