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Dr Gemma Murray
Darwin Building
Gower Street
Dr Gemma Murray profile picture
  • Senior Research Fellow
  • Genetics, Evolution & Environment
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

  • 2022-: Senior Research Fellow, GEE, UCL
  • 2022: Senior Bioinformatician, Wellcome Sanger Institute
  • 2018-2022: Wheldale Onslow Junior Research Fellow in Evolutionary Biology, Newnham College
  • 2018-2022: Research Associate, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge
  • 2016-2018: Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • 2012-2016: PhD, Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge
  • 2010-2011: MSc Quantitative Genetics and Genome Analysis, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh
  • 2009-2010: MPhil Philosophy, University of Cambridge
  • 2007-2008: MA Philosophy, Western University
  • 2001-2006: MPhys Theoretical Physics, University of St Andrews

Research Summary

My research aims at understanding adaptive evolution in bacterial pathogens. I am interested in how and why bacteria evolve to cause disease, colonise and infect new host species, evade vaccines, and resist antibiotic treatments. To address these questions, I develop phylogenetic methodology and population genetic theory, and apply these to genomic and phenotypic data from wild populations and laboratory experiments. My research is inherently collaborative and I work closely with wet-lab microbiologists, epidemiologists, vets and clinicians. 

A common theme in my research is the need to understand bacterial pathogens in their broader evolutionary and ecological context. Advances in sequencing technologies have led to an increasing appreciation of the genetic and ecological diversity within pathogens and more broadly across the microbiome. Studying the drivers of this diversity and the relationship between pathogens and other members of the microbiome could lead to a deeper understanding of the ecology and evolution of pathogens that could inform control and treatment strategies.

Current areas of research:

  • The evolution and ecology of bacterial pathogens: how and why bacterial ecologies change over time and how these changes influence broader evolutionary dynamics.
  • The role of commensal populations in pathogen evolution, particularly the evolution of antibiotic resistance.
  • The impact of purifying selection on bacterial evolution: how changes in mutation rate, genome size or recombination rate influence the burden imposed by deleterious mutations, how this translates to changes in the shape and depth of bacterial phylogenies, and how it influences the emergence and persistence of pathogens.

Teaching Summary

I lecture on the Quantitative Biology (BIOL0001) module. This is a first year module that provides students with a grounding in statistical methods. 

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