DNA Strands

£1 million in funding is supporting new researchers in evolutionary genomics

The University of Huddersfield’s Archaeogenetics Research Group has led the way in developing mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) as a tool for reconstructing the dispersal history of mankind. Results include a new model of the expansion of modern humans out of Africa and re-evaluations of the settlement history of Europe, Asia and the Pacific. This work has been pivotal in the emergence of commercial genetic ancestry testing and has helped the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) formulate guidelines for the industry.

£1 million in funding for new interdisciplinary research centre

In December 2014 the University of Huddersfield was awarded £1 million by the Leverhulme Trust for the development of a new research centre which has developed out of this on-going research into archaeogenetics. The Centre for Evolutionary Genomics, led by Professor Martin Richards, will bring together researchers from across a range of disciplines to delve into evolutionary history, from the origins of animals to the spread of modern humans.

Supporting the next generation of postgraduate researchers

The grant from the Leverhulme Trust will enable the new Centre to foster a new generation of PhD students starting out their academic career in evolutionary genomics. The award is one of just 14 given to UK universities in the first round of the new Doctoral Scholarship Scheme from the Leverhulme Trust, making possible the creation of 15 PhD scholarships over five years to carry out wide-ranging research under the supervision of Professor Richards and his colleagues. Two new research fellows have also been appointed to the Centre.

The new Doctoral Scholarships Scheme is motivated by the concern that the prospect of increased indebtedness might discourage graduates from undertaking doctorates. Professor Gordon Marshall, Director of the Trust, said: “It is to be hoped that this first round of awards, modest though it is in terms of overall graduate student numbers, will kick-start a solution to the still unresolved problem of how adequately to fund graduate studies in the United Kingdom.”

A revolution in genomics

The new Centre is a result of a major transformation in evolutionary studies that has taken place over the past decade, resulting from the development of new DNA sequencing technologies, as Professor Martin Richards explains: “This led to a revolution in genomics, looking at whole human genomes or whole animal genomes rather than small numbers of individual genes.”

The focus of the research topics carried out by the Centre for Evolutionary Genomics will extend from the origins of multicellular organisms to the prehistoric peopling of Europe.  In several projects, the Centre will focus on both contemporary genetic variation and DNA from human and animal remains.

To find out more about the research in this article, please contact:

Professor Martin Richards – m.b.richards@hud.ac.uk

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