Fully Funded PhD position in Developmental Neurobiology

Understanding the function of NFXL1: a transcription factor implicated in speech and language development

Project Description: 

Previous studies revealed that the NFXL1 gene is associated with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) in human populations. NFXL1 is highly expressed in the cerebellum of the brain and is predicted to encode a transcription factor. Although there is an association of NFXL1 with language acquisition in humans, it is conserved across evolution to fruit flies (Drosophila) where it is expressed in a subset of cells in the developing brain. This observation indicates a common role for NFXL1 in brain development across evolution, justifying further investigation in established model organisms including Drosophila and mice. 

To date, there has been very little characterization of NFXL1. The aim of this project is to determine how NFXL1 functions in the developing brain. The student will take advantage of genetic tools available to rapidly study NFXL1 function in Drosophila and bioinformatic approaches to investigate these functions in mammals.

This PhD project will involve work with a multi-disciplinary team. Barbara Jennings will direct studies in Drosophila, taking advantage of existing genetic tools to analyze NFXL1 function at the molecular level. Dianne Newbury will supervise bioinformatic analyses of the temporal and spatial expression of NFXL1 and the identification of target genes in the developing human brain. Esther Becker will supervise investigations in the developing mouse cerebellum providing mammalian insight at the organism and cellular level. The project will also be supported by staff in the Oxford Brookes Centres for Functional Genomics and Bioimaging. 

Director of Studies: Dr Barbara Jennings 

Supervisors: Prof Dianne Newbury; Dr Esther Becker (University of Oxford). 


Oxford Brookes University

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences 

Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

3 Year, full-time PhD studentship (Nigel Groome Studentship)

Eligibility: Home UK/EU and International applicants

Bursary p.a: Bursary equivalent to UKRI national minimum stipend plus fees (current 2023/24 bursary rate is £18,622)

Start date:  September 2024


Closing date for applications:  26 January 2024


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