Faculty of Science
Information for applicants
Post title: Research Associate
Salary: £25,134 - £29,139 pa
Grade: AC1/2
Pos...
Section 1.0: THE POST
Section 1.1: POST DETAILS
Post title: Research Associate
Reports to: Dr Paul Gabbott and Dr Payam Re...
Main duties
To undertake advanced quantitative neuroanatomical research in the laboratories of Dr Paul
Gabbott and Dr Paya...
Qualifications, experience and expertise
Essential
• Background in neuropathology or neuroscience
• High degree of technic...
Section 2.0: APPLYING FOR THE POST
Section 2.1: HOW TO APPLY
Application procedure
a) Your application should include:
 C...
Eligibility: Internal/External applicants
Closing date: 16th
November 2007
Pre-applications
enquiries:
If you wish to disc...
Our research encompasses both 'blue-skies' basic research and applied research to find
solutions to specific scientific an...
charities such as Autism Speaks (USA), the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Wellcome
Trust and a have developed a number...
The Department has six separate cell and tissue culture facilities, each of
which is dedicated to work with primary or est...
in each leave year. For Regional Academic staff the entitlement is to study leave on full
salary for two months within eac...
Local Education:
Information on local schools can be obtained from the Learning and Development
Directorate, Milton Keynes...
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  1. 1. Faculty of Science Information for applicants Post title: Research Associate Salary: £25,134 - £29,139 pa Grade: AC1/2 Post reference: 4081 Closing date: 16th November 2007 Interview date: 27th November 2007 Information included in this pack: Section: 1.0 The post 1.1 Post details 1.2 Job description 1.3 Person specification 2.0 Applying for the post 2.1 How to apply 2.2 Application information 3.0 Faculty information 3.1 Faculty of Science 3.2 Department of Life Sciences 1
  2. 2. Section 1.0: THE POST Section 1.1: POST DETAILS Post title: Research Associate Reports to: Dr Paul Gabbott and Dr Payam Rezaie (Joint Project Leaders) Unit and/or team: Faculty of Science, Department of Life Sciences Salary details: £25,134 - £29,139 pa Location: Department of Life Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes. Working hours: Full-time Contract type: Fixed term contract - 36 months Section 1.2: JOB DESCRIPTION Overall job purpose To undertake research on the project “Dendritic Organization within the Cerebral Cortex in Autism” funded by Autism Speaks (USA) (http://www.autismspeaks.org/), in accordance with the project outline and specifications, as directed by the project leaders (Drs. Gabbott and Rezaie). Project Outline Brain imaging studies in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) indicate that deficits in social cognition, language, communication and stereotypical behaviours may be related to functional alterations in specific brain regions and neural networks. Neuropathological studies indicate that a common feature in ASD is the abnormal cellular development of specific areas of the cerebral cortex. A key architectural construct of the developing cortex is that the ascending apical dendrites of pyramidal neurons in different layers aggregate into discrete vertically oriented bundles. These dendritic bundles are directly related to the radial ‘mini-columnar’ organization of pyramidal cell bodies and appear in tangential sections through the cortex as discrete clusters of dendritic profiles. This project, funded by Autism Speaks (USA), will examine in detail the organization of dendrites within defined areas of the cerebral cortex of individuals with autism. Since morphometric studies reveal marked alterations in the spatial arrangement of neuronal somata in cortical areas whose functions underlie the observed behavioural deficits in ASD, this project seeks to answer the fundamental question: ‘To what extent is the laminar organization of pyramidal cell apical dendrites within defined areas of the cerebral cortex altered in autism?’ This pioneering neuroanatomical/pathological investigation will be conducted on post-mortem brain tissue obtained through the Autism Tissue Program (USA) with full ethical approval. Sophisticated 2D- and 3D-image analysis will be employed in a highly innovative manner, to obtain detailed insight into the extent to which information processing, at the level of select dendritic networks, is altered within functionally-defined brain areas in autism. The study therefore aims to establish a neuroanatomical basis for the core behavioural changes observed in autism, by enabling functional alterations (behaviour) to be correlated with specific cytoarchitectural alterations in dendritic networks (neural processing) in functionally- related areas of the cerebral cortex in autism. 2
