PhD in Evolutionary Theory and Disease ~

3 de febrero de 2011

PhD in Evolutionary Theory and Disease

This PhD will investigate evolutionary aspects of disease. Many diseases
have at their root a failure of one level of biological complexity to
exert sufficient control over a lower level; examples include cancer
(failure of the body to control replication of cell-lines) and certain
genetics disorders such as Down's syndrome (failure to ensure fair
chromosomal segregation during gamete formation). Still other diseases are
caused by pathogens that must cooperate in order to achieve and sustain
the infection of a host; one well-known example of this is acquired
antibiotic resistance in some bacterial strains. Over the past 50 years
theory to describe the evolution of social behaviour between genetic
relatives, and across multiple levels, has been developed. The theory,
however, is typically abstract, and aims to determine conditions under
which altruism will or will not succeed due to natural selection. The
challenge of this project will be to translate such theory and consider
its potential application to understanding diseases. New theory on
evolution in finite populations may also need to be applied or developed.

This project is deliberately underspecified, and the successful
candidate will be an exceptional individual, who will have great freedom
to pursue directions that interest them and seek out novel research
collaborations. They will have a background in a numerate discipline such
as mathematics, computer science, or physics, ideally with some knowledge
of probability, statistics and stochastic modelling. A demonstrated
interest in biology and medicine is a definite advantage. They will become
part of the newly established Behavioural and Evolutionary Theory Lab
at the University of Sheffield, Department of Computer Science, under
the direction of Dr James Marshall.

About the Behavioural and Evolutionary Theory Lab

The Behavioural and Evolutionary Theory Lab is an interdisciplinary
collection of individuals interested in how and why behaviours evolve. We
are interested in behaviours and behavioural mechanisms, and their
evolutionary function. We apply a range of theoretical approaches,
from mathematics and statistics, decision theory, computer science,
and physics. Particular topics of interest are currently the evolution
of social behaviour, such as altruism and cooperation, and optimal
decision-making mechanisms in groups, such as social insects, and in
individuals. The Lab is part of the Department of Computer Science,
University of Sheffield, and is physically based in the interdisciplinary
Kroto Research Institute.

Applications are invited from UK home students and EU citizens. Fees and
a stipend will be paid for the duration of the studentship. Apply online
or contact Dr Marshall if you require further information. Closing date:
Feb 27th.


[1] Burt, A. and Trivers, R. (2006) Genes in Conflict: the Biology of
Selfish Genetic Elements. Harvard University Press.
[2] Foster, K.R. (2005) Hamiltonian medicine: why the social lives of
pathogens matter. 308, 1269-1270.
[3] Merlo et al. (2006) Cancer as an evolutionary and ecological
process. Nature Reviews Cancer 6, 924-935.
[4] Okasha, S. (2006) Evolution and the Levels of Selection. Oxford
University Press.

James A. R. Marshall
Department of Computer Science
University of Sheffield

James Marshall

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