Immune system diversity and evolution in natural populations


You will investigate how immune systems evolve. Immune systems are highly sophisticated networks encoded by hundreds of genes. They show a lot of variation both between individuals and between species, and this variability has consequences for how organisms are able to resist infection in the wild.

Our lab has investigated immunity in wild vertebrates using genome sequencing, gene expression and single-cell genomics. This is coupled to extensive phenotypic and immunological data from wild rodents responding to pathogens in the wild. This provides a unique resource to ask: what genomic features of the mouse immune system are conserved across rodent species? and how does genetic variation among individuals affect their immune function?

You receive training in genomics and bioinformatics. These are skills that are highly in demand in academia and industry. Training will be provided formally through structured courses, which will support the development of your novel programme of work under direction of the supervisors. You will be associated with the Centre for Genomics Research, which is one of best laboratories in its field in Europe and has extensive expertise in non-model species and infectious disease. You will also benefit from a vibrant research environment in the newly-formed Institute of Infection, Ecology and Veterinary Science that is ideally placed to understand how animals respond to environmental challenges, including climate change and infectious disease.

The project is suited to a student with at least a good B.Sc. Upper Second in Biological or Life Sciences (particularly genetics or evolutionary biology) or for a computer science graduate wanting to make a transition into biology.


Notes and details of how to apply are available here:

All applicants to ACCE must complete the ACCE personal statement proforma. This is instead of a normal personal/supporting statement/cover letter. The proforma is designed to standardise this part of the application to minimise the difference between those who are given support and those who are not.

The ACCE DTP is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Informal enquiries may be made to 


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2023.
UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2022/23 UKRI rate £17,668)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2022/23 rate £4,596)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)
Note - UKRI funding only covers UK (Home) fees (£4,596 at 2022/23 rate). A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2022/23 entry were £25,950 (full time) per annum.



Wanelik, K, Begon, M, Arriero, E, Bradley, JE, Friberg, IM, Jackson, JA, Taylor, CH & Paterson, S (2020) Transcriptome-wide analysis reveals different categories of response to a standardised immune challenge in a wild rodent. Scientific Reports 10: 7444
Lilley, TM, Wilson, IW, Field, KA, Reeder, DM, Vodzak, ME, Turner, GG, Kurta, A, Blomberg, AS, Hoff, S, Herzog, CJ, Sewall, BJ & Paterson, S (2020) Genome-wide changes in genetic diversity in a population of Myotis lucifugus affected by White-Nose Syndrome. G3 10.1534/g3.119.400966
Wanelik KM, Begon M, Birtles RJ, Bradley JE, Friberg IM, Jackson JA, Taylor CH, Thomason AG, Turner AK & Paterson S (2018) A candidate tolerance gene identified in a natural population of field voles
(Microtus agrestis) Molecular Ecology 10.1111/mec.14476
Using genomic prediction to detect microevolutionary change of a quantitative trait DC Hunter, B Ashraf, C Bérénos, PA Ellis, SE Johnston, AJ Wilson, JG Pilkington, JM Pemberton, J Slate bioRxiv 2021.01.06.425564; doi: