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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: Teaching evolution and genetics in international schools - A quantitative analysis

  • 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

Supervisory Team:

Lead Supervisor: Dr Momna Hejmadi (Department of Biology & Biochemistry)
Co-Supervisor: Prof Laurence Hurst (Department of Biology & Biochemistry)
Co-Supervisor: Prof Mary Hayden (Department of Education)

Project Overview:

A common perception is that many adults deny/reject the scientific consensus on biological evolution due to prior beliefs and psychological conflicts. What about the classroom? Several studies have sought to discover the reasons why evolution is so difficult for students to understand and accept, but few have attempted to find ways to improve the understanding of evolution. In our first randomised control trial of almost 2000 UK secondary school students, published in PLOS Biology, we showed that teaching genetics before teaching evolution is the best way to get children to understand evolution (1). Furthermore, we showed that among 14-16 year olds, an aptitude for science, rather than psychological beliefs, better explains the acceptance of scientific evolutionary concepts (2). A recent longitudinal study also suggests a large shift in attitudes towards acceptance of evolution among Mormon undergraduates in America, driven partly by a strong science education by their parents (3).
These studies pose several questions, particularly in a global classroom with diverse cultural and educational contexts. For instance, what factors influence the understanding and acceptance of evolution across different countries? Does an aptitude for science, rather than their cultural or psychological beliefs, influence their understanding and acceptance of evolution? This PhD project will aim to address these questions by conducting a longitudinal study across international schools with diverse cultural contexts.

The PhD student will join a dynamic and inter-disciplinary team led by Professor Momna Hejmadi and Professor Laurence Hurst, based in the Milner Centre for Evolution. The project is in collaboration with Professor Mary Hayden, Director of the Centre for the Study of Education in an International Context (CEIC) in the Department of Education at the University of Bath. The project will benefit from the strong network of international collaborations through the Milner Centre and CEIC, and opportunities for strengthening all aspects of research and professional skills.


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 Momna Hejmadi

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. Mead R, Hejmadi M, Hurst LD. (2018) Scientific aptitude better explains poor responses to teaching of evolution than psychological conflicts. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2, 388–394 (2018)

2. Mead R, Hejmadi M, Hurst LD. (2017) Teaching genetics prior to teaching evolution improves evolution understanding but not acceptance. PLoS Biol. 2017 May 23;15(5).

3. Bradshaw WS, Phillips AJ, Bybee SM, Gill RA, Peck SL, Jensen JL. (2018). A longitudinal study of attitudes toward evolution among undergraduates who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. PLoS One. Nov 7;13(11).

Related Subjects

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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