Research opportunities in the School of Biological Sciences

Specialisations

The School specialises in the areas listed below. Visit the School research pages and School academic staff pages for further details.

Candidates seeking entry onto PhD and other research degrees are encouraged to present research proposals related to these areas of specialism.

Alternatively, candidates may undertake a research degree in a topic specified by the School. Visit the ‘Research Projects’ section for details of these topics.

Animal Physiology, Behaviour and Conservation with specialisations in:

  • Environmental modulation of growth and protein turnover
  • Morphological and physiological adaptations that underlie inter- and intra-specific differences in animal locomotor abilities
  • Energetic costs involved in different behaviours, especially flight
  • Use of miniature archival data loggers to measure GPS position, heart rate and accelerometry in free-ranging animals.
  • Neuroendocrinology and neurogenetics of crustacean ecdysis
  • Understanding variation in prey behaviour in response to predation risk and environmental change
  • Invasive species control, conservation policy, antipredator behaviour, territoriality and prey preferences
  • Behavioural ecology of threatened species
  • Physiological adjustments of aquatic organisms to environmental change (temperature, oxygen levels, salinity and ocean acidification), and associated energetic costs

Biogeochemistry and Plant Science, with specialisations in:

  • Biogeochemistry of iron, sulfur and carbon in extremely acidic environments
  • Effects of climate change and eutrophication on drinking water quality
  • Effects of climate change and eutrophication on high carbon storage intensity aquatic ecosystems (wetlands and lakes)
  • Establishing microbial pathways and microbial contributions in cycling biogenic elements (e.g. carbon), in ruminants, soil and in marine systems
  • Genetic modification of crop plants in order to increase disease resistance (e.g. potato and tomato)
  • Molecular approaches to reduce decomposition rates of peatland plants and therefore increase carbon sequestration rates
  • Use of constructed wetland to purify wastewaters and increase habitat quality

Cancer Biology and Neuroscience, with specialisations in:

  • Genome stability mediated by DNA repair mechanisms and by the E3 ubiquitin ligase CRL4Cdt2
  • The role of DNA repair in providing resistance to Topoisomerase poisons (e.g. Irinotecan, Etoposide) and nucleoside analogues (e.g. Gemcitabine, Ara-C)
  • Role and maintenance of cancer stem-like cells in colorectal tumours
  • DNA Damage Responses – novel elements and variants of known regulators in human cells and fission yeast
  • Crustacean neuroendocrinology and neurogenetics
  • Hormonal control of arthropod ecdysis
  • Using the central nervous system of the fruit fly, Drosophila, as a model to analyse the cellular and molecular mechanisms of nervous system development and disease

Microbiology, Parasitology and Biotechnology, with specialisations in:

  • Metagenomic analysis of extreme marine environments and further microbial habitats rich in industrially-relevant enzymes, e.g. gastrointestinal tracts of plant biomass-depleting animals and on their prospecting for new enzymatic activities
  • Genome and OMICS studies and applications of marine hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria
  • Characterizing microbial polysaccharide (lignocellulose) decomposition in terrestrial, aquatic and managed environments and the biotechnological application of novel glycosyl hydrolase enzymes. Isolation and cultivation of novel cellulolytic bacterial strains
  • Sources, ecology and fate of human microbial pathogens (bacterial and viral) in estuarine environments and their interactions with nutrients, suspended particulate material (flocs), sediments and shellfish
  • Functional and genomic analysis of bacterial species associated with Acute Oak Decline
  • Developing improved methods for quantifying the diversity and abundance microbial taxa in the environment
  • Extremophile microbiology – focussing on the diversity and application of microbial life that thrives in extremely acidic environments
  • Biomining – developing new “green” technologies for extracting metals from mineral ores
  • Bioremediation of metal- and acid-contaminated environments, coupled with developing new approaches for recovering and recycling metals from wastes
  • Parasitic and symbiotic mites and lice of humans, primates and other animals, especially follicular mites; biology, microbiology, co-evolution and genomics
  • Endo- and ectosymbiotic bacteria of terrestrial and marine invertebrates; minimal genomes and their application in synthetic biology
  • Molecular parasitology of Leishmannia and Toxoplasma

Molecular Ecology and Evolution, with specialisations in:

