PhD Fellowship in Molecular Epidemiology / Microbial Genetics and Evolution, Massey University [New Zealand]

PhD Fellowship in Molecular Epidemiology / Microbial Genetics and Evolution, Massey University, New Zealand
We offer a 3-year Marsden-funded PhD programme examining the molecular evolution of New Zealand’s most prominent human pathogen: Campylobacter. We are looking for someone with an interest and background in population genetics or statistics who would like to develop skills applying phylogenetics, molecular epidemiology and coalescent-based genealogical modelling to genome-scale data. You will be based at Massey University in Palmerston North and will be supervised by a team of scientists based at the Hopkirk Research Institute, the Allan Wilson Centre, ESR Ltd, and the Universities of Oxford and Lancaster.

You must be willing to spend some time working in the United Kingdom during the PhD programme.

Application
For further information please contact:

Professor Nigel French
Hopkirk Institute, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences
College of Sciences
Massey University
Palmerston North
Email - N.P.French[ at ]massey.ac.nz
Phone - +64 (06) 356 9099 extn 81188

Further details of the research programme:
The Marsden-funded project is entitled: “Cows, starlings and Campylobacter in New Zealand: unifying phylogeny, genealogy and epidemiology to gain insight into pathogen evolution”

Summary:
The introduction of European wildlife has had a devastating effect on New Zealand’s flora and fauna. Yet these historical events, coupled with the importation of domestic livestock, have provided us with a unique opportunity to study the evolution of a globally important human pathogen: Campylobacter. Using analytical tools recently developed by our research team, together with detailed sequencing studies, we aim to exploit the newly-discovered host specificity of C. jejuni and C. coli strains and the well-characterised historical separation of both NZ and European host and bacterial populations, to improve our understanding of Campylobacter species evolution.

We have unprecedented access to isolates, and their multilocus gene sequences, cultured from humans, domestic animals and wildlife in NZ and Europe - and will gather additional isolates and more detailed sequence data from NZ. We will discover how often, and how much, genetic material is exchanged between natural populations; how important recombination is relative to mutation for the emergence of new strains; and in which host species these events are most likely to occur. Ultimately we can learn how and why C. jejuni emerged to become such a prominent human pathogen; anticipate further evolution and restrict the emergence and spread of new strains.