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The evolution of multiple sclerosis risk - Using signatures of natural selection to focus the search for causal genetic variants in multiple sclerosis

   Menzies Institute for Medical Research

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  Dr Bennet McComish  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

About the research project

Multiple sclerosis (MS) prevalence shows a heterogeneous geographical pattern, with higher prevalence in populations of European ancestry, increasing with distance from the equator within those populations. This pattern has likely been shaped in part by natural selection. Identifying genes that have undergone selection at MS risk loci will improve our understanding of the causative mechanisms behind the disease. This project will use population genomics to identify functional variation under natural selection at loci associated with MS risk.

You will use cutting-edge bioinformatic methods to carry out genome-wide scans for natural selection in population genomic data, and localise MS-related selection by targeting loci known to be associated with MS risk. You will also use a landscape genomics approach to examine the evolutionary causes of the strong latitude gradient in MS prevalence that is observed in some populations. You will use haplotype analysis to test whether specific haplotypes at loci under selection are associated with MS, providing a more detailed picture of the genetic architecture that contributes to risk than we can generate considering only individual variants. This project may also include a laboratory component to validate findings by targeted sequencing in a cohort of MS patients and controls.



Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Familiarity with the Linux command line and scripting

Application process

After checking and ensuring that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria contact the project supervisor.

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