Supervisors: Dr. Androniki PsifidiProf. Damer Blake and Dr. Ankit Hinsu

Department: Clinical Science and Services 

Project Details

Chickens play a pivotal role in global food security as a primary source of meat and eggs. They are the most abundant livestock species globally, offering relatively low production costs and exceptional food conversion efficiency. However, the intensification of chicken farming has also increased the risk of zoonotic outbreaks, the transmission of diseases from animals to humans. Chickens serve as the primary reservoir for a range of human pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. Campylobacteriosis, caused by the bacterium Campylobacter, is a leading bacterial gastroenteritis in humans, often manifesting as diarrhea with potential for severe sequelae. Furthermore, the infection of avian populations with specific subtypes of Avian Influenza A Virus (AIV) poses a significant threat, potentially leading to the emergence of pandemic influenza strains, as exemplified by the cases of human H5N1 and H7N9 outbreaks in 1997 and 2013, respectively. While the susceptibility of poultry to pathogens like AIV and Campylobacter is influenced by a complex interplay of environmental factors and farming practices, genetic predisposition also plays a crucial role.  Genomic selection holds immense potential to develop novel control strategies to enhance disease resistance in poultry populations, thereby mitigating the risk of zoonotic transmission and safeguarding public health.

The overall aim of this project is to identify novel genes and variants involved in host resistance to Campylobacter and AIV infections using a transcriptomics approach.  The successful candidate will join a large research consortium the “One Health Poultry Hub” ( through which samples, from infected and healthy chickens, have been collected in India and Bangladesh.  RNA-Sequencing will be used to compare the gene expression in two tissues: spleen and gut of these birds and identify genes controlling resistance to infections. The key candidate genes will be validated in the lab using Real-time RT-PCR and other methods. The successful candidate will develop cutting edge bioinformatics and wet-lab skills. Outcomes of this project could provide novel insights into host resistance to zoonotic pathogens and inform relevant breeding programmes. The results will be published in the scientific literature and presented in a scientific conference for wider impact and dissemination. 


  1. A. Psifidi, et al. Quantitative trait loci and transcriptome signatures associated with avian heritable resistance to Campylobacter. Sci Rep. 2021; 11(1):1623. DOI:10.1038/s41598-020-79005-7 

  2. A. Psifidi, et al. The genomic architecture of resistance to Campylobacter jejuni intestinal colonisation in chickens. BMC Genomics. 2016; 17:293. DOI:10.1186/s12864-016-2612-7 

  3. G. Banos, et al. Integrating Genetic and Genomic Analyses of Combined Health Data Across Ecotypes to Improve Disease Resistance in Indigenous African Chickens. Front Genet. 2020; 11:543890. DOI:10.3389/fgene.2020.543890 




  • Previous experience of statistical analysis and use of R would be desirable but not essential.  
  • Previous wet-lab experience would be also desirable.  

This can be taken full-time or part-time (12months FTE) project commencing in October 2024, based at RVC's Hawkshead campus. 


Partially funded: The RNA Sequencing data and costs of consumables for wet-lab has been generated with funds from the One Health Poultry Hub project. The MRes student will be expected to meet the course fees and their living expenses. 

International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees. Please note that EU/EEA and Swiss national students may no longer be eligible for the “Home” rate of tuition fees, dependent on personal circumstances (including immigration status and residence history in the UK) and UK government rules which are currently being developed. For up-to-date information on fees for EU/EEA and Swiss national students following Brexit please see our fees and funding page. 

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Deadline: 1pm UK time, Friday 5th April

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to Dr. Androniki Psifidi (

Interview date and location: TBC

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