Extremophiles in a changing world: the mechanistic bases of stress resistance in rotifers and tardigrades

Extremophiles in a changing world: the mechanistic bases of stress resistance in rotifers and tardigrades

Director of Studies: Dr Chiara Boschetti

Second supervisor: Dr Manuela Truebano-Garcia

Third supervisor: Professor Simon Rundle

Project description

Some organisms are able to tolerate extreme environmental conditions which are stressful or lethal to other taxa, and represent important biological models that provide insights into the mechanisms underpinning how species might survive and adapt to environmental change. The biological mechanisms used by extremo-tolerant organisms to survive, and how they evolved in different taxa, are still unclear, but such information is of fundamental importance for understanding how more sensitive species might adapt to global environmental stressors such as climate change. This project aims to identify stress tolerance mechanisms in extremo-tolerant tardigrades and rotifers, microscopic animals that are able to survive extreme conditions such as prolonged drought, high-dose radiation and oxidation. It will use a mixture of comparative genomics, molecular biological and developmental biology approaches to identify and characterise the genetic toolkits, which allow naturally resistant taxa to survive abiotic stresses and explore how this “resistance” toolkit can be transferred to sensitive systems to improve their tolerance.


Applicants should have a minimum of a first class or upper second class bachelor degree. Applications from candidates with a relevant masters qualification will be welcomed. Applicants should be strongly motivated and demonstrate independence and ability to team work. A strong background in molecular biology is desirable, and experience in microscopy, programming and bioinformatics would be advantageous. Interest and basic knowledge of non-model invertebrates like rotifers and tardigrades would be useful but it is not essential.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Chiara Boschetti. However, application must be made in accordance with the details below.


The studentship will have a three year duration and will cover full-time Home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £14,777 per annum.  The studentship will only fund those applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees with relevant qualifications. Applicants required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between Home/EU and overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £10,350 per annum).

General information about applying for a research degree at the University is available at: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/student-life/your-studies/research-degrees/applicants-and-enquirers 

You can apply via the online application form which can be found at: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/study/postgraduate and select ‘Apply’.

Please mark it FAO Miss Aimee McNeillie and clearly state that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences.

For more information on the admissions process contact Aimee McNeillie.

Closing date for applications: 12 noon, 06 April 2018.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in early May. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 30 May 2018 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.