PhD Scholarship - Sexual conflict and aging

The University of Queensland (UQ) and the University of Exeter are seeking an exceptional student for this PhD Scholarship: Sexual conflict and aging as part of the QUEX Institute. This joint PhD scholarship provides a fantastic opportunity for a talented doctoral student to work closely with a world class research group and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions. The successful applicant will have the chance to study in Australia and the UK, and will graduate with a joint degree from The University of Queensland and the University of Exeter.

In addition to this project, a further six UQ-based projects are available, along with seven Exeter-based projects.


Project details

Sexual conflict and aging

Project team Project description Preferred academic background


Dr Katrina McGuigan


Professor David Hosken


At any given age men are more likely to die than women, but women have poorer health at older ages. This is referred to as the “male-female, health-survival paradox” – women live longer but suffer more.  This paradox is not driven by selective death as women have higher survival probabilities at every age, but tend to live more of their lives in poorer health.

Our previous work (Nature Communications) used mathematical models and Drosophila flies to provide a general solution to the health-survival paradox based on intra-locus sexual conflict, where alleles segregating in the population have late-acting positive effects on male fitness, but negative effects on female health. However, we know little about variation in the inter-sexual genetic associations, and so whether this solution to the paradox is likely to be general.

This project will address the question of how inter-sexual genetic correlations for life history (reproduction, aging and health) evolve and therefore how easy it is to change the genetic architecture to resolve the inter-sex health-survival trade-off. Results of the study will be of considerable interest to evolutionary biologists, gerontologist and geneticists as studies of this type have never been conducted. The project will provide the student with a range of experiences and skills that will equip them to conduct their own innovative research in either applied areas of biology (including health) or in fundamental research.

In this project, the student will determine the intersexual genetic correlations for lifespan, age-dependent fertility and a marker of late-life health (i.e. healthy aging) across the well-established Drosophila phylogeny to gain insight into how the genetic basis of male and female health and longevity has evolved. To achieve this, the student will take advantage of Professor Hosken and Dr Archer’s knowledge of life history (aging and reproduction), sexual selection and sexual conflict, and access their unique resource of laboratory populations sampled from across the Drosophila phylogeny. Dr McGuigan will then work with the student to train them in the application of sophisticated multivariate analyses to characterise among-species variation in the inter-sex correlations and the within sex correlations among traits. 

The student will divide their time between experimental design, theoretical modelling and experimental work at the University of Exeter (Hosken and Archer), and application of complex multivariate quantitative genetic analyses at the University of Queensland (McGuigan).

A bachelor’s degree with first class honours or a coursework master’s degree and an overall GPA (grade point average) equivalent to 5.65 on the 7-point UQ scale, which includes a relevant research component.

The successful applicant for this project will enrol through The University of Queensland's School of Biological Sciences.

Questions about this project should be directed to Dr Katrina McGuigan


These scholarships include a living stipend of AUD $27,596 (2019) tax free, indexed annually, tuition fees and Overseas Student Health Cover (where applicable). A travel grant of AUD $8,500 per annum, and a training grant of AUD $3,000 are also available over the program.

How to apply

These scholarships attract a large number of applications and are therefore highly competitive. The are several steps involved in the application process, and these are outlined below. Please note this process is for the UQ-based projects. The Exeter-based projects have a different process.

  1. Expression of Interest: To be considered for this program, you must complete an Expression of Interest via the link below.
  2. Shortlisting: The project team will review all Expressions of Interest received. They may contact you at this stage to request more information or to have an informal discussion about your suitability for the project.
  3. Interview: The project team will nominate the two most suitable applicants for each project (or only one if they prefer), and these applicants will be invited to attend a formal interview. As there are seven UQ-based projects, a maximum of 14 applicants will be interviewed.
  4. Invitation to apply: The applicants who were interviewed will be ranked. The top five ranked interviewees will be invited to submit a full application, providing they have applied for five different projects. If two applicants have expressed interest in the same project, the lower ranked applicant of the two will not proceed, and the applicant with the next highest ranking for a different project will be invited to apply instead.
  5. Assessment of application: If you are invited to submit a full application, this is the point at which you will be assessed for eligibility to enter the PhD program. To avoid delays at this point, you should familiarise yourself with the program requirements including evidence of relevant research experience and English language proficiency prior to submitting an Expression of Interest.
  6. Commencement: Successful applicants will commence at The University of Queensland in Research Quarter 1 (January, 2020).

Expressions of interest are open until 20 May, 2019.

Submit an expression of interest

Questions? Contact the Graduate School.