INSTITUTE FOR AGEING AND HEALTH
CISBAN Research Associate – Modeller/Mathematical Biologist
CISBAN is an exciting new research centre established, following a major award (£6.4M) from
BBSRC and EPSRC, to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for
ageing and the effects of nutritional factors on these mechanisms. The centre currently
houses a range of high calibre scientists working in a number of areas of systems biology.
We now seek an additional research associate to join our team, to work in an intensely
multidisciplinary, world-class research environment, with state-of-the-art facilities. The post
also involves participation within LifeSpan, a recently established EU funded Network of
Excellence consisting of a consortium of leading European laboratories committed to
understanding the mechanisms of ageing and development, and their interplay.
This post is for a research associate to join our existing expert team and is available
immediately. CISBAN is currently funded until 2010, and LifeSpan until 2011. This
appointment is until 30 September 2010 in the first instance on the RA grade F salary scale
We seek a post-doctoral researcher with a numerate background, and a PhD in Mathematical
Biology or a related discipline. The successful applicant will work within the biological
modelling group, developing models of molecular and cellular mechanisms of ageing and
exploring links between ageing, development and evolution from a life-course perspective.
The development and use of mathematical models representing key molecular mechanisms of
ageing is an important focus of CISBAN and your role will be to continue to progress this area
of research with an emphasis on establishing a link between these low level mechanistic
models and models at higher biological levels that is essential for achieving the goals of both
CISBAN and the LifeSpan consortium. You will work on developing dynamic mechanistic
models of processes of key importance to understanding the link between development and
ageing, such as insulin and insulin-like signalling. In parallel you will develop life history
models to investigate the late life effects of variation in early life strategies. A demanding task
will be to embed the former models within the latter which will require bridging the two areas of
computational systems biology and life history theory.
You will interact closely with other mathematical and computational modellers,
bioinformaticians, computing scientists, biostatisticians, evolutionary and experimental
biologists and therefore good communication skills are required.
CISBAN is based within Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, one of the
leading multidisciplinary institutes of its kind, providing exceptional opportunities for
interactions between basic and medical sciences. Other partners include the Human Nutrition
Research Centre, North East Regional e-Science Centre, School of Computing Science,
School of Mathematics and Statistics, School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced
Materials, as well as relevant industries and an extensive network of international
collaborators. LifeSpan is coordinated from Leiden University in the Netherlands (see
http://www.lifespannetwork.nl) and the Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health
is a core partner.
Job title Research Associate Modeller/Mathematical Biologist
School Institute for Ageing and Health
Section or Research CISBAN
Grade Level F
Salary scale points 27-36
Responsible to Professor Tom Kirkwood/ Dr Daryl Shanley
Responsible for N/A
Main purpose of job To develop models of molecular and cellular mechanisms of
ageing and to explore links between ageing, development and
evolution from a life-course perspective.
Main duties and Develop dynamic models of molecular and cellular
Develop life history models to investigate life course
plasticity in response to nutritional variation experienced
Research and develop methods for linking low level
mechanistic models with higher level phenotypic models.
Interact with the network of groups within Lifespan.
Interact closely with the other mathematical and
computational modellers; bioinformaticians, computing
scientists, and biostaticians on the CISBAN project.
Comments or other
PERSON SPECIFICATION – Post: Research Associate Bioinformatician
(applications) (Grade F)
ESSENTIAL DESIRABLE HOW
EDUCATION AND TRAINING PhD degree (or 1
(academic and vocational) equivalent) in a biological,
EXPERIENCE AND Expertise in a majority of 1,2,3,4
ACHIEVEMENTS (paid/unpaid) the following areas:
Publication of work 1,2,3
Presentation of 1,2,3
work at scientific
SKILLS, ABILITIES AND Capacity for original 2,3,4
PERSONAL QUALITIES thought
Excellent oral and written 2,3,4
Team-working skills 2,3
Good information 2
OTHER RELEVANT FACTORS Clear commitment to 2,3
(eg able to work rota system/ research, particularly of
driving licence/car owner) multidisciplinary nature
Flexibility and 2,3
* Insert the number code from the key below for the assessment method you intend to employ to
measure each criterion
1) Application 3) References 5) Evidence
2) Interview 4) Testing
Date prepared November 2007
How CISBAN operates
Because of increasing life spans, research on ageing is of high societal importance. The field
of biogerontology is relatively new among biomedical sciences yet is developing fast. Recent
advances indicate that it is possible to intervene positively in the mechanisms that cause age-
related frailty, disability and disease, particularly by developing and exploiting the fields of
genomics and biotechnology for health in old age.