  3. 3. Main duties To undertake advanced quantitative neuroanatomical research in the laboratories of Dr Paul Gabbott and Dr Payam Rezaie (Morphometry, Histology and Neuropathology Research Laboratories) investigating the central hypothesis that there is a significant spatial reorganization in the laminar architecture of pyramidal cell apical dendrites in cortical areas affected in autism. The project will involve histological processing of formalin-fixed post- mortem materials into paraffin-wax, serial sectioning of materials at 10m thickness using a rotary and/or base-sledge microtome onto glass slides, and will employ extensive optimized immunohistochemical applications. Immunoreacted slides will subsequently be used in light microscopic, computerized morphometric analyses (serial image acquisition and 2D/3D analyses) to address the following aims: Aim (i) 2D Planar Dendritic Cluster Data: To quantitatively define layer-specific alterations in the composition and tangential arrangement of immunocytochemically identified pyramidal cell dendrites in defined cortical areas in patients with autism and matched controls. Aim (ii) 3D Models of Dendritic Bundling: To reconstruct from serial tangential sections, 3D models of the cortical territory occupied by apical dendritic bundles and related cell minicolumns in specific layers of cortical regions affected in autism. Aim (iii) 3D Statistical Analyses: To statistically analyze the 3D organization of pyramidal cell dendritic bundles in defined cortical layers and areas, in patients with autism and in age-matched controls. The results of this novel study will enable the direct correlation of core behavioural changes observed in autism, with identified cellular alterations in laminar specific neural and dendritic networks in functionally related cortical areas - thereby significantly advancing our fundamental understanding of the neurobiology underlying the development of autism. Line management responsibilities None Financial resource management responsibilities None Challenges and opportunities The challenge of this pioneering study is to combine brightfield microscopy and image analysis to derive serially reconstructed 3D-structural images of dendritic architecture within cerebral cortical laminae from relatively thin immunoreacted sections cut tangentially to the cerebral cortex. Such an innovative approach will address directly, and for the first time, one of the most significant questions underlying the functional operation of the cerebral cortex in patients with autism. This Autism Speaks funded project therefore provides an exciting and unique opportunity to make a fundamental contribution at the forefront of research into the neurobiology of autism. The research will be primarily undertaken at The Open University in Milton Keynes UK, and the emerging quantitative data analyzed in collaboration with Dr. Christoph Schmitz (Maastricht University, The Netherlands), a co-investigator in the project and a leading expert in morphometric and statistical analyses. Section 1.3: PERSON SPECIFICATION 3
  4. 4. Qualifications, experience and expertise Essential • Background in neuropathology or neuroscience • High degree of technical proficiency in - neurohistological techniques - immunohistochemistry - light-microscopic image analysis - morphometry and statistical analysis • Excellent record-keeping and organisational skills • Well-developed self-management skills • Ability to time-manage a demanding workload • Ability to work independently and as part of a multidisciplinary research team • Excellent oral and written communication skills Desirable • PhD or equivalent research experience • Knowledge of the functional cellular architecture of the cerebral cortex Competencies • Preparation of manuscripts and related material for publication and presentation of experimental data at national and international conferences • Disseminating research findings to wider public audiences. • At interview, candidates will be expected to discuss their research experience, future career plans and issues related to the neuropathology of autism. 4
  5. 5. Section 2.0: APPLYING FOR THE POST Section 2.1: HOW TO APPLY Application procedure a) Your application should include:  CV  Completed Application Form  A 1 page covering letter to explain how you meet the person specification. b) Send the above documents to: Janet Vroone Department of Life Sciences The Open University Walton Hall Milton Keynes MK7 6AA to arrive by 16th November 2007 References Three referees should be nominated, at least one of whom should be from your current or most recent employer. Please provide full contact details in the Referee section of the application form, stating any reservations you may have about approaching them. Section 2.2: APPLICATION INFORMATION 5
  6. 6. Eligibility: Internal/External applicants Closing date: 16th November 2007 Pre-applications enquiries: If you wish to discuss this post informally, please contact Dr. Paul Gabbott (e-mail p.l.gabbott@open.ac.uk) or Dr. Payam Rezaie (e-mail p.rezaie@open.ac.uk) Shortlisting: Shortlisting will be completed as soon as possible after the closing date Interviews: Interviews will be held on 27th November 2007 Disabled applicants: The Open University welcomes applications from disabled people, and information about disability is requested solely in order to make appropriate arrangements for an interview if necessary. Disabled applicants whose skills and experience meet the requirements of the job will be interviewed. A map and access guide for the disabled indicating routes to buildings, lift access and reserved parking on campus is available on request. Retirement Age The Open University operates a normal retirement age of 