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Horizontal Gene Transfer and Sexual Selection in Bacteria, Biosciences – PhD (Funded)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr B Kuijper
    Prof D Hosken
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description


Dr Bram Kuijper, University of Exeter
Prof David J Hosken, University of Exeter
Prof Angus Buckling, University of Exeter
Dr Edze Westra, University of Exeter

Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Cornwall

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences is inviting applications for a PhD studentship fully-funded by the Leverhulme Trust on the evolutionary theory of sexual selection in bacteria, to commence in May 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be based in Centre for Ecology and Conservation in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, one of the hotbeds of research in ecology and evolution in the United Kingdom.

Sexual selection is a powerful evolutionary force in many higher organisms, and arises from differences in mating or fertilization success associated with male-male competition and female mate choice. In contrast to the vast amount of research done on sexual selection in insects, birds and mammals, little work has been done on sexual selection on other organisms. Because bacteria frequently engage in sex (through horizontal gene transfer) with substantial fitness consequences, it raises the question whether there is scope for mate choice of mobile DNA elements or competition over DNA insertion in bacteria. And if so, what consequences will sexual selection have on bacterial adaptation?

To understand these questions, the current PhD project aims to develop evolutionary models of mate choice and mating competition in bacteria (using analytical models and/or computer simulations) in collaboration with Dr Bram Kuijper and Prof David Hosken. Dependent on the student’s own interests, she/he is also welcome to engage in empirical research on bacteria. Moreover, the theoretical work will be informed by empirical analyses on experimental evolution of sexual selection in bacteria, carried out by a postdoctoral researcher working with Dr Edze Westra and Prof Angus Buckling.

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