BBSRC DTP-funded PhD positions - Dec 14th deadline
Closing date for applications is Monday 14th December. All references must be received by Thursday 17th December. Apply here. Successful candidates will be offered four years PhD training. Part of the first year will consist of lab rotations, with the remaining time focused on the main research project. Funding available to UK residents (fees + stipend) and EU citizens (fees only).
Dr. Angus Davison and Dr Sara Goodacre, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham
Invasive snails and slugs are causing worldwide problems, both in terms of direct damage to crops, and as intermediate vectors for diseases of farm animals. Yet, snails and slugs are difficult to identify and we have little idea of what influences their distributions, hindering appropriate control and conservation efforts. In the UK, modern molecular phylogenetic knowledge of these species – terrestrial and aquatic – and their potential as vectors of disease is relatively limited. In Hawaii, we have recently characterised an aquatic Lymnaeaid snail that has cryptically colonised the archipelago. This snail is endangering the local endemic species, and potentially acts as an intermediate vector for the liver fluke parasite.
The aim of this project, therefore, will be to study the process of invasion, using representative species in the UK and Hawaii (with collaborators in the Bishop Museum, Hawaii and Howard University) to understand the evolution of these snails and their parasites, and including methods that may help refine the identification of the invasive species and species of conservation concern. Although much of the work will be lab-based, with a concomitant bioinformatics element, field collection will be a necessary component.
Dr. Angus Davison, School of Life Sciences and Dr Nicola Everitt, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham
Nature has inspired some of our greatest inventions, from biomimetic Velcro to sea-water desalinating biological membranes. In this project, we will explore the potential for biomimicry in the design features of molluscs, focussing on their mastery of biomineralisation. For instance, snail teeth are the strongest biological material, and have outstanding mechanical properties, due to their multi-layered structure; also, so-called “love darts” are unique drug-enlaced delivery vehicles that vary markedly between species, yet at present we are quite ignorant of how the function of these organs relates to their microstructure.
In this project, we will use nanoindentation methods to investigate the mechanical behaviour of specimens at a microstructural length scale. Simultaneously, we will investigate the development of the organ(s), through gene expression studies, also combining ecological and phylogenetic information to construct an evolutionary framework which links the microstructure to the mechanical properties. Ultimately, the project will seek to use the information gained to inspire, inform and improve the production of new technologies, perhaps especially with regard to microparticle design, drug delivery and nanocomposite materials, and will of necessity seek out of commercial partners, as discoveries are made.