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Statistical genetics to reduce infectious disease transmission

Project Description

We are offering an exciting 3-year PhD studentship for candidates interested in developing genetic risk estimates for individuals’ ability to transmit infectious disease. The studentship will use genetic and health data from cattle populations in the UK to investigate the role of cattle genetics in spreading bovine Tuberculosis. The studentship, funded by the UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, offers the PhD student the opportunity to make a strong contribution to the scientific statistical genetics field, and to the UK government’s goal of eradicating one of the most persistent livestock diseases. The student will benefit from a multidisciplinary supervisory team and research training environment in a world leading bioscience institute.

Project details:
Despite tremendous control efforts, bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) remains one of the most persistent livestock diseases in the UK. Building on collaborative research between The Roslin Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the cattle industry launched in 2016 the genetic index ‘TB Avantage’, which enables farmers to select bulls with improved genetic bTB resistance. Empirical evidence now suggests that cattle may also differ genetically in their capacity to transmit disease, and that incorporating genetic risk estimates for transmitting disease into breeding programmes will help eradicate the disease. In this PhD project, we aim to develop the statistical tools and apply them to genetic and bTB surveillance data to calculate, for the first time, genetic risk estimates for cattle for acquiring bTB and for transmitting the disease.

Besides producing novel statistical methods and scientific insights into genetic effects underlying disease transmission, the successful PhD candidate will have the opportunity to closely work with the cattle industry to implement the project results into practice. As such, the student will contribute to the UK government goal to eradicate bTB by 2038.

PhD student profile, funding and research environment:
Excellent numerical skills exemplified by experience in advanced statistics / mathematical models with programming experience are required as well as good communication skills and an interest in livestock genetics and infectious disease research. This 3 year PhD is funded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB, offers a stipend of ~£15K per annum and is funded to pay the University of Edinburgh tuition fees for UK/EU students only. Non UK/EU nationals must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the difference between the home and international student tuition fee level
2020/2021 tuition fees: Home/EU = £4,407; International = £23,500.

The successful PhD candidate will be based at the Roslin Institute. The candidate is expected to start in autumn of 2020 and will be supervised by a multi-disciplinary team consisting of Prof. Andrea Doeschl-Wilson, Prof. Georgios Banos, Dr. Enrique Molano-Sanchez and Marco Winters, head of AHDB dairy genetics. The successful candidate will join a welcoming, vibrant, multi-disciplinary research environment that brings together world leading livestock geneticists, epidemiologists, statisticians, bioinformaticians, and molecular biologists to improve livestock and human health and to train the next generation of world-class scientists.

How to apply

Applications including a full CV with names and addresses (including email addresses) of two academic referees, should be sent to:
When applying for the studentship please state clearly the project title/s and the supervisor/s in your covering letter.
You should also apply for September 2020 entry via

Funding Notes

Applicants should have or expect to obtain a minimum of an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in animal breeding, statistics, mathematics, or any other relevant quantitative subject.

If English is not an applicant’s first language, an IELTS/TOEFL certificate should be submitted with the application as evidence that the candidate meets the language requirements.

To qualify for full funding students must be UK or EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to commencement.

For informal discussion about this studentship, contact Andrea Doeschl-Wilson; Email , phone: +44 131 651 9224.

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