  • Evolutionary biology and phylogenetics of fish
  • Discovery and monitoring of species and community diversity using DNA barcoding, metabarcoding and environmental DNA analysis
  • Population structure, genetic diversity and adaptation to changing environments, especially fish and large mammals
  • Traceability and forensics, especially in relation to wildlife conservation and exploited fish
  • Causes and biology of the late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions.
  • Paleogenetics and paleogenomics
  • Development and application of next generation sequencing protocols for sequencing highly degraded DNA
  • Investigation of the functional genomic basis of environmental niche adaptation
  • Venom evolution: understanding the origin and evolution of venoms; evolutionary drivers of venom composition and underlying genetic mechanisms, relevance to snakebite treatment
  • Speciation, natural selection, phylogeny, hybridization and other aspects of evolution in squamates, particularly island lizards, including both natural and invasive species
  • Biogeography and systematics of venomous snakes and other reptiles, species delimitation
  • Invasion genetics
  • Honeybee health and population genetics
  • Ecology of mites and forensic acarology
  • Host-symbiont evolution
  • Developing improved methods for quantifying the diversity and abundance microbial taxa in the environment
  • Molecular microbial ecology of natural and managed environments

Research Project Opportunities

Please note the research project opportunities detailed here are NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Candidates wishing to research any of the projects listed in this section should apply as follows:

  • International candidates requiring a pre-sessional English course will be enrolled on a Combined English / Study Skills and Research Course at the University before starting the PhD degree. The research proposal will be developed and written when enrolled on this course.
  • UK nationals or European and International candidates who have already reached the level of English required for entry should present a relevant research proposal when applying for admission.

Alternatively candidates may present a research proposal related to the research expertise & specialisms within the School. Please refer to the 'Apply' section for further details.

A Molecular genetic approach to studying adaption and evolution

Supervisor: Dr Anita Malhotra

T: +44 (0) 1248 383735/ E: a.malhotra@bangor.ac.uk

I offer a diverse range of PhD projects in evolutionary biology which are united by adopting a molecular genetic approach. These include molecular evolution, applied to understanding the evolutionary dynamics of venom toxins through genomic approaches. This has relevance for understanding the evolution of protein diversity in general, and in organising the search for toxins with potential practical applications (“bioprospecting”), as well as in treatment of the adverse effects of the bites of venomous animals on humans. Another area of interest is in the application of molecular phylogenetic techniques to systematics, population genetics and conservation genetics, again particularly applied to reptiles and amphibians, and also including the genetics of problematic invasive species. I also have a particular interest in the use of genetic tools to study pollinator ecology and would welcome proposals in this area.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Behaviour, ecology, evolution and genetics of Lake Malawi cichlids

Supervisor: Prof. George Turner

T: +44 (0) 1248 382349/ E: george.turner@bangor.ac.uk

Reproductive biology, behaviour, systematics, population genetics and conservation of tropical freshwater fishes, especially Tilapias and other cichlid fishes.

Adaptive radiation and speciation of fishes, especially the cichlid fishes from the African Great Lakes.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Climate change and wetlands

Supervisor: Prof. Chris Freeman

T: +44 (0) 1248 382353/ E: c.freeman@bangor.ac.uk

Concerns are being raised that by 2035, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will exceed 450ppm and lead to dangerous rates of climate change. The greatest year on year increases in air temperature will be experienced in the high latitudes – an area dominated by peat accumulating wetlands. Organic wetland soils from temperate and boreal ecosystems represent a vast reservoir of carbon that plays a crucial role in the global carbon cycle. These soils are major sources and sinks of greenhouse gases including nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Although much is known about the biogeochemical regulation of their fluxes individually very little is understood about the interaction between organic matter nutrient relations (i.e. C, N, P stoichiometry), climate change and greenhouse gas fluxes in these carbon rich soils. Moreover, the regulatory roles of enzymes in these processes remains under researched. This information is needed to parameterise and constrain existing carbon-climate coupled models at the global scale. The work will build on our previous studies published in the journal Nature.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Gene and Genome Evolution

Supervisor: Dr John Mulley

T: +44 (0) 1248 383492/ E: j.mulley@bangor.ac.uk

I welcome enquiries from prospective students interested in studying genes and genomes, especially with respect to the role of gene and genome duplication in the evolution of embryonic development. My research currently uses 'next-generation' approaches to sequence genomes and transcriptomes and a combination of wet-lab and bioinformatics projects would therefore be available, utilising invertebrate and vertebrate models. Possible project areas could include:

  • The evolution of Hox and ParaHox genes
  • The role of gene duplication in snake venom evolution
  • Pdx genes in pancreas development and function

I also welcome project suggestions from interested students.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Genetic modification of crop plants

Supervisor: Dr Anil Shirsat

T: +44 (0) 1248 382323/2534 / E: a.h.shirsat@bangor.ac.uk

We are currently working on increasing the disease resistance of crop plants by over-expressing genes coding for cell wall proteins. Experiments in Arabidopsis have shown that this is a successful strategy and we are currently testing the validity of this idea by introducing cell wall protein genes into major crop species such as potato and tomato.

