Characterising and delaying the early signs of ageing


Understanding the biology of ageing remains one of the most enduring challenges in 21st century science. Most, (but not all) organisms undergo ageing, which is typically defined as a decline in biological function over time. While our understanding of the causes of ageing has advanced dramatically over the last 30 years, research has largely focussed on late-life ageing, and diseases of ageing that lead directly to death. However, ageing begins much earlier on, and our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning early signs of ageing is limited. If we understood them better, we might be able to apply anti-ageing therapies to help more health issues than previously imagined, personalise health care more effectively, and screen for new anti-ageing drugs in model organisms more quickly. 

‘Early’ changes with age include fertility, which declines > 30-35 years in people, and also precedes death by an extended period in many other animals. Athletic performance also declines from our thirties, while gut microbiota changes throughout life. These earlier life aspects of ageing, such as reduced fertility and physical fitness, negatively impact human wellbeing, and have other applied consequences, such as for the breeding or value of agricultural animals and other species of economic importance.

To address these issues, this PhD will focus on the study of early signs of ageing – fertility, locomotion and microbiota changes – using the Drosophila model. The overall scientific aim of the project is to characterise and compare the patterns of the early signs of ageing, test for interventions that ameliorate them, and explore how they link to lifespan. The project will use genetically distinct lines of flies to examine variation in early changes in activity, sperm and eggs, and microbiota. The objective is to test whether the early signs of ageing traits are genetically coupled to each other and to lifespan. The project will then apply known lifespan-extending interventions on early-life ageing, focussing on diet and microbiota manipulations, to test the relative impact of treatments on early versus late life.

The supervisory team provides complementary expertise; in Drosophila reproduction and behaviour from Dr Stuart Wigby (lead supervisor, University of Liverpool), and microbiota and ageing from Dr Rebecca Clark (Durham University) and Dr David Weinkove (CEO of Magnitude Biosciences).The CASE partner, Magnitude Biosciences, will provide training in the use of their ‘healthspan machine’ for powerful high-throughput automated analysis of locomotory ageing. The student will additionally learn skills including genetics, microscopy, and sophisticated statistical analyses.

Informal queries may be sent to: 


Applications should be made by emailing  with a CV and a covering letter, including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project/s and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected. We will also require electronic copies of your degree certificates and transcripts.

In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Application Details Form (Word document) to , noting the additional details that are required for your application which are listed in this form. A blank copy of this form can be found at:


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

Studentships are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for 4 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.