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  Evolution Education Trust PhD project: Investigating the motivations to learn about evolution

   Department of Life Sciences

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  Dr Alex Jeffries  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 Alex Jeffries, Department of Biology & Biochemistry, Milner Centre for Evolution


  • Prof Laurence Hurst, Department of Biology & Biochemistry, Milner Centre for Evolution
  • Dr Ceri Brown (to be confirmed), Department of Education, Milner Centre for Evolution

Project Overview:

What motivates someone to learn about the topic of evolution and its component concepts? This project will investigate the hypothesis that aligning evolution education to the motivations of the learner will significantly improve their understanding and retention of evolution knowledge and continued engagement with the topic.

In this project, you will survey various groups (school and university students as well as the public; “stakeholders”) to find out what they feel are the reasons and motivations, if any, to learn about evolution. You will compare these stakeholder views to those given in the literature by evolution educators to evaluate the alignment between the two. You will then use these empirical data to devise stakeholder-informed educational interventions that better engage learners with evolution. This will involve, though is not limited to, identifying socioscientific issues (SSI) relevant to evolution and scaffolding or integrating these into evolution teaching activities. You will trial these educational interventions (variously administered and with control groups) with various groups and at various venues and then analyse and evaluate their effects in terms of the hypothesis; the understanding of evolution and retention of that knowledge. The conclusions of this research will be published and the educational activities and best practice advice disseminated through the evolution outreach community. Throughout you will work closely with members of the Milner Centre for Evolution and have access to academics in the Departments of Education and Psychology at the University of Bath.

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 Alex Jeffries 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.

Biological Sciences (4) Psychology (31)

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.

Where will I study?

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