The evolution of multiple sclerosis risk

Using signatures of natural selection to focus the search for causal genetic variants in multiple sclerosis

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Multiple sclerosis (MS) prevalence shows a heterogeneous geographical pattern, with higher prevalence in populations of European ancestry, increasing with distance from the equator within those populations. This pattern has likely been shaped in part by natural selection. Identifying genes that have undergone selection at MS risk loci will improve our understanding of the causative mechanisms behind the disease. This project will use population genomics to identify functional variation under natural selection at loci associated with MS risk.

You will use cutting-edge bioinformatic methods to carry out genome-wide scans for natural selection in population genomic data, and localise MS-related selection by targeting loci known to be associated with MS risk. You will use haplotype analysis to test whether specific haplotypes at loci under selection are associated with MS, providing a more detailed picture of the genetic architecture that contributes to risk than we can generate considering only individual variants.

This is primarily a bioinformatic/analytic project, but could also include a laboratory component to validate findings by targeted sequencing in a cohort of MS patients and controls.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Bennet McComish


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Background in evolutionary biology or population genetics
  • Familiarity with the Linux command line and scripting

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Bennet McComish to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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