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Evolution Education Trust PhD project: The fitness effects of loss-of-function mutations in natural bacterial populations

  • 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: https://www.bath.ac.uk/research-centres/milner-centre-for-evolution/.

Supervisory Team:

Professor Edward Feil, Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath, https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/persons/edward-feil (lead supervisor).
Dr Tim Dallman, Lead for Gastrointestinal Bioinformatics, National Infection Service, Public Health England.
Dr Lauren Cowley, Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath.
Dr Tiffany Taylor, Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath.
Prof Sam Sheppard, Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath.

Project Overview:

Bacterial genomes tend to lose genes faster than they gain them, and this deletion pressure is thought to have evolved as a defence against parasitic DNA. Intuitively the loss of genes, or gene function, in natural populations, is likely incur a fitness cost and in some cases might be lethal to the bacterial cell. However, functional redundancy within bacterial genomes often means that a given function can be performed by more than one gene product, in which case the fitness cost of gene loss may be minimal. The loss of gene function is even known to be selectively advantageous, at least in the short term, under certain circumstances.

This project will initially focus on a very large whole genome dataset, initially for the important human pathogens belonging to the genus Salmonella but will also go on to consider other species such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Tens of thousands of genomes are available for these species due to their public health importance.

The project will involve a combination of bioinformatics analysis and experimental work to: i) identify positively selected loss-of-function-mutations, ii) estimate the total number of essential genes where loss-of-function mutations do not arise under natural conditions, iii) understand the phenotypic and fitness consequences of loss-of-function mutations that are commonly observed in natural populations.

Candidate:

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 Edward Feil, .

** 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:
https://samis.bath.ac.uk/urd/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app&code1=RDUBB-FP02&code2=0014

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 of whom 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:
http://www.bath.ac.uk/guides/how-to-apply-for-doctoral-study/

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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