Among the most exciting areas of advance are those that exploit links between ageing and
nutrition. Although genes exert an influence on longevity only a quarter of the variability in
lifespan in humans and other species can be explained by genetics alone. A significant part of
the non-genetic variation is thought to be subject to nutritional influence and even the genetic
factors include important pathways, such as insulin signalling, that relate to how nutrients are
utilised by the body. Nutrition from conception onwards may influence the ageing trajectory by
affecting epigenetic mechanisms resulting in aberrant gene expression.
These fundamental scientific advances offer exciting opportunities to extend health span
(period of good quality life and functional independence). Ageing and nutrition are domains
where there is compelling need to integrate across levels (from whole organism to molecules)
and across a range of genetic and environmental factors that cooperate to shape individual
The CISBAN team has an internationally recognised record of success in beginning to apply a
‘systems’ approach to the biology of ageing and nutrition. It comprises biologists (from a
variety of specialist areas), statisticians, mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers.
CISBAN is directed by Professor Kirkwood and research programmes within CISBAN are led
by Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, Professor David Lydall and Dr Anil Wipat. Other members
of the CISBAN team include Dr Gabriele Saretzki, Dr Daryl Shanley and Dr Carole Proctor
(School of Clinical Medical Sciences – Gerontology), Professor Doug Turnbull and Dr Chris
Morris (School of Neurology, Neurobiology and Psychiatry), Dr Darren Wilkinson, Dr Richard
Boys and Dr Colin Gillespie (School of Mathematics and Statistics), Professor Paul Watson
(North East Regional e-Science Centre), Professor John Mathers (Human Nutrition Research
Centre), Professor Allen Wright (School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials)
and Professor Tim Cowen (University College London). The project also has major
collaboration with Unilever Corporate Research, the regional Centre for Excellence in the Life
Sciences and a network of international academic groups both within and outside the Lifespan
The research programme provides and integrates an unprecedented amount of data on the
complex mechanisms of molecular and cellular ageing, and how these processes are affected
by nutrition. CISBAN is a combination of three programmes: ‘Functional Genomics and
Proteomics’ (led by Prof Lydall) provides the majority of biological data in a hypothesis-
independent fashion. ‘Integration of Partial Systems’ (led by Prof von Zglinicki) is hypothesis-
driven and uses a variety of functional assays aiming at testing the impact of cellular damage
and damage response pathways for ageing at cellular, tissue and, ultimately, organism level.
In the third theme ‘In silico Systems Biology’ (led by Dr Wipat) we develop modelling,
inference and data management programmes. The primary focus of CISBAN is on data and
its exploitation, with very large amounts of data being generated through a range of high
throughput techniques and processed in silico to provide a highly dynamic cycle of interaction
between theoretical and experimental activity. The experimental studies focus on three major
systems: budding yeast, cultures of mammalian cells, and mice. We have a well-established
ageing mouse colony, providing an exceptional standard of specialised husbandry for long-
The three programmes of CISBAN interact strongly with each other. The project as a whole
will generate an exhaustive, highly coherent set of concentration data for the vast majority of
medium-to-high abundance mRNAs, native proteins and important classes of modified
proteins (using genomic and proteomic methods) of major biological ageing models. These
data will define the boundary conditions of our in silico models and allow close control of
chosen reaction constants. We will combine these steady-state data with interrelated
functional assays that will provide essential data on cell biological mechanisms and pathways.
