School researcher wins prestigious Leverhulme research fellowship

Dr Bartlomiej Waclaw
Dr Bartlomiej Waclaw

Dr Bartlomiej Waclaw (Bartek), an Institute of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems (ICMCS) researcher, has been awarded a  Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship.

The Fellowship will support Bartek's work on the development of statistical physics models to understand biological evolution, in collaboration with Rosalind Allen and Martin Evans. Bartek's Leverhulme Fellowship will start in April 2012 and run for 2 years.

Bartek's project focuses on the evolution of microbes. Microbes are tiny, single-celled living organisms which exist in huge numbers in almost every possible habitat, including the human body. Understanding how microbial populations in connected habitats evolve is crucial to developing better ways to tackle the emergence of new diseases as well as the spread of
resistance to known treatments (such as antibiotics).

Microbial evolution is also very interesting from a physics point of view as an example of a far-from-equilibrium process. In particular, in his previous work published with Dr Allen and Prof. Evans in Physical Review Letters in 2010, Bartek showed that migration between different habitats can not only have profound effects on the genetic composition of microbes, but it also leads to the existence of a dynamical, non-equilibrium phase transition at a critical value of the migration rate.

Bartek will now build on this work to discover how the results change when microbes can exchange genes by horizontal gene transfer (a key factor in the spread of antibiotic resistance) and to develop realistic models for the spread of antibiotic resistance through spatially structured human populations.

Bartek has been a postdoctoral researcher at ICMCS since 2009, funded by the group's EPSRC programme grant, led by Mike Cates. From 2007 to 2009 he worked as a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Wolfhard Janke at the University of Leipzig, following a PhD in theoretical physics at the Jagellonian University in Krakow, in his native Poland, with Prof. Zdzislaw Burda. In his spare time Bartek enjoys 3d graphics programming and (since his move to Scotland) golf.


Early Career Fellowships

Early Career Fellowships aim to provide career development opportunities for those who are at a relatively early stage of their academic careers but with a proven record of research. It is anticipated that a Fellowship will lead to a more permanent academic position. Applications are welcomed in any discipline, and approximately 70 Fellowships will be available in 2011. Fellowships can be held at universities or at other institutions of higher education in the UK.