Key areas: Plant molecular biology, Agrobacterium, Plant transformation, Cell wall proteins, Disease resistance. Crop plants.

Molecular approaches to reduce the effects of global warming:

Peatlands comprise the second largest store of carbon on the planet - and sphagnum moss is the most common plant in peatlands. Decomposition of peatlands (which would cause release of stored carbon and accelerate global warming) is currently been prevented by the anaerobic condition of peatlands and the fact that Sphagnum secretes phenolic compounds which inhibit decomposition. We are currently investigating the synthesis of these phenolics using a molecular approach and looking to see if Sphagnum can be genetically modified to increase the synthesis of these phenolics.

Key areas: Global warming, Peatlands, Sphagnum, Phenolocs, Plant molecular biology, Moss transformation, Agrobacterium.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Genetics, ecology, evolution and behaviour of tilapia and other cichlid fish

Supervisor: Prof. George Turner

T: +44 (0) 1248 382349/ E: george.turner@bangor.ac.uk

Tilapias are among the world's most important food fishes, with a major and growing role in inland aquaculture. We are interested in studying these fishes in a variety of contexts, but particularly in relation to the identification of novel genetic resources in hotspots of diversity, such as Tanzania. We are working on major collaborative programmes to sequence the genomes of cichlid fishes and to relate genetic differences to phenotypic traits including morphology, growth, diet, colour, disease resistance and reproductive biology. We are also carrying out breeding, behavioural and systematic studies on cichlid fishes, including the unique adaptive radiations of Lake Malawi and the Tanzanian crater lakes, and participate in biodiversity surveys of African freshwaters.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Metal – microbe interactions

Supervisor: Prof. Barrie Johnson

T: +44 (0) 1248 382350/ E: d.b.johnson@bangor.ac.uk

Microbiology of extreme environments

Geomicrobiology

Biohydrometallurgy (bio-processing of minerals and bioremediation of metal-polluted environments).

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Microbial polysaccharide degradation

Supervisor: Dr James MacDonald

T: +44 (0) 1248 383077/ E: j.mcdonald@bangor.ac.uk

Recent work has focused on the use of molecular techniques (PCR, qPCR, RT-qPCR, quantitative RNA hybridisation and cloning) to characterise those microbial communities that colonise and degrade cellulose, the most abundant carbon polymer on Earth, in terrestrial and aquatic environments, and in managed landfill sites.

Currently, we are using a combined molecular/cultivation-based approach to characterise cellulolytic microorganisms from these environments. The overarching aim of this work is to provide information on the saccharolytic enzyme systems of these microorganisms in an attempt to understand their role in carbon flow in natural environments, and also to identify enzymes that may be of benefit in biotechnological applications such as the production of second-generation biofuels.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Molecular ecology and evaluation of aquatic taxa

Supervisor: Prof. Gary Carvalho

T: +44 (0) 1248 382100/ E: g.r.carvalho@bangor.ac.uk

Although most research projects incorporate DNA-based tools, research is aimed at the elucidation of fundamental aspects of a species' biology such as patterns of dispersal and gene flow, evolution of life histories and behaviour, response to environmental stress, and mechanisms of speciation, as well as the application of molecular tools to the management and conservation of exploited aquatic species from temperate, tropical and Antarctic marine and freshwater ecosystems. Recent work at Bangor has extended to include DNA barcoding of fishes, the use of second generation sequencing and transcriptomic technologies to examine communities of marine benthos and adaptive variation in the wild, and the integration of population genetic approaches to marine ecotoxicology.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Origins and evolution of snake venoms AND/OR Systematics and biogeography of reptiles (especially venomous snakes)

Supervisor: Dr W. Wüster

T: +44 (0) 1248 382301/ E: w.wuster@bangor.ac.uk

 

My research interests span a wide array of topic on the biology and evolution of reptiles, particularly venomous snakes. Fields of particular interest in which I would be happy to supervise PhD students include:

  • Studies of the systematics, phylogeography and biogeography of venomous snakes; species limits in complex groups of venomous snakes, generally using multilocus molecular genetic approaches as well as more traditional character systems
  • Determinants of venom composition in snakes: venom composition is often exceedingly variable even within snake species. I am interested in investigating the role of natural selection for diet as well as other factors in shaping patterns of variation in venom composition, and the genetic mechanisms responsible.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Physiological and metabolic adjustments of aquatic organisms to environmental change.

