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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: The evolution of social gene clusters

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, February 05, 2020
  • 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. Visit our website:

Supervisory Team:

Professor Jason Wolf, Milner Centre for Evolution (lead supervisor)
Dr. Ben Ashby, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath
Dr. Araxi Urrutia, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath

Project Overview:

Like the rest of the biological sciences, our fundamental understanding of social evolution is being transformed by the genomics revolution. As we develop an understanding of the genes involved in social interactions, one striking pattern has been emerging: they are often clustered within the genome. For example, imprinted genes, which are believed to govern a range of social traits, including parental care and social dominance, often appear in large clusters within mammalian genomes. Likewise, ‘greenbeard’ loci, which are genomic regions that play key roles in mediating social interactions, are typically composed of linked groups of genes (e.g., the Gp-9 locus in fire ants). The goal of this project is to understand the evolutionary processes that build and shape these gene clusters. It is likely that these processes shaping genomes are driven by the interplay between social conflict and cooperation among relatives. We will develop theoretical models to understand these processes and, to gain a more complete understanding, we will also develop evolutionary models that evaluate the potential roles of ‘non-social’ molecular and mechanistic phenomena that provide alternative explanations. These models will be tested by developing predictions that can be assessed using available genomic datasets. We will use both analytical (mathematical) and computer-based approaches for the modelling, but do not require prospective students to have a background in maths or computer science. Training will be provided that integrates the necessary computational and mathematical skills to prepare students with a wide range of backgrounds for successful completion of this project.


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 Professor Jason Wolf, .

** 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.

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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