UCL Division of Biosciences


Evolution and Origins of Life stream

UCL is a world-class centre of excellence for research focussed on the understanding of the origins of life.

Why study evolution and origins of life at UCL?  

UCL is a world-class centre of excellence for research focussed on the understanding of the origins of life and how it can help us to understand and the effects of, and biological responses to, today's changing environment. Students coming to UCL will have access to the expertise found within the UCL Centre Life’s Origins and Evolution where research uses a variety of experimental, statistical and theoretical methods, often in combination, and includes both lab- and field-based projects. 

Topics covered 

Research topics covered by this stream are centred on three themes:

(i) Origins of Life and Major Innovations (eg Florencia Camus; Duncan Greig; Nick Lane; Chris Thompson);
(ii) Patterns of Evolution at all Time Scales across the Tree of Life (eg Hernan Burbano; Julia Day; David Murrell; Max Telford); and
(iii) Processes underpinning the emergence of biological complexity and diversity (eg Paola Oliveri; Ferdinand Marlétaz; Wenying Shou). Students will normally design a research project from within one of these themes.

A fuller list of potential supervisors can be found here

Example project titles 

  • Understanding the role of metabolic genes in thermal adaptation 
  • Understanding evolutionary rescue in plants at their ecological margins on Mount Etna, Sicily  
  • How easy is it to detect an adaptive radiation? 
  • Population genomics of the Irish potato famine pathogen using ancient and modern DNA 
  • The genetic basis of adaptation to temperature in two yeast species 
  • Effects of mitonuclear incompatibilities on fitness in Drosophila melanogaster 
  • Study gene regulatory network for embryonic development using CRISPR/Cas technology     
  • Cellular decision making: genome wide approaches to understanding how conflict and cooperation have shaped the evolution of molecular mechanisms underlying cell fate choice during development 
  • Adaptive evolution in the flu virus 

Evolution and Origins of Life taught module 

GENE0006 Understanding Bioinformatics Resources and Their Application 

Please Note: There may be access to modules other than those provided in the following lists. However, all optional modules must have the approval of the subject stream tutor. Some modules may be appropriate for more than one subject stream. You can view further information about the modules in the Module Catalogue