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Seeking critical branch points in bacterial evolution with comparative genomics


Project Description

This is a bioinformatics and comparative genomics-focussed project, seeking to identify the basis of speciation and sub-speciation of bacterial species accounting for the development of individual and independent lineages. There are now enough genomes available, and new (in-house) methods have been developed to maximize the capability for comparing common (core) shared genes, gene variants within core genes, accessory genes (those present in just some cells), as well as other markers.
The goal is to use a ‘molecular archaeology’ concept and comparison of strains in particular lineages, underpinned by analyses using new robust methods for determining evolutionary / phylogenetic population structures, to identify the distinctive features of independently evolving lineages and sub-population, with the deeper question of trying to identify critical steps that create these lineages. In other words to identify what are the events at these critical branch points, to address a fundamental question in evolutionary bacterial biology.
This is not only of interest for understanding key parts of the progression of evolution, but also for the exploration of differences associated with clusters of pathogenic bacteria with greater and lesser capabilities to cause infection, infections of different types, have different host associations, and greater abilities to develop antibiotic resistance.
This project would suit candidates interested in evolutionary biology and bioinformatics.

There are options within this project for a purely computational project, or to develop experimental sequencing and other ‘wet work’ laboratory project work. If a project including laboratory work was pursued, then this would be associated with additional ‘experimental cost bench fees’ of around £6,000 per annum).

Funding Notes

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: View Website
Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

How good is research at Brunel University London in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 50.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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