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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: Building Experimental Evolution and Genomics Research into Education

   Department of Life Sciences

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  Dr Daniel Henk  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for this PhD opportunity based at the Milner Centre for Evolution, a unique, cross-faculty research centre bridging biology, health and education. The Centre is dedicated to a broad range of fundamental research questions relating to evolutionary biology; from in deep time to the micro-evolutionary dynamics of a disease outbreak. We have a strong focus on public engagement and outreach. We are located in a dedicated multi-million-pound building that opened on the University campus in September 2018.

Intended Supervisory Team:

Lead Supervisor:

  • Dr Daniel Henk, Department of Biology & Biochemistry. Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath


  • Dr Lauren Cowley, Department of Biology & Biochemistry. Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath
  • Dr Paula Kover, Department of Biology & Biochemistry. Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath
  • Dr Tiffany Taylor, Department of Biology & Biochemistry. Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath
  • Prof Maitreya Dunham, Department of Genome Science, University of Washington, USA

Project Overview:

Could a class of A-level students do the research to figure out how fungi evolve to overcome antifungals, or how bacteria change genetic programs to compensate for mutations, or if microbial communities can be developed to degrade plastics, reduce antibiotic use, or make sustainable fuels?

This project from the Milner Centre for Evolution aims to exploit the power of microbial evolution to bring genomics and cutting-edge research into secondary schools.

Laboratory based evolution of microbes is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used broadly across biology to understand basic evolutionary processes, develop biotechnology products, discover mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance, and for many other objectives. These evolution approaches can be fast, simple, and low cost to implement, and the broad set applications, make these methods a potentially high pay-off educational approach that can simultaneously yield substantial research outcomes. However, the tight curriculum constraints, timing, laboratory resources, and complex analysis software are major challenges to using this approach.

This PhD project will focus on developing three major objectives:

  1. The project aims to map potential evolution experiments into existing GCSE and A-level curriculum and resources to develop topics and approaches that optimise educational and research output.
  2. The project will develop a package of evolution experiments and protocols using yeasts and bacteria to be used with extended project qualifications for A-level students and wider engagement with the public.
  3. The student will develop a simple bioinformatics package that is specifically designed for use as part of laboratory evolution experiments.

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Candidates are encouraged to discuss the project directly with Dr Daniel Henk before applying (email address: [Email Address Removed]).

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biology.

On the application form, quote ‘Evolution Education Trust’ in the Finance section and the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section. If applying for more than one project, quote the projects in order of preference and upload a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

Your application must be complete when you submit it to us. Incomplete applications cannot be considered. Please ensure you have completed all fields on the application form and supplied the contact details of TWO referees willing to provide us with a reference when requested (one must be from your most recent place of study). Also, you should ensure that you have uploaded all the required documents. See our website for more information.

Funding Eligibility:

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements: UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland), Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland), those with Indefinite Leave to Remain and EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme). This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Exceptional Overseas students (e.g. with a UK Master’s Distinction or international equivalent and relevant research experience), who are interested in this project, should contact the lead supervisor in the first instance to discuss the possibility of applying for supplementary funding.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We welcome and encourage applications from diverse backgrounds and under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be considered for a 3.5-year Evolution Education Trust Studentship which will cover tuition fees at the Home rate, a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,609 for 2021/22) and a generous budget for research, training and outreach expenses. Eligibility criteria apply – see Funding Eligibility section above.
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