Supervisors and Institutions
We invite applications for a PhD position in statistics at Newcastle University. The project involves the development of a statistical model for the evolution of morphological traits. Evolutionary trees, or phylogenies, are typically estimated or reconstructed using genetic sequence data from present-day species. On the other hand, palaeontological data make a unique contribution to our understanding of evolution, but integrating such data with modern molecular-based analytical techniques is challenging.
This project will develop a new probabilistic model of morphological evolution which will allow data from fossil organisms to be interrogated with the same rigour applied to genetic sequences – leading to quantitative statistical tests of diverse hypotheses of biological relationship and evolutionary processes. Morphological traits pose additional modelling challenges beyond those for molecular sequence data, such as dependence between features, and so new models are needed to approach this problem. The project will deliver training in widely-used statistical techniques (Markov processes, Bayesian inference, applied phylogenetic methods) and programming frameworks (Java, R), alongside training in morphological and palaeontological data analysis.
The successful applicant will join the Statistics Research Group in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics. In the REF2014 exercise, the School was ranked 11th place in the UK by GPA and 10th on publications, placing us in the top quartile for Mathematical Sciences.
The studentship, ideally to commence between Oct 2019–Jan 2020, includes a new desktop computer and travel allowance. Students also have the opportunity to take part in a range of paid teaching activities, with training provided.