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Mathematical modelling of interaction dynamics in microbial communities

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, May 31, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit is an internationally renowned institution focused on the delivery of field-changing mechanistic insights into toxicology and disease. This studentship will join the Unit’s new Systems Biology group, led by Dr Kiran Patil.

Project Outline

Microbial communities occupy practically all habitats on Earth, from ocean deeps to the human gut. Targeted modulation of these communities is important for many health and environmental applications but remains difficult due to challenges in modelling complex interspecies interactions. The goal of this ERC (European Research Council) funded PhD project will be to develop a novel microbial community modelling framework capturing inter-species interactions in their mechanistic detail. The project will combine ODE-based and steady-state models, and evaluate these against experimental data from kefir and gut bacterial communities. The candidate will work closely with the other members of the team for model building and experimental validation. They will thereby have an opportunity not only to develop new computational skills but also to learn about cutting-edge experimental techniques.


The research will be conducted within the MRC Toxicology Unit which is a core-funded institute within the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge. This leading international research Unit provides state of the art research facilities, with excellent opportunities for collaborative interaction within a vibrant community at the University of Cambridge. The Unit will move into the newly refurbished Gleeson Building, Cambridge, in Autumn 2020.

There are a variety of training modules and courses which students are encouraged to attend. In addition, students follow the Toxicology Unit’s weekly external and internal seminar programs and are included in the postdoc/student forums which take place each month and offers excellent opportunities for collaboration and career development.

Students will be registered with the University of Cambridge for the duration of the studentship. Successful applicants will enjoy membership of a University of Cambridge College from commencement of their PhD in October 2020.

Applications will need to be made through the University Application Portal and will entail an application fee of £65: https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/application-process/how-do-i-apply

Please enter the project title in the ‘Proposed title of Research’ textbox.

Your online application needs to include:

• A CV, including full details of all University course grades to date.
• Contact details for two academic or professional referees.
• A personal statement outlining your interest in a specific project area, what you hope to achieve from a PhD, and your research experience to date.

It is recommended that you contact the supervisor prior to making your formal application:
Dr. Kiran R. Patil:

Further information regarding the Patil lab can be found here: https://www.mrc-tox.cam.ac.uk/research/patil-programme

This advert will remain open until 31st May 2020 or until a suitable candidate is found.
Please check the Toxicology Unit website for updates: http://www.mrc-tox.cam.ac.uk/

Funding Notes

This studentship is for four years commencing October 2020 with a stipend of £15,009.

Full funding is available to UK and EU applicants only.

Candidates must expect to obtain qualifications at the level of a first-class or 2.1 Honours Degree in a related discipline. In addition to an excellent academic record we are also looking for candidates with hands-on experience in at least one of the following areas: ODE-based modelling, convex optimization, statistical modelling. Candidates should be enthusiastic about working in an interdisciplinary project and willing to collaborate closely with the other members of the team.

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