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Evolutionary Genomics in Ants


Extensive studies have shed light on the morphologies, behaviours and evolutionary contexts of social insects, but understanding which genes are involved in social evolution is only now becoming possible. The 10,000- fold drop in DNA sequencing costs since 2007 enabled us first to identify genes linked to the complex social behavior of the invasive red fire ant (PNAS 2011) and more recently to discover that a pair of social chromosomes determines social structure in fire ant colonies (Nature 2013).

The project will examine the interplay between social evolution and genome evolution, ideally combining cutting-edge sequencing, genomics and bioinformatics approaches with fieldwork and laboratory experiments. Exact details of the project will depend on the student's interests. The project will involve close work with the supervisors, collaborators and other members of the immediate research group and department.


This research will address fundamental evolutionary questions related to social evolution. Outputs may impact pest control research (identification of targets) and genomics research on other organisms (bioinformatics scripts).


In order to qualify for funding from Ciência sem Fronteiras, applicants must be Brazilian nationals and are required to have at least an upper second class degree and a masters degree in a related discipline from a top university anywhere in the world. For more information visit the Ciência sem Fronteiras eligibility pages.

International students must provide evidence of proficient English language skills, see our entry requirements page for further information.

NB If you are interested in self-funding please contact Dr Wurm by e-mail ( to discuss your eligibility for this project.

Application process

Potential candidates should contact Dr Wurm by e-mail ( and submit their CV (including details of two referees) and a cover letter explaining their eligibility and interest in this project.

Applications to Queen Mary and CONACYT are accepted all year round but we encourage you to contact Dr Wurm as soon as possible.

If you are successful we will give you an offer on the condition that you are given a funding award from CONACYT. When you have received a conditional offer, apply directly to CONACYT.


  1. A Y-like social chromosome causes alternative colony organization in fire ants. (2013). J Wang*, Y Wurm*, M Nipitwattanaphon, O Riba-Grognuz, YC Huang, DD Shoemaker, L Keller. Nature 493 (7434), 664-668
  2. The genomic impact of 100 million years of social evolution in seven ant species. (2011). J Gadau, M Helmkampf, S Nygaard, J Roux, DF Simola, CR Smith, G Suen, Y Wurm, CD Smith. Trends in Genetics. 28 (1), 14-21
  3. The genome of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. (2011). Y Wurm° and 38 other authors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. 108(14), 5679
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