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Evolution Education Trust PhD project - The Role of Historical Contingency in Predictive Evolution: Combining Experimental Evolution, Molecular Microbiology and Network Modelling to Test How Gene Regulatory Networks Rewire

  • 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:

Dr Tiffany Taylor, Milner Centre for Evolution and Department of Biology & Biochemistry, (lead supervisor).
Dr Nicholas Priest, Milner Centre for Evolution and Department of Biology & Biochemistry.
Dr Lauren Cowley, Milner Centre for Evolution and Department of Biology & Biochemistry.

Project Overview:

Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) are dynamical, with connections forged and lost frequently within an evolutionary timescale. Rewiring and expansion of GRNs generates new expression patterns and allows regulation of novel gene functions – a key evolutionary process when adapting to a new environment. This studentship aims to explore how differences in GRN architecture, which are contingent on historical adaptive niches, create and constrain rewiring pathways between GRNs using motility rescue as a model system. This project will use a combination of experimental evolution, molecular microbiology, bioinformatics and network modelling to expand our current understanding of the flexibility and drivers of GRN evolution and expansion. We will test how ancestral network architecture determines future evolutionary potential by assessing the restoration of flagellar motility in four diverse bacterial species and in lines that will be genetically modified to test unique motility network configurations. We will also use network analysis modelling to explore how this underlying historical contingency influences wider connections between networks across the genome. Outcomes of this studentship will help further our understanding of how the environment, both past and present, can shape and expand GRNs while promoting evolutionary resilience.

Throughout this interdisciplinary project, the student will receive extensive training in experimental evolution, molecular microbiology, genetics and network modelling. The student will be based in the Taylor lab in the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath with opportunities to work in the Priest lab also within the Milner Centre.


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 Tiffany Taylor, .

** 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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