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Evolutionary Perspectives on Medicinal Plant Use


   School of Biological Sciences


Reading United Kingdom Biodiversity Evolution Anthropology Pharmacology Plant Biology Systematic Biology

About the Project

Project Overview

This project uses phylogenetic comparative methods to characterise medicinal plant use. You will use published data to identify the ethnobotanical uses of selected species, and the extent to which they are characterised in terms of phytochemistry and pharmacology. You will identify appropriate phylogenies and use phylogenetic metrics to identify and relate patterns of use to patterns of pharmacological and phytochemical study. Cross-cultural aspects will also be considered, as outlined by Teixidor Toneu et al (2018). This project would suit a student with interests in the following: ethnobotany, anthropology, evolution, natural products, and bioprospecting. It is less well suited to students with interests in carrying out pharmacological laboratory work, or research into horticultural production. 

School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading: 

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.   

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet.  Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world.  In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching.  It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces. 

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities.  

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques.  We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures.  We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically. 

Eligibility: 

Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) in biological sciences and have an anthropology background that emphasises cultural evolution.  Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 

How to apply: 

Apply for a PhD in Biological Sciences at http://www.reading.ac.uk/pgapply

Further information: 

http://www.reading.ac.uk/biologicalsciences/SchoolofBiologicalSciences/PhD/sbs-phd.aspx 

Enquiries: 

Professor Julie Hawkins, email:  


Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.

References

Teixidor Toneu, I., Jordan, F. M. and Hawkins, J. A. (2018) Comparative phylogenetic methods and the cultural evolution of medicinal plant use. Nature Plants, 4. pp. 754-761.
Souza, E. N. F., Williamson, E. M. and Hawkins, J. A. (2018) Which plants used in ethnomedicine are characterized? Phylogenetic patterns in traditional use related to research effort. Frontiers in Plant Science, 9. 834.
Saslis Lagoudakis, C.H., Savolainen, V., Williamson, L., Forest, F., Wagstaff, S., Baral, S.R., Watson, M., Pendry, C. and Hawkins, J. A. (2012) Phylogenies reveal predictive power of traditional medicine in bioprospecting. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (39). pp. 15835-15840.
Please see Prof Hawkins’ profile:
Professor Julie Hawkins – University of Reading

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