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Mr Joshua Lee Thomas
G-26 Darwin Building
UCL Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment
Centre for Life's Origin and Evolution London
Mr Joshua Lee Thomas profile picture
  • Research Assistant - Shou's lab
  • Genetics, Evolution & Environment
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences
I am currently a Postdoc at UCL in the Shou Lab. Before joining UCL, I completed my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford. I then remained at Oxford (Department of Biology) to complete my PhD in Bacterial Evolution & Genetics. 
Research Summary

My research broadly focuses on the evolution of social interactions in microbes. During my PhD, I used experimental and computational approaches to study the role of antimicrobial toxins, called ‘bacteriocins’, in mediating competition in natural populations of Staphylococcus aureus from the human nasal microbiome. I also used comparative genomics approaches to understand whether horizontal gene transfer plays a role in stabilising cooperation across bacteria.

As a Postdoc, I now research social interactions in multi-species microbial communities. In particular, I aim to understand how social interactions give rise to microbial 'community functions', i.e. functions performed by communities that cannot be achieved by individual community members. I then aim to utilise our understanding of these social interactions to implement artificial selection strategies that evolve communities to improve community functions. This work has important practical applications, as many community functions have high medical and industrial relevance, