Supervisors: Dr. Androniki Psifidi (RVC),  Dr Emily Clark (University of Edinburgh), Professor Joanne Conington (Scotland’s Rural College) and Dr Elizabeth Attree (RVC) 

Department: Clinical Science and Services 

Project Details

Gastrointestinal (GI) parasitism is a global problem for grazing ruminants. GI constitutes an important welfare issue and contributes to significant economic losses for the sheep production industryThe use of anthelmintics is often the favoured choice to control GI parasites, but the continuous use of these drugs has led to the emergence of resistant strains. Further, there is public pressure on the agriculture industry to reduce reliance on chemoprophylaxis. An alternative way to address this problem in a sustainable way is breeding animals more resistant to parasitism.

This project aims to identify genes and genetic variants responsible for resistance to gastrointestinal helminths (GI) in Scottish Blackface sheep using an RNA-Sequencing approach. Identification of such genes would be advantageous in improving and accelerating breeding strategies, improving herd health and alleviating the significant welfare and economic burdens caused by GI parasites. This project will encompass aspects of both bioinformatic and laboratory techniques. RNA-sequencing data from the blood of phenotypically resistant and susceptible sheep to GI parasitism will be analysed to identify differentially expressed genes and genetic variants of interest. Using the identified variants and gene expression data an allelic imbalance analysis will be also performed to identify further genes and genetic variants affecting sheep resistance to parasitism. Identified genes and variants of interest will be validated in the laboratory using RT-qPCR and other wet-lab techniques, Due to the range of techniques to be utilized and the significant impact of the outcomes, there is also potential for publication of the results of this project.  


  1. Gauly, M. and Erhardt, G., 2001. Genetic resistance to gastrointestinal nematode parasites in Rhön sheep following natural infection. Veterinary Parasitology, 102(3), pp.253-259.  

  2. Stear, M.J. and Murray, M., 1994. Genetic resistance to parasitic disease: particularly of resistance in ruminants to gastrointestinal nematodes. Veterinary parasitology, 54(1-3), pp.161-176.  

  3. Poli, M.A., Donzelli, M.V., Caffaro, M.E., Raschia, M.A., Mazzucco, J.P. and Rossi, U.A., 2023. Genetic resistance to gastrointestinal parasites in sheep. CABI Reviews, (2023). 




  • 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 fundedRNA Sequencing data and wet-lab consumables will be covered by the lab. 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

Top of page