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GW4 BioMed MRC DTP PhD studentship: The role of virulence hotspots in parasitic nematode genomes

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, November 25, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the ‘GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership’ which is offering up to 18 studentships for entry in September 2020.

The DTP brings together the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to develop the next generation of biomedical researchers. Students will have access to the combined research strengths, training expertise and resources of the four research-intensive universities.


Lead supervisor: Dr Vicky Hunt, Department of Biology & Biochemistry, University of Bath
Co-supervisors: Dr Hans-Wilhelm Nützmann (Bath) and Dr Laura Peachey (Bristol)


Nematode parasites of the gastrointestinal tract e.g. Strongyloides spp. infect 1.5 billion people globally and cause a substantial disease burden. Understanding the mechanisms nematodes have evolved to infect their host is an important step towards developing much needed treatments and control methods. Our recent research has shown that genes associated with parasitism are grouped together in distinct ‘virulence hotspots’ in the genome of Strongyloides nematodes.

To understand the role of virulence hotspots, and gene organisation more generally, in nematode parasitism this PhD project will address the following questions:

i) Is gene organisation and co-regulation of genes important for parasitism?
ii) Are virulence hotspots characteristic of parasite genomes in general?
iii) How is the co-ordinated activation of virulence hotspots controlled on a molecular level?
iv) Are signatures of epigenetic marks associated with virulence hotspots?
v) What is the role of the proteins encoded for by genes in virulence hotspots?

This project combines wet-laboratory and bioinformatic approaches. The student will receive training in state-of-the-art molecular biology methods in transcriptomics, proteomics, histone biology, chromosome organisation and genetics. In the molecular biology component of the project, the student will work with Strongyloides parasitic nematodes and perform functional analysis of epigenetic marks, including investigating the role of histone modifications and small RNAs in the regulation of virulence hotspots at different stages of infection.

The student will also be trained in the bioinformatic analysis of large-scale genomic and transcriptomic datasets to investigate the role of virulence hotspots in nematodes and parasites more generally. Together these approaches will help us to better understand the genetic toolbox used by parasites to successfully infect the host.

The doctoral researcher will be integrated into ongoing collaborations with laboratories in Japan, Germany, UK and USA. For further background information about our research on gene organisation and parasites please visit:ützmann and


Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an area appropriate to the skills requirements of the project.

IMPORTANT: In order to apply for this project, you should apply using the DTP’s online application form:

You do NOT need to apply to the University of Bath at this stage – only those applicants who are successful in obtaining an offer of funding form the DTP will be required to submit an application to study at Bath.

More information on the application process may be found here:


Funding Notes

A full studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a Research and Training Support Grant of £2-5k per annum and a stipend (£15,009 per annum for 2019/20, updated each year) for 3.5 years.

UK and EU applicants who have been residing in the UK since September 2017 will be eligible for a full award; a limited number of studentships may be available to EU applicants not meeting the residency requirement. Applicants who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

More information on eligibility may be found here: View Website

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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