65. Applications can only be accepted from people up to the age of 64 years and 6 months at the date of their application. This is in line with the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006. Eligibility to work in the UK Successful candidates will be required to produce evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK by producing verifiable documents. Further details will be sent to the successful candidate with the written offer of employment. Recruitment procedures: The appointment process reflects the University’s and the Faculty of Science’s commitment to Equal Opportunities and the need to ensure these principles are reflected in all aspects of the appointment procedure. Section 3.0: UNIVERSITY AND FACULTY INFORMATION Section 3.1: THE FACULTY OF SCIENCE Dean of Science: Professor Phil Potts The Faculty of Science is a leading international centre of academic excellence and hosts a vibrant and flourishing research community based in state-of-the-art research facilities at the Open University’s 40 hectare campus in Milton Keynes, a city that’s one of the fastest-developing areas in the UK. The Faculty of Science has research expertise across a range of scientific topics and aims to produce high-quality research with an international profile. The Faculty has research groups of international standing in the earth and environmental sciences, planetary and space sciencs, astronomy, biological sciences and the physical and molecular sciences. Our research shapes the identity of the University’s campus, stimulates our teaching and serves as a springboard for public engagement activities throughout the world. We provide opportunities for post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers to develop and launch their own research careers while working alongside leading international researchers. Our research The Faculty of Science undertakes a range of research across many scientific topics that brings together traditional scientific disciplines and new interdisciplinary areas through three major research groupings: • The Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space and Astronomical Research (CEPSAR) • Research in Life Sciences • Research in Atomic, Molecular and Materials Engineering 6
  7. 7. Our research encompasses both 'blue-skies' basic research and applied research to find solutions to specific scientific and technological problems. Current research priorities are highlighted in our key research themes, which build on our long-standing areas of excellence. In addition, the Faculty of Science is supporting a number of new ‘genesis’ areas where new synergies are rapidly developing in response to external research opportunities. We have over 4500 square metres of state-of-the-art research laboratories with major research facilities that include a state-of-the-art life sciences research facility with biological containment laboratories, molecular genetics, histology and DNA-sequencing laboratories. The Faculty of Science also supports an exceptional programme of training and development for postgraduate research students that provides an organised and structured means by which students can both assess their research skills and plan the development and acquisition of these skills during their PhD studies. For more information, please see the following website at http://www.open.ac.uk/science/ Section 3.2: DEPARTMENT OF LIFE SCIENCES Head of Department: Dr. Hilary MacQueen The Department is made up of 36 academics who perform research across the full range of the biological sciences. In addition, there are 11 post-doctoral researchers, 20 full-time research students and, during 2006/7, 6 visiting researchers working in our laboratories. Members of the Department hold, and have held, a variety of research grants from, amongst others, the BBSRC, NERC, EU Framework 6, DEFRA, Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust, Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Royal Society, NAAR/Autism Speaks and NIMH. At the postgraduate level, the department runs a full PhD research degree programme with students supported by the BBSRC, NERC, MRC (Medical Research Council), RSPB charities (such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society) and from The Open University. Our industrial research partners include, Regen Therapeutics and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Our Research Our Department is divided into two main research areas centred on Biomedical Sciences and Biodiversity. Within Biomedical Science, research groups are working within the neurosciences (including neuropathology and neuroimmunology), cellular immunology, the biology of ageing, gene expression and cognitive psychology. Amongst the key research priority areas in the Department are autism, ageing and neurodegeneration, immunology of the nervous system, cellular and molecular neurobiology, cognitive science and neurosience. Our research teams comprise biologists, chemists, environmental scientists, physicists and psychologists who contribute to a vibrant and interdisciplinary research community. Our laboratory facilities have recently been substantially expanded and include molecular genetics laboratories, a DNA-sequencing laboratory, dark rooms, tissue culture/time-lapse suites, electron microscopes, confocal microscope suite, histology and morphometric laboratories and a radiation suite which houses a cell harvester, beta scintillation and gamma counters (see below). Most of our research concerns key strategic areas identified by UK research councils. Notably, we have been very successful in obtaining funding from the highly competitive European Framework 6 initiative (for a multicentre neuroscientific project entitled ‘Promemoria’), from BBSRC strategic funding initiatives into Ageing (SAGE, ERA), neural function (NEURONE) and BIOIMAGING. We have also increased our funding from research 7
