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  SWBio DTP PhD project: Understanding the genetic basis of reproductive strategy in a parasitic nematode system

   Department of Life Sciences

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  Dr Vicky Hunt  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).

The SWBio DTP is funded by BBSRC and involves a partnership of world-renown universities, research institutes and industry across the South West and Wales. This partnership represents a distinctive group of bioscientists with established international, national and regional networks and widely recognised research excellence. We aim to provide students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training.

Studentships are available for entry in October 2023.

All SWBio DTP projects will follow a structured 4-year PhD programme, combining traditional project-focussed studies with a taught first year which includes directed rotation projects.

Supervisory Team:

The student will benefit from a team of supervisors with diverse expertise:

Lead supervisor: Dr Vicky Hunt, University of Bath, Department of Life Sciences (email: [Email Address Removed])  

Co-supervisors: Dr Cameron Weadick (University of Exeter) and Prof Laurence Hurst (University of Bath)

The successful candidate will be based in the Hunt lab (Bath) but will work closely with the co-supervisors. 

In addition, this project will be carried out in collaboration with Taisei Kikuchi (University of Tokyo), and the student will have opportunities to visit Japan as part of their studies and training.

The Project:

The gastrointestinal parasitic nematode Strongyloides is an important parasite that infects ~600 million people globally. These parasites have a unique lifecycle that is ideally suited to understanding the genetic and epigenetic basis of reproduction. The Strongyloides lifecycle alternates between a parasitic adult female generation that reproduces by parthenogenesis and a free-living sexually reproducing male and female generation. The offspring of parthenogenic adults develop into female infective ‘iL3’ larvae (that will go on to infect a new host) or larvae that develop into sexually reproducing adults. All offspring produced by sexually reproducing adults are iL3s. Importantly, adult females in the alternate parthenogenic and sexually reproducing generations are genetically identical, and both produce iL3 offspring, offering an ideal laboratory model to compare reproductive strategies. This project will investigate differences in the embryos derived from parthenogenic and sexually reproducing adult females to understand fundamental principles about reproductive biology.

We hypothesise that embryos derived from different reproductive strategies:

(i) differ in their ability to be a parasite e.g. to successfully infect a host;

(ii) express genes, transposable elements and small RNAs at different levels;

(iii) and (ii) is directly affected by environmental factors such as temperature, exposure to immune stress, dietary restrictions, and composition of microbial communities they are exposed to.

This project will test these hypotheses using a combination of laboratory and bioinformatic skills. The student will receive full training in all aspects of the project such as parasite culturing and biology, sequencing methods such as RNAseq and small-RNAseq, and bioinformatic analysis of sequence data.

Project keywords: reproduction, parasites, genetics, small RNA, nematodes.


Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, and have an interest in parasitology, nematodes, reproductive biology and/or genetics. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Masters degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification/experience* is required.

* Physics A-level (grade B and above) or units in your degree with a significant mathematical component, e.g. maths, statistics, bioinformatics.

Applicants must ensure they highlight their Maths background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.

If English is not your first language, you will need to have achieved Academic IELTS 6.5 overall (with no less than 6.5 in any of the four skills). Find details of other acceptable tests and further information on our website.

Enquiries and Applications:

Applicants who are interested in applying for this project are encouraged to get in touch with Vicky Hunt ([Email Address Removed]) to find out more.

Formal applications should be submitted on the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biosciences.

When completing the form, please identify your application as being for the SWBio DTP studentship competition in Section 3 Finance (question 2) and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section.  You may apply for more than one project within the same application but you should upload a separate (clearly labelled) personal statement for each one, outlining your interest and suitability for that particular project.

See our website for more information about applying for a PhD at Bath.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We want to support diverse and inclusive work environments. We therefore welcome applications from individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender or disability status.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for SWBio DTP studentship tenable for 4 years. Funding covers tuition fees, a stipend (£17,668 p/a in 2022/23) plus an allowance for research/training costs, fieldwork, conference attendance and a 3-month placement. Studentships are open to both Home and International students; however, International applicants should note that funding does NOT cover the cost of a student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK. In line with guidance from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the number of awards available to International candidates will be limited to 30% of the total.

How good is research at University of Bath in Biological Sciences?

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

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