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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: Strain wars and the evolution of opportunistic pathogens

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

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. For further information about the centre see

Project Overview:

Many serious diseases (e.g., meningitis, pneumonia, blood/wound infections) are caused by commensal bacteria that are common on the skin or in the guts of healthy people. However, questions remain about what makes good strains go bad. For example: Are all strains equally able to cause disease? What are the disease determinants? Why aren’t pathogenic strains outcompeted in the commensal niche where pathogenicity genes have no benefit? Using large isolate and genome collections, new laboratory techniques, and state-of-the-art genome analyses (including machine learning) we will identify the pathogenicity genes and evolutionary forces that cause harmless bacteria to become opportunistic pathogens.


Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK) in a relevant subject. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.


Informal enquiries should be directed to Sam Sheppard, .

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form:

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 project, quote the projects in order of preference and upload a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

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

Interviews will take place in Bath on 14 June 2019.

Anticipated start date: 30 September 2019.

Funding Notes

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the Evolution Education Trust View Website.

A studentship will provide UK/EU tuition fees, a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£15,009 p.a. for 2019/20) and a generous budget for research and training as well as funds to support outreach activities for a period of up to 3.5 years.

Note: ONLY UK and EU applicants are eligible for studentship funding. International applicants will not be considered unless they can fully self-fund (fees and living costs).


1. Méric, Mageiros, Pensar, Laabei, Yahara, Pascoe, Kittiwan, Tadee, Post, Lamble, Bowden, Bray, Morgenstern, Jolley, Maiden, Feil, Didelot, Miragaia, de Lencastre, Moriarty, Rohde, Massey, Mack, Corander, Sheppard. (2018) Disease-causing genotypes of the commensal skin bacterium Staphylococcus epidermidis. Nature Communications 9:5034.

2. Sheppard, Guttman, Fitzgerald. (2018) Population genomics of bacterial host adaptation. Nature Reviews Genetics 1471-0064

3. Sheppard, Didelot, Meric, Torralbo, Jolley, Kelly, Bentley, Maiden, Parkhill, Falush (2013) Genome-wide association study identifies vitamin B5 biosynthesis as a host specificity factor in Campylobacter. PNAS 110(29):11923-7.

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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