  8. 8. charities such as Autism Speaks (USA), the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Wellcome Trust and a have developed a number of new links with Industry (GlaxoSmithKline, Regen, Bristol-Myers-Squibb). Much of our research is based on very successful collaborations with other universities and institutes and with industry, both nationally and internationally. Through our regional centre in Cambridge, we maintain close links with the Cambridge Genetics Knowledge Park and the i10 network. The Department offers a range of specialist skills and expertise across the life sciences area of research, described in more detail below. We are keen to involve external partners in our research through their involvement in collaborative research projects, sponsored PhD studentships and contract research projects. For further information please refer to our web site: http://www.open.ac.uk/science/biosci/ Our Laboratory Facilities The Department of Life Sciences houses high quality specialist research laboratories well equipped with standard analytical and preparative equipment for biochemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, Drosophila culture, neurophysiology, histology, stereology/morphometry, polarising microscopy, ultrasound and behaviour recording. Our laboratories include fully equipped suites for molecular biology, tissue culture, cell culture and electrophysiology, molecular ecology and ecohydrology. A new suite of laboratories for biomedical research, funded by £2 million SRIF investment was recently opened by Professor Colin Blakemore in September 2006. Within Biomedical Science, we offer excellent microscopy facilities that include EM, UV, fluorescence, timelapse, confocal and a wide range of light-microscopes. We also have a suite of image analysis microscopes using specialist software dedicated to densitometry and 2D-morphometric analyses, as well as a Neurolucida (MicroBrightField, USA) computer assisted microscope system for the reconstruction and rotation of neurons and neural structures. A self-contained electron microscopy suite houses two transmission electron microscopes (JOEL 100kV and 200kV) and one scanning electron microscope. These are equipped with both image acquisition and analytical equipment and software. This suite includes a large preparation facility for processing biological material, including cryopreparation and immunocytochemistry. In August 2007, a new 120kV JEM1400 transmission electron microscope with digital image acquisition was installed, having been purchased on the SRIF3 initiative. A separate specialist laboratory suite contains a Leica NT laser scanning confocal microscope with networked Silicon Graphics work station and image processing package that allows 3-D reconstruction and deconvolution. We have excellent facilities for standard optical microscopy; fluorescence microscopes with image analysis packages (both on- line and off-line) and an inverted fluorescence microscope with time-lapse video image acquisition. Our microscopy facilities are supported by a very well equipped and fully-serviced histology laboratory, with paraffin wax processing, section staining, vacuum embedding and cryostat sectioning. In addition, we have specialist microscopes equipped for micro-injection of cultured cells, injection of Drosophila embryos and for yeast tetrad microdissection. 8
  9. 9. The Department has six separate cell and tissue culture facilities, each of which is dedicated to work with primary or established animal or human cells or tissues, including organotypic slice culture. Cell biology work is supported by both a fluorescent activated cell analyser, a time-lapse video imaging system, cell micro-injection system and a liquid nitrogen storage facility. The new biomedicine laboratory suite, opening in 2005, includes culture facilities to work at containment level 3. A specialist electrophysiology laboratory uses both intracellular and extracellular recording techniques to record and manipulate neuronal tissue. The laboratory uses the latest in computer aided acquisition and analysis of synaptic activity. For further information please refer to our web site: http://www.open.ac.uk/science/biosci/ Section 3.3: THE UNIVERSITY The Open University transforms lives through education. It has become by far the largest university in the UK, now teaching well over 200,000 people every year. We have expanded our activities throughout Europe and our highly rated teaching materials are used by other institutions in many parts of the world. We are consistently achieving high rankings both in research and teaching quality assessments. Teaching is through