Supervisor: Dr Nia Whiteley

T: +44 (0) 1248 388080/ E: n.m.whiteley@bangor.ac.uk

Physiological and metabolic adjustments of aquatic organisms to environmental change. Physiological consequences of climate change including temperature rise, ocean acidification and reductions in salinity. Thermal responses in natural populations and relationship to life-history traits. Cold-water biology.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Pollution control using wetland ecosystems

Supervisor: Prof. Chris Freeman

T: +44 (0) 1248 382353/ E: c.freeman@bangor.ac.uk

Natural and engineered wetlands are increasingly being used around the world for the treatment of pollution. Recent studies have demonstrated a significant remediation of pollutants including BOD, COD, suspended solids and nutrients to take place between the inflow and outflow water. More recently, work has been carried out to investigate their use in removing complex organic pollutants from a variety of effluent streams, including road and airport runway run-off. Wetlands are currently being applied as Landfill leachate and storm-water runoff treatment systems. This project would develop “enzymic optimisation” techniques to the treatment process in order to promote the development of a new generation of high performance wetland treatment systems.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Quantifying and understanding biodiversity in relation to community dynamics, environmental change, ecological function and human health

Supervisor: Dr Simon Creer

T: +44 (0) 1248 382302/ E: s.creer@bangor.ac.uk

I am interested in using contemporary molecular tools to address diverse questions focusing on biodiversity, ecology and evolution. This is a particularly exciting time in the field of molecular ecology, since advances in DNA sequencing throughput have recently offered a paradigm shift in our ability to assess previously intractable functional and taxonomic biodiversity at an unprecedented scale, augmenting existing biodiversity fields and empowering others. Using such technologies, I am testing a range of hypotheses regarding the alpha and beta functional and taxonomic diversity of macro-, meio- and microbial communities (e.g. microbiomes) in space and time, based on genomic, community and environmental DNA (eDNA). Focal habitats have included estuarine, coastal and deep sea environments with an increasing focus now on freshwater, terrestrial, whole organisms and the aerial biosphere in order to understand the drivers of diversity in natural communities and also how diversity is linked with ecological function, trophic relationships, environmental and human health. Current additional activities include phylogenomics, population genetics, life history evolution, polyploidy, pollination genomics. 

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

The development and application of molecular biological and metagenomic techniques for microbial community analysis

Supervisor: Dr James MacDonald

T: +44 (0) 1248 383077/ E: j.mcdonald@bangor.ac.uk

This research is underpinned by the development and application of molecular methods to characterise these complex microbial communities. We are using 454 pyrosequencing to develop new metagenomic methods that circumvent the biases associated with PCR amplification and sequencing of phylogenetic markers such as the 16S ribosomal RNA gene.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

The ecology and persistence of pathogens in the environment

Supervisor: Dr James MacDonald

T: +44 (0) 1248 383077/ E: j.mcdonald@bangor.ac.uk

We have also utilised molecular methods to study the ecology and diversity of pathogens such as Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) on a dairy farm site. Current projects are focussing on the transfer of bacterial and viral pathogens from catchment to coast, and the implications of climate change on pathogen transfer and persistence and the impact on human health.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

The influence of environmental conditions and wing kinematics on the flight performance of birds

Supervisor: Dr Charles Bishop

T: +44 (0) 1248 382315/ E: c.bishop@bangor.ac.uk

Many species of birds are known to perform seasonal and foraging flights lasting from many minutes to many hours in duration, covering substantial distances and/or negotiating physical barriers. The optimal strategy for making these flights will be strongly influenced by the environmental conditions encountered by the birds as a result of the geographical terrain that must be negotiated, the weather conditions that are encountered and the distance that must be travelled. In addition, individual birds will vary in their morphological, kinematic and physiological abilities and this will impact on their flight performance and energetics. Homing pigeons provide an excellent model for the detailed study of individual flight performance and the energetic strategies used by birds during flight.

This study will exploit state-of-the-art data logging technology to study the effects of a variety of experimental manipulations on the behaviour, energetics and flight performance of free-ranging homing pigeons (Columba livia). We will use small ECG and accelerometer data loggers along with GPS tags, in the monitoring of body movements and physiological variables on free-ranging animals, such as homing pigeons. Manipulations may include flying birds over water, lowland and through mountains; during headwinds and tailwinds of various strengths; and following manipulations of morphological variables such as wing and body mass.

Please note the research project opportunity detailed here is NOT funded by the University. Candidates must secure their own funding to meet the costs of PhD study

Entry requirements

For information and further detailed guidance on entry requirements for International Students, including the minimum English Language entry requirement, please visit the Entry Requirements by Country pages on the International Education Centre section of our website.

