The Milner Centre for Evolution is a unique cross-faculty research centre which bridges biology, health and education. Not only will it be pioneering the latest evolution research, from human’s place in the tree of life to using evolutionary techniques to track superbug epidemics, it will also be researching the best methods to teach evolution and providing resources to schools to support their teaching.
The three core objectives of the Centre are; to carry out quality evolutionary research to further our understanding of the history of life on Earth; to expand the public understanding of evolution; and to apply evolutionary knowledge for the public good. The Centre’s impact spans the fields of genomics, conservation, infection and immunity, palaeobiology and education and applies their understanding to real-world problems that affect us all, from treating cancer more effectively, to tackling climate change.
Two particular projects that may have an impact on health are from Professor Ed Feil and Professor Laurence Hurst. Professor Feil is to be part of an inter-disciplinary research consortium which has been awarded £2.9 million from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to help tackle the growing incidence of antibacterial resistance in Thailand. They aim to build a holistic picture of what drives antibiotic resistance, to give the Thai people opportunities to reduce, or at least slow down, the rise of this public health problem. Professor Hurst, along with scientists from our University and Berlin, identified, in 2014, a type of human stem cell that appears to be "naïve-like" – able to develop into any type of cell. This discovery could have a large impact on our understanding of how humans develop and on the field of regenerative medicine.
Since June 2015, when the centre was established, over 2,170 news items were published with a combined reach of more than 90.6 million. Researchers from the centre have published 15 articles in The Conversation with a readership of almost 1.7 million. We have included just some of the news stories from the centre’s researchers at the end of this article.
To mark the launch of the centre, on 21 September, around 120 children from local primary schools will be exploring various aspects of evolution. They will be learning about DNA coding using logo, digging for fossils, meeting giant stick insects, making frogspawn beads and much more.
Improve evolution education by teaching genetics first (Laurence Hurst)
Evolution acceptance in children linked to aptitude, not belief (Laurence Hurst)
Dawkins’ fabled cooperative gene discovered in microbes (Jason Wolf)
New genes linked with bigger brains identified (Araxi Urrutia)
Microbe breaks “universal” DNA rule by using two different translations (Laurence Hurst)
Promiscuity slows down evolution of new species (Tamas Szekely)
Skewed sex ratios causes single fathers to bring up the young (Tamas Szekely)
Last African dinosaur” discovered in Moroccan mine (Nick Longrich)
Scientists find the first bird beak, right under their noses (Daniel Field)
Mass extinction survival is more than just a numbers game (Matt Wills)
Fossils found of giant flying creatures wiped out with the dinosaurs (Nick Longrich)