The Milner Centre for Evolution
The University has founded the Milner Centre for Evolution, a unique cross-faculty research centre bridging biology, health and education.
The Centre has been made possible by a generous donation from Bath alumnus Dr Jonathan Milner. It brings together our intellectual expertise in evolution research to create a state-of-the-art research facility, enabling the University to lead this field.
Core objectives of the new Centre
1. Asking the big evolutionary questions
Evolutionary biology underpins the whole of the Life Sciences. Through the new centre, we aim to understand how and why species change over time. We will develop our understanding of what it means to be human by addressing broad evolutionary questions, such as:
- Why do we have about the same number of genes as a worm but many fewer than rice?
- Given our modest number of genes, why do we have such a large amount of DNA?
- Can we predict which species are likely to survive a mass extinction?
2. Finding new technological and clinical research applications
Applied evolutionary research focuses on developing tools to tackle real-life challenges, like tracking bacterial disease epidemics in real time and improving agriculturally important animals and plants. The ability to respond to urgent questions has never been more important than in our rapidly changing environmental climate.
By better understanding evolution, we can make more informed decisions and use research to guide policy; for example, around optimised use of antibiotics or improved nutritional advice.
3. Taking evolutionary research into the community
Evolutionary biology has a unique and popular appeal and touches upon issues of philosophical and imaginative interest. It tells the story of our own origins and offers a window into humanity's future.
Our aim is to provide world-leading public communication of evolutionary science. We will work directly with schools to improve evolution teaching and will actively engage in the public debate on evolutionary issues.
Phase 1: Developing the Milner Centre intellectual group
The new Centre comprises of a group of 19 academics with a current combined research portfolio of over £5.6 million. Academics and their research groups are from within the fields of biology, biochemistry, health and education.
Some of the latest publications by the Centre’s academics include:
- Head and body lice read DNA differently by Dr Araxi Urrutia
- Watch out for the quiet ones: low-toxin MRSA strains may be the real killer by Dr Ruth Massey
- Four-legged snake fossil shows how snakes lost their legs by Dr Nick Longrich
- 'Silent' mutations useful for medical diagnosis by Professor Laurence Hurst
- Mass extinction survival is more than just a numbers game by Professor Matthew Wills
Our research has also been widely covered in the media. A few highlights include:
- Deadliest superbugs are not the most toxic, new study shows (Dr Ruth Massey)
- Enemy within: the fungus that lives in your mouth and kills as many as MRSA (Dr Stephanie Diezmann)
- Four-legged snake ancestor ‘dug burrows’ (Dr Nick Longrich)
- Jurassic lark: But extinction is no laughing matter (Professor Matthew Wills)
We began a research partnership with the University of Oslo’s Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) in February 2015.
Phase 2: Development of a new facility
A new state-of-the-art building will allow us to grow and excel further in the field of evolution research and outreach. We will also work closely with schools and engagement professionals to develop an interactive public space for everyone to explore evolutionary research.
The planning and construction of this new building is taking place alongside ongoing research by the Milner Centre intellectual group.
The University has received planning consent for the building and and work is planned to start in August 2016.