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Windows of opportunity: epigenetic sensitive windows spanning generations PhD in Biosciences Studentship (BBSRC SWBio DTP funded)

College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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About the Project

The SWBio DTP is one of the 12 Doctoral Training Partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training in areas of their strategic relevance. The SWBio DTP is a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol (lead), Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, and Rothamsted Research. Together, these institutions present a distinctive cadre of bioscience research staff and students with established international, national and regional networks and widely recognised research excellence.

The aim of this DTP is to produce highly motivated and excellently trained postgraduates in the BBSRC priority areas of Agriculture & Food Security (AFS) and World-Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB). These are growth areas of the biosciences and for which there will be considerable future demand.

The award:

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

Project Description:

Are you interested in learning more about epigenetics while at the same time enriching your CV with key data
science skills? This exciting project focuses on computational models and experimental tests of how fathers in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus can pass on nongenetic information to their offspring, particularly when this information has a time-dependent component.

An accumulating number of studies have shown that experiences during early life can have long-lasting phenotypic consequences for the next generation. However, the impact of any experience depends on the particular timing at which it occurred during the life course, hinting at the existence of sensitive windows. How long do these sensitive windows last? What molecular mechanisms mediate them? These questions are to be addressed in this interdisciplinary project, where we look at developmental windows of sensitivity in males and their effects in offspring.

Using in vivo experiments combined with state-of-the-art-omics techniques you will test how developmental stimuli experienced by males at a series of different time points affect small RNA profiles in their sperm. Subsequently, we will also test how male sensitive windows affects phenotypes and small RNA profiles in their offspring. Experimental in vivo and genomics work will be complemented by evolutionary modelling to assess how sensitive windows vary with an organism’s life history. The project will provide fundamental novel insights into the mechanisms underlying sensitivity to early-life environments, which has not only implications for the developmental origins of health and disease in humans, but also gives us much needed insight into the mechanisms that underlie phenotypic plasticity.

During the project you will obtain interdisciplinary training in a range of techniques that are highly soughtafter
by employers in academia and industry, including experimental in vivo skills, molecular techniques, programming in R and Python and bioinformatics. You will be based in rapidly growing, friendly and inclusive department and benefit from the complementary expertise of a multidisciplinary team with expertise in biomedicine, mathematical modeling and evolutionary ecology.


To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet both the academic and residence criteria.

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover

• a stipend* at the standard Research Council UK rate; currently £15,285 per annum for 2020-2021
• research and training costs
• tuition fees (at the standard Research Councils UK rate)
• additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship

Please refer to the regulations or Annex 1 of the Research Council Training Grant Guide to confirm that you meet the residence criteria for a fully-funded studentship. Any further queries in relation to residency must be directed to the institution that you are applying to.

* An enhanced stipend is available for students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£23,164 per annum for 2019-2020). There may also be enhanced stipends associated with projects that have a CASE partner (CASE projects are highlighted as *CASE in the project lists).

Funding Notes

BBSRC SWBio DTP funded CASE studentship available for September 2021 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,285 per annum for 2020-21, on a full time basis.

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