Ask the IEC for assistance...

If you want advice or a general chat about what’s available contact the International Education Centre on +44 (0) 1248 382028 or email international@bangor.ac.uk

Fees & Scholarships

Please take a look at our Fees & Scholarships pages for details.

How to apply

Step 1 – Select your research topic

You have three options with regards the selection of your research topic;

Option 1

Prepare your Research Proposal, based on the research expertise at the School.

Option 2

Select a research project from the Directory for PhD opportunities (Also available as a PDF document). Enter the name of the project and the name of the supervisor on the application form. The ‘Research Project’ route is delivered in two parts:

  • Part 1: A Combined English / Study Skills and Research Proposal course. This is when you will write a research proposal based on the selected research project. Duration is up to 1 year, dependent on the English language level.
  • Part 2: The PhD programme.

Option 3

Occasionally, the University advertises PhD Studentships. Studentships are funded / sponsored PhD placements which cover tuition fees and sometimes living costs, usually for a period of 3 years. They are offered for specific research projects. Studentships are advertised on the University website and Academic Schools’ websites and there is normally a deadline for submitting applications. The terms and conditions of Studentships vary and may become available at different times of the year.

If you are applying for a Studentship, enter the name of the studentship on the application form

Step 2 – Prepare your documentation

You will need to gather the following documentation to present with your application:

  • Bachelor degree certificate and transcript
  • Masters degree certificate and transcript (if undertaken)
  • English language test certificate (if undertaken)
  • Academic reference / support letter
  • Confirmation of funding / sponsorship (if applicable)
  • Passport
  • Research Proposal (if you are NOT selecting a project from the Directory of PhD opportunities or applying for a Studentship). Click here for guidance about how to write a good research proposal.

Step 3 – Apply Online

International students have two options when applying;

Apply online

Option 1 – Apply online yourself

Option 2 – Apply online with the help of a recruitment agent

  • If you would like help in completing and managing your application you may seek help from one of our authorised representatives or agents. To see a list of our representatives for your country please visit the Country pages.

Application advice

Applications for research degrees differ substantially from applications for taught courses such as Masters degrees. Although the application form is the same, the way in which you approach your application can make all the difference.

Applying for a self-funded or externally-funded Research Degree

As with all of our courses, you can apply to fund yourself through a PhD/MPhil at Bangor, or you may already have sourced external funding (e.g. from your employer or government), and we warmly welcome all expressions of interest in so doing. However, rather than simply filling in an application form, there are a few steps that you can take in order that your application stands a greater chance of being successful.

All PhD/MPhil students require supervision from at least one academic member of staff at the University, and if you are considering a PhD/MPhil, you will already have a good idea of the specific area or theme that you want to research. In order to ascertain that we hold sufficient expertise in your chosen topic to provide supervision, you should first look at our staff pages. This will provide you with a breakdown of each staff member’s area of academic focus.

Once you have found a member of staff whose research interests broadly accord with your own, you should contact them directly with a concise research ‘brief’ that outlines your proposal and ask whether s/he would consider supervising your project. If the academic expresses his/her interest, you may then further discuss your ideas and develop a full PhD/MPhil research proposal.

At this stage, you should formally apply online for the PhD/MPhil programme. You should fill the form out thoroughly, including academic references, your research proposal and the name of the academic member of staff under whose supervision you intend the research to be conducted.

Your research proposal

A good research proposal is essential if you are applying for a PhD or MPhil. The proposal should include:

  1. Overview – give a brief abstract of the subject area you wish to research and include information on the key theoretical, policy or empirical debates that will be addressed.
  2. Planning – you need to demonstrate that you are aware of the research timescales and have a plan in place to conduct your work. You need to demonstrate that the research is manageable in the given time period.
  3. Literature references – you need to show that your planned area of research has not been studied before. Provide references to key articles and texts relevant to your area of study.
  4. Methodology – you need to show that you are aware of the methodological tools available and have identified which ones would be suitable for your research.

When do I Apply?

You can apply at any time of the year.

It is possible to start a PhD degree at any point in the year at most academic Schools, subject to agreement with the supervisor.

We advise that you submit your application in enough time to:

  • organise funding
  • undertake an English course
  • obtain documents such as transcripts and references required for meeting the conditions of the offer
  • apply for a visa
  • make accommodation arrangements

Further information

Admission related queries

If you need any assitance in completing your application, contact the International Admissions Team on +44 (0) 1248 382028 or email international@bangor.ac.uk