Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Stochastic variation in biological systems

(Interdisciplinary PhD scholarship (funded by EPSRC))

Biology is constantly subject to fluctuations, due largely to the probabilistic collisions of molecules, which form the basis of most cellular processes. This is critical for the network of genes that regulate each other, as the magnitude of fluctuations can greatly increase upon passage through the system. As a consequence, cellular components, such as mRNAs and proteins, are expressed at widely differing levels among the cells of an otherwise identical population. This biological ’noise’ has received much attention recently and has been recognized for its great impact on many systems. Several works demonstrate functional roles for noise while control theoretical considerations show that it is difficult to completely suppress it. It is not well understood how cells can function reliably in light of these constant fluctuations and it is unknown what the most significant cellular sources of noise are. In this project, we will apply stochastic modeling techniques to understand and interpret datasets about mRNA expression levels in single mammalian cells. We will construct mathematical models that express biological mechanisms as testable hypotheses within a Bayesian framework. For model comparison and parameter estimation, we will explore the models with computational Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo techniques. The student will be supervised by Daniel Hebenstreit ( and Barbel Finkenstadt (

The PhD programme will involve numerous opportunities to develop quantitative and experimental skills with guidance from supervisors. The successful candidate will be provided with resources for computing, and support for research and conferences, as well as tuition fees and a monthly stipend.The scholarship covers fees and living expenses for home students, but overseas students and EU students are eligible to apply.

Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a bachelor's degree in mathematics or statistics, or in a subject containing a substantial mathematical component, and have a strong interest in biology. The normal entry requirement is a high upper second class degree.

Interested candidates should submit their application following the instructions given at by 30 November 2015. Please indicate clearly as part of the application that you are applying for Interdisciplinary PhD scholarship Stochastic variation in biological systems.

Please contact D dot Hebenstreit at warwick dot ac dot uk or B dot F dot Finkenstadt at warwick dot ac dot uk if you would like to discuss the project.

For general queries please contact stats dot pg dot support at warwick dot ac dot uk