the provision of specially designed, high quality, materials encompassing traditional print texts, television, video, CD-ROM, internet and electronic conferencing together with first class personalised tuition, learning feedback and support. The success of the Open University is due to our outstanding staff. There are around 13,000 staff (including 7,500 Associate Lecturers). Staff and potential staff are treated solely on the basis of their merits, abilities and potential, regardless of gender, colour, ethnic or national origin, age, socio-economic background, disability, religious or political beliefs, family circumstances, sexual orientation or other irrelevant distinction. For more information see our website: http://www.open.ac.uk Benefits and Facilities This sheet provides a summary of staff benefits and facilities. Full details will be available when you join us. Staff Development We have a strong commitment to providing training and development in and beyond your current role. This includes thorough induction into the organisation and regular review of your training and development needs. The objective is that all staff should undertake at least five days development activity in each year – this may include attendance at formal courses or other learning e.g. use of self-study material. We invest substantial time and money in our staff development provisions and we waive fees for staff wishing to study our own courses. Annual Leave The annual leave entitlement is 33 days in addition to all Bank and other public holidays and an additional 3 days at Christmas when the University is closed. Study Leave Permanent Central Academic staff (those on contracts of 2 years or more) are entitled to study leave on full salary for research or other approved academic purposes for two months 9
  10. 10. in each leave year. For Regional Academic staff the entitlement is to study leave on full salary for two months within each period of two years completed service. Pension Schemes Staff have the option of contributing to a Final Salary pension scheme and the University contributes around 14% of salary. Full details will be sent with any offer of employment but any preliminary enquiries should be addressed to the Pensions Section, Personnel Division (01908) 652431 or 652957. Relocation Expenses Staff are normally expected to live within a reasonable travelling distance of their place of work. The University will make a grant for expenses necessarily incurred for removals and disturbance, within certain rules and subject to a maximum payment. Full details will be sent with any offer of employment. The removal grant does not apply on appointments of less than two years duration. Family Friendly Policies • Staff are entitled to 52 week maternity/adoption leave. Statutory maternity/adoption pay will be paid for a maximum period of the first 39 weeks, made up to full pay for the first 18 weeks, subject to minimum service conditions. Staff have he right to return to work at any time within 52 weeks of the maternity leave start date, again subject to certain conditions. • Staff are entitled to a maximum of 10 days paid paternity leave in connection with their wife’s/partner’s confinement in any one leave year in addition to normal leave entitlement, again subject to certain conditions. • Pre-School Childcare Subsidy: We have a means-tested childcare subsidy scheme. Those eligible are provided with a Childcare Voucher that can be used as part payment for the care of children under 5 years of age. For further information about the scheme contact Human Resources on (01908) 655050. • Childcare Vouchers; we have introduced a salary sacrifice scheme to enable staff to take advantage of tax and NI exemption on up to £243 of childcare vouchers per month. The scheme is managed by Busy Bees. Further information will be provided on appointment. Milton Keynes based staff Nurseries: • The Mulberry Bear Day Nursery & Pre-School is a purpose-built nursery on the Walton Hall campus. It is an independent charity supported by The Open University and managed by parents. OU staff applications are given priority and whilst there are full and part-time places are available now, there may be a waiting list in some age groups. For further information, please telephone Milton Keynes (01908) 653867, e-mail mulberrybear-enquiries@open.ac.uk or see their website at www.mulberrybear.org.uk. • There are a number of other private nurseries in the Milton Keynes area. Facilities • Catering facilities providing meals, snacks and drinks • Open University Club (offering a number of club and society events, sports and social outlets) • Occupational Health Department (located on site at Walton Hall) provides professional advice to individuals and managers on all work related health issues • Natwest Bank sub branch on site at Walton Hall • Shop selling general provisions on site at Walton Hall 10
  11. 11. Local Education: Information on local schools can be obtained from the Learning and Development Directorate, Milton Keynes Borough Council on (01908) 253489. Smoking Policy: Please note that smoking is not permitted in University buildings, bars and catering areas. Smoking is only permitted in designated outdoor areas. 11

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