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Evolutionary genomic analysis of rodent immune genes

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  • Full or part time
    Prof S Paterson
    Prof M Viney
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

You will investigate how immune systems evolve. Immune systems are highly sophisticated networks encoded by hundreds of genes. One way to understand how these networks function is to compare them between related species, to see which genes are common between them and which are unique. This is important, not least because laboratory mice are used as models for humans, but we don’t know what aspects of the immune system of laboratory mice is shared with other rodent species, let alone humans.

Our lab has investigated immunity in wild rodents using genome sequencing, gene expression and single-cell genomics. This is coupled to extensive phenotypic and immunological data from wild rodents responding to pathogens in the wild. This provides a unique resource to ask: what genomic features of the mouse immune system are conserved across rodent species? And how does genetic variation among individuals affect their immune function?

You will receive training in genomics and bioinformatics. These are skills that are highly in demand in academia and industry. Training will be provided formally through structured courses, which will support the development of your novel programme of work under direction of the supervisors. You will be associated with the Centre for Genomics Research, which is one of best laboratories in its field in Europe and has extensive expertise in non-model species and infectious disease. You will also benefit from a vibrant research environment in the newly-formed Institute of Infection, Ecology and Veterinary Science that is ideally placed to understand how animals respond to environmental challenges, including climate change and infectious disease.

The project is suited to a student with at least a good B.Sc. Upper Second in Biological or Life Sciences (particularly genetics or evolutionary biology) or for a computer science graduate wanting to make a transition into biology.

Funding Notes

Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£15,009 tax-free, 2019-20) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment” (ACCE, ). ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield,and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK.

Applications (CV, letter of application, 2 referees) by email to [Email Address Removed] deadline: January 8th 2020. Interviews in or after the week commencing : 10th February 2020. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.


Wanelik, K. M., Begon, M., Birtles, R. J., Bradley, J. E., Friberg, I. M., Jackson, J. A., . . . Paterson, S. (2018). A candidate tolerance gene identified in a natural population of field voles (Microtus agrestis). MOLECULAR ECOLOGY, 27(4), 1044-1052. doi:10.1111/mec.14476

Abolins, S., Lazarou, L., Weldon, L., Hughes, L., King, E. C., Drescher, P., . . . Viney, M. (2018). The ecology of immune state in a wild mammal, Mus musculus domesticus. PLOS BIOLOGY, 16(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2003538

van Houte, S, Ekroth AKE, Broniewski JM, Chabas H, Ashby, B, Gandon, S, Boots, M, Paterson, S, Buckling, AJ and Westra, ER (2016) The diversity-generating benefits of a prokaryotic adaptive immune system Nature 532: 385-388.

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