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  Understanding the role of rodent niche in dissemination of pathogens and antimicrobial resistance

   Department of Biomedical Sciences

  , , ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Project Overview

Rats and mice are one of the most prolific and widespread wildlife species. They are ubiquitous in urban and rural environments, are in contact with sewage effluents, have a generalist and opportunistic diet and interact frequently with human wastes. While they cause considerable physical damage to buildings and utilities, they pose even more serious risks to public health by spreading disease. They are known to carry a wide range of pathogens including many species of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and helminths. In addition, several recent studies have found that rodents harbour significant antimicrobial resistance (AMR) bacteria including multidrug-resistant Enterobacteriaceae and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus spp. To exacerbate the problem further, surveillance work undertaken by the members of our supervisory team in 2019 revealed that 93% and 61% of house mice and rats carry at least one rodenticide resistance gene respectively - among rats, half have inherited the gene from both parents, the most severe form of resistance.  

Despite these known and emerging threats, the role of rodents as reservoirs and/or vectors of pathogen AMR as well as the extent of their resistance to rodenticide is still poorly understood. Through this PhD programme, we propose to understand the variation in the distributions and dispersal dynamics of rodent-borne pathogens, AMR, and rodenticide resistance in urban, suburban, and rural settings utilising modern techniques and technologies. A central novel theme to this project is the application of innovative molecular techniques and bioinformatics to rapidly identify pathogens, AMR, and rodenticide resistance in single samples. A key concept underpinning this project is the use of faecal samples to screen rodents for pathogen-load, presence of AMR and host rodenticide resistance. 


Gweon Lab – Molecular Ecology, Genomics and Bioinformatics: 

We aspire to better understand some of the most challenging questions in the abundance, diversity, activity and interactions of microbes in a wide range of ecosystems using advanced techniques and technologies. We are fully equipped for state-of-the-art molecular biology, genomics and bioinformatics research and have the capacity of accommodating high-throughput molecular biology research as well processing Big Data using our High-Performance Computing servers dedicated for multi-omics analyses. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the research being undertaken by the group, we welcome students from a range of backgrounds who are ready for new challenges.  


School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading: 

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.    

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet.  Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café, and social spaces. 

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities. 

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to innovative technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures.  We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically. 



Applicants should have a good degree (minimum of a UK Upper Second (2:1) undergraduate degree or equivalent) in science or a related discipline (including mathematics and physics).  Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 


How to apply: 

Apply for a PhD in Biological Sciences at



Further information:



Dr Soon Gweon, email: , homepage:

Please see Dr Gweon’s profile:

Dr Soon Gweon – University of Reading

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Buckle et al., 2020, The Hampshire-Berkshire focus of L120Q anticoagulant resistance in the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) and field trials of bromadiolone, difenacoum and brodifacoum
Jones et al., 2019, Anticoagulant Resistance in Rats and Mice in the UK – Summary Report with new data for 2019
Gweon et al., 2019, The impact of sequencing depth on the inferred taxonomic composition and AMR gene content of metagenomic samples

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