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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: Quantitative Morphometry in the Evolution of Metastatic Cancer

Project Description

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. Visit our website:

Project Overview:

From the earliest days of histology to the present, cancer has been diagnosed and categorised by changes in cell morphology. In this century, rapid progress has been made in using genetic profiles of tumours for prognostics, personalised medicine, and elucidation of underlying molecular mechanisms in cancer cells. The potential richness of information contained in cell morphology, however, has not yet been so thoroughly utilised. The computational methodologies used by evolutionary biologists to reconstruct phylogenies, classify fossils, quantify high-dimensional complex phenotypes, incorporate measures of heterogeneity, and integrate morphological and molecular information offer a powerful set of tools for cancer biology. This project will apply cutting-edge evolutionary biology methods to high content microscopy and automated image analysis of cultured cells and histological samples in order to elucidate complex signalling networks that drive the evolution of cells from normal to tumorigeneic to metastatic. In particular, we will focus on genes and proteins that regulate cell shape and migration in breast cancer, which may be targeted to ‘normalise’ cancer cells and prevent metastasis. The studentship will comprise both computational and wet lab studies in an iterative process of hypothesis generation and testing.


Applicants should have an excellent academic record and hold, or expect to obtain, a First Class or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent) in a relevant subject. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Enquiries and Applications:

All enquiries should be addressed to Dr Julia Sero, .

** Candidates are strongly encouraged to discuss projects directly with the lead supervisor before submitting an application.**

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

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

It is essential that your application is complete when you submit it to us. Incomplete applications cannot be considered. You should ensure that you have completed all fields on the application form and supplied the contact details of TWO referees who are available and willing to provide us with a reference when requested (one must be from your most recent place of study). In addition, you should ensure that you have uploaded the following documents:
• a scanned copy of the certificate/s for any degree/s you have been awarded;
• a scanned copy of your degree transcript/s or your interim transcript if you are still studying;
• an up-to-date CV;
• a personal statement explaining your motivation for wishing to study a PhD and your interest in the specific project for which you are applying;
• English language test certificate (if available) for EU candidates.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Interviews will take place in Bath on Friday 3 April 2020.

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Unfortunately, we are NOT able to consider international applicants for this project.

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a 3.5-year Evolution Education Trust Studentship which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 for 2019/20) and a generous budget for research, training and outreach expenses.

Note: Only UK and EU applicants are eligible for studentship funding.


Mounce, R.C.P., Sansom, R. & Wills M.A., 2016, “Sampling Diverse characters improves phylogenies: craniodental and postcranial characters of vertebrates often imply different trees.” Evolution, 70(3):666.

Sero, J.E., Sailem H.Z., Ardy, R.C., Almuttaqi H., Zhang T., Bakal, C., 2015, “Cell shape and the microenvironment regulate nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB in breast epithelial and tumor cells.” Molecular Systems Biology 11(3):790.

Sero, J.E., and Bakal, C., 2017, “Multiparametric analysis of cell shape demonstrates that B-PIX directly couples YAP activation to extracellular matrix adhesion.” Cell Systems, 4(1):84.

Ruta, M., Krieger, J., Angielczyk, K., and Wills, M., 2019, “The evolution of the tetrapod humerus: morphometrics, disparity, and evolutionary rates.” Earth Env. Sci. Trans. Royal. Soc. Edin. 109(1-2):351.

How good is research at University of Bath in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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