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Award details

Using genetics to investigate the effect of reproductive hormones on healthy ageing Ref: 4772

About the award


Dr Katherine Ruth, University of Exeter
Professor Anna Murray, University of Exeter
Dr Jess Tyrrell, University of Exeter



Clinical and Biomedical Sciences, St Luke’s Campus, Exeter

Project Description:

Applications are invited for a 3-year fully funded PhD Studentship to commence in September 2023. The studentship will be jointly supervised by Dr Katherine Ruth, Dr Jess Tyrrell, and Professor Anna Murray at the University of Exeter.
This studentship offers first-hand experience of genomics and health data science working with ‘big data’ in 100,000s of people. The main aim will be to use genetics to identify characteristics of reproductive hormone exposure that are beneficial or detrimental for health in older adults. The results will suggest ways in which we may be able to improve health by modifying hormone levels, which is of importance given the ageing population.
The student will use genetic epidemiology methods to test the effects of hormones on diseases and health conditions of ageing. Specific objectives will include:
• Conducting large-scale genomic analyses of hormone levels.
• Using statistical analyses to explore common genetics underlying different hormones levels.
• Evaluating how the health of the population would be impacted by modifying hormone levels.

The studentship will build on our previous work which highlighted differences in the health impacts of male and female testosterone levels and the consequences of delaying menopause. A broad range of reproductive hormones will be investigated by drawing on existing collaborations with studies world-wide.
Candidates will be self-motivated with an aptitude for data analysis and experience in one or more relevant areas such as bioinformatics, genetics, computing and/or statistics and an interest in applying such skills to genetics and health. The studentship will be tailored to the student’s interests, skills and experience. This could include analysing health data from GPs and hospitals and exploring state-of-the-art whole genome sequencing data. Furthermore, the student may wish to focus the project within the historically under-researched area of women’s health, for which there is growing recognition of the need for additional studies.
The studentship will provide training and experience in the vitally important, expanding areas of health data science and genomics. Dr Ruth’s research focuses on the genomics of human reproductive traits, carrying out ‘big data’ statistical analyses of genetic and health data from study cohorts of over half a million people. Dr Tyrrell specialises in using large scale human datasets to uncover the causal mechanisms leading to adverse health outcomes such as depression or cardiometabolic diseases. Professor Murray has led ground-breaking efforts to understand the genomic basis of reproductive lifespan and co-leads an international genomics consortium.
The student will be part of the internationally-recognised Genetics of Complex Traits group, a dynamic, supportive team of more than 30 researchers including numerous PhD students. The student will benefit from this world-leading genomic research environment including opportunities to present and discuss work and to take part in research seminars and journal clubs. Finally, the student will have the opportunity to participate in conferences and courses both at Exeter and outside. Towards the end of the studentship, they will be given plenty of support and guidance both to complete the thesis on time and to achieve their career goals.

This award provides annual funding to cover Home tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay Home tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £17,668 (2022/23 rate) per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee (~£22,000) and no stipend. 
International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD.
The conditions for eligibility of home fees status are complex and you will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or Republic of Ireland) within the past 3 years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. 
Candidates will have an aptitude for data analysis and experience in one or more relevant areas such as bioinformatics, genetics, computing and/or statistics and an interest in applying such skills to genetics and health.
If English is not your first language you will need to meet the required level (Profile B) as per our guidance at

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. 
• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Tuesday June 6th 2023.  Interviews will be held virtually / on the University of Exeter St Luke’s Campus, date to be confirmed.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone 0300 555 60 60 (UK callers) +44 (0) 1392 723044 (EU/International callers)   Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.


Application deadline:6th June 2023
Number of awards:1
Value:For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £17,668 (2022/23 rate) for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions