There are some PhD projects which are currently available and follow my lines of research. After the selection process, the strongest applicants will be funded and will have the opportunity to adapt projects to suit their own interests more closely. If you wish to be considered for one of the projects proposed below, follow the corresponding link to get more information.
Modelling general mechanisms driving evolution in natural populations
Understanding the mechanisms of evolution is vital, both for enhancing our knowledge of existing ecosystems, and for modelling how natural populations will adapt to environmental change. Although Darwin discovered the fundamental rules of evolution, the application of those rules, within large, interacting and fluctuating populations, gives rise to a number of emergent mechanisms, such as convergent and parallel evolution, speciation, mimicry and altruism. Such processes are universal, in that they are generic to many different species and ecosystems. Identifying the universal processes of evolution is an active research area, often involving the analysis of idealized mathematical models.
Investigating the potential role of stochastic mechanisms in the sequential formation of repetitive structures in animals
Three distantly related animal groups posses segmented body plans; the arthropods (flies, beetles, spiders) and annelids (earthworms, leeches) exhibit external body segmentation, while vertebrates are internally segmented (i.e. ribs/vertebrae). Each of these groups is closely related to other animal phyla that are not segmented. However, the mechanisms underpinning sequential segment formation in arthropods and vertebrates share striking similarities; segments form under the control of a network of molecular oscillators, called the ‘segmentation clock’. This project will investigate the range of mechanisms by which segments could theoretically form during animal embryogenesis. Specifically, it will investigate whether segments could form via stochastic processes which can produce oscillatory behaviours without external forcing. Whether the sequential segmentation of an animal embryonic rudiment could proceed in the absence of molecular oscillators, or simply as a result of emergent stochastic processes, has received little attention. By investigating the potential for non-oscillatory mechanisms to pattern reiterated structures, this project will help us to understand whether the widespread use of molecular oscillators in nature reflects inevitable convergent evolution as a consequence of developmental constraint (i.e. evolutionary determinism) or the shared inheritance and/or repeated cooption of ancient and effective molecular mechanisms (i.e. evolutionary contingency).
If you like to discuss more on my projects, contact me.