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4-year PhD in Genetic Epidemiology: The intergenerational transmission of health

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, November 10, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We are offering an exciting 4-year PhD studentship* for candidates interested in discovering how health and wellbeing are transmitted across generations within families. The studentship will use data from a range of large family-based studies to investigate the causal relationships between health and social outcomes. The successful candidate will benefit from a highly multidisciplinary supervisory team and research training environment in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit.


The increase in data availability and sample sizes of genotyped family-based studies is transforming our understanding of the intergenerational transmission of inequality, and how family-level exposures affect health and social outcomes. The successful candidate will use methods that exploit unprecedented number of family-based samples to unpick the causal relationships that shape outcomes across the lifecourse. These study designs will include between-sibling, mother-father-offspring trio, and between/within family methods. Data will include a range of cohort studies including The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa), The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT), and UK Biobank. These recently developed methods have been used to investigate the causal effects of BMI and height on health and education (Brumptom et al 2019), and there is scope for the successful candidate to apply these methods to their own substantive areas of interest. This PhD offers potential candidates the opportunity to make a strong contribution to the fields of causal inference, statistical epidemiology and genetic epidemiology.

The PhD student will be based within the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU) at the University of Bristol, a leading centre for research excellence in population health science. The candidate will start in October 2020 and be supervised by a team consisting of Dr Neil Davies, Prof George Davey Smith, Dr Tim Morris and Dr Alexandra Havdahl. The IEU is an exciting, multi-disciplinary research environment that brings together world leading epidemiologists, statisticians, bioinformaticians, molecular biologists and psychologists to understand causal mechanisms of disease.

* Depending on the qualifications, experience and skills of the person offered the studentship this will be either a 4- (1 + 3) year or a 3-year studentship. If offered as a 4-year studentship the student will complete 3 ‘mini-projects’ in different areas to develop their multidisciplinary skills before starting their main PhD project.

Candidate requirements

Applications are sought from high performing individuals who have, or are expected to obtain, a 2.1 or higher degree (or equivalent) in a biological, mathematical or related quantitative discipline. Possession of a relevant Masters degree or research experience would be advantageous, but is not expected.

How to Apply

Please make an online application for this project at Please select Faculty of Health Sciences and Population Health Science PhD on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of the studentship in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form. For general enquiries linked to the online application process, please email

Further information

For informal enquiries or further information about this PhD project, please contact Dr Neil Davies ().

Closing Date: 10th November 2019

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded by the MRC at standard MRC rates (£15,009 for 19/20), covers the cost of tuition fees and provides £1,000 per year training costs. Standard MRC eligibility criteria apply. Only applicants from the UK or EU applicants who have been working for 3 years continuously are eligible to apply for this programme.

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