We strongly believe that only by such a kinetic, highly parallel approach will we be able to
make educated judgements about the biological relevance of observed changes, which is the
essential basis for every meaningful model. This is especially important in ageing, where
singular random processes may play uniquely large roles, but only if they induce or
significantly modify relevant response/signal transduction pathways.
The physical hub for CISBAN is the state-of-the-art Henry Wellcome Laboratory for
Biogerontology Research (HWLBR), which was opened in November 2004 by Dr Leonard
Hayflick and which provides research accommodation for both experimental and
computational research. Additionally, some members of the CISBAN team are based on other
sites in order to maximise linkage with other disciplines. The core CISBAN activities take
place within the HWLBR, however added-value is provided through well-established
collaborations with other groups. The modelling group, based within the HWLBR, collaborates
very closely with groups within Computing Science (including the North East Regional e-
Science Centre) and the School of Mathematics and Statistics. CISBAN also collaborates
with the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials, where there is major
expertise in high-throughput robotic systems which is used to help develop our yeast
screening studies. We collaborate with the Human Nutrition Research Centre, while joint
experiments are run within the HWLBR. We collaborate with Prof Cowen’s group at UCL; Prof
Cowen holds a Visiting Chair with us in Newcastle and experimental work in this project is
done in both sites.
In addition to internal collaboration, there are extensive links with other academic and
industrial groups. These include ongoing collaboration with the Corporate Research group of
Unilever plc, which supports programmes of research on healthy ageing and systems biology,
and which has the potential, in the long-term, to deliver substantial benefits to society. We
also have links with regional enterprise initiatives including the North-East Centre for
Excellence in the Life Sciences (CELS).
The LifeSpan Network of Excellence aims to bridge research on development with research
on ageing, and to integrate these two disciplines that do not have a tradition of close
interaction. It will move to and from between experiments in (in)vertebrate models and
observations in humans to test effects detected in one species as candidate longevity
mechanism in the other. Several European groups involved in LifeSpan have already begun
to probe the yet unexplored field of the research described above. However, fragmentation of
these activities in Europe should be avoided and it is crucial that a network emerges in which
this research is embedded and that provides the future framework of ageing research. Such a
network allows the appropriate questions to be asked, using the most suitable (model)
organisms, and taking the appropriate experimental and/or observational approach. This can
only be done effectively when the research groups in Europe have the proper expertise and
carry out their research in an integrative manner, both in terms of science and organisation, as
well as in terms of a common education programme.
All LifeSpan participants have an excellent scientific track-record as well as the appropriate
expertise, resources an tools to contribute to the co-ordinated initiative "Integration research
into Development and Ageing". The partners are: Leiden University Medical Center, Dept. of
Gerontology & Geriatrics; Leiden University, Institute of Biology; Leiden/Amsterdam Center
for Drug Research, LACDR; Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Biomedical Ageing
Research; University of Tartu, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology; INSERM U515, Paris 6
(Pierre & Marie Curie University); University of Lausanne, Dept. of Ecology and Evolution;
Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, Tübingen Ageing and Tumour Immunology Group;
Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Bio 3, Bioinformatics and Molecular Genetics;
Newcastle University, Institute for Ageing and Health; University of Southern Denmark,
Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health; Karolinska Institutet, Dept. of Medical
Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Dept. of Animal and
Aquacultural Sciences; University College London, Dept. of Biology; Erasmus University
Rotterdam, Dept. of Genetics and Cell Biology; and the companies OSAÜHING BioData,
PANATecs GmbH and DNage.
[Insert any information you wish on the University/Faculty.]
To apply for this position, you should submit your written application, giving full details of your
qualifications and experience to Professor Tom Kirkwood, Director Institute for Ageing and
Health, University of Newcastle, Henry Wellcome Laboratory for Biogerontology Research,
Newcastle, NE4 6BE, UK, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org, to arrive no later than 11
January 2008. Informal enquiries may also be made to Dr Daryl Shanley, Institute for Ageing
and Health, University of Newcastle, Henry Wellcome Laboratory for Biogerontology
Research, Newcastle, NE4 6BE (email: email@example.com).
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