Full Time
Posted 1 month ago

Project title: Pharmacological effect of psychedelics drugs in human diseases

Supervisors:  Dr Maria Maiarù and Prof Gary Stephens

Project Overview: 

Psychedelic drugs, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin (originally derived from mushrooms) cause a profound alteration of perception and mood. However, recent work has shown that such psychedelic drugs have beneficial effects when used in patients with major depressive disorders, those with post-traumatic stress disorder and may also alleviate conditions such as pain and inflammation. Maria Maiarù and Gary Stephens (GJS) at the University of Reading are collaborating on this PhD project with the mental health care pharmaceutical company Compass Pathways, to investigate the potential therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, as well as potential related psychedelic drugs of interest. We will use a number of preclinical models of pain (those due to trauma, inflammation or the drugs that treat cancer) and models of different behavioural effects. We will follow this up with experiments to determine mechanisms of action. This project will lead to characterization of the therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs. Applicants should have an interest in working with preclinical models and in drug discovery, but all techniques will be taught. The successful applicant will also spend time with Compass and gain an excellent insight into drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry.

The successful candidate will benefit from full technological and academic support from the research groups of Maria Maiarù and Gary Stephens, as well as access to the vast array of expertise and tools provided by close collaborators across the country. The successful candidate will acquire a broad range of skills including in vivo techniques, electrophysiology, experimental design and data analysis. Moreover, the candidate will join the vibrant recently launched Pain Research Reading which includes academics from pharmacy, neuroscience and psychology and clinicians from the Royal Berkshire Hospital.


  • Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree or equivalent in biomedical or pharmacy science or equivalent subject.
  • Due to restrictions on the funding this studentship is open to UK applicants only.

Funding Details:   

  • Starts: October 2021
  • 3 year award
  • Funding covers full tuition fees plus UKRI stipend

How to apply:   

To apply for this studentship please submit an application for a PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology at http://www.reading.ac.uk/graduateschool/prospectivestudents/gs-how-to-apply.aspx

*Important notes*

  • 1) Please quote the reference ‘GS21-018’ in the ‘Scholarships applied for’ box which appears within the Funding Section of your on-line application.
  • 2) When you are prompted to upload a research proposal, please omit this step.

Application Deadline:

Wednesday 8th Sept 2021

Provisional interview date of Tuesday 14th Sept 2021

Further Enquiries:  

Please note that, where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter; this will be provided separately from any Offer of Admission and will be subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria. 

For further details please contact Maria Maiarù (m.maiaru@reading.ac.uk) and/or Prof Gary Stephens (g.j.stephens@reading.ac.uk)

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Submit an application for a PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology at http://www.reading.ac.uk/graduateschool/prospectivestudents/gs-how-to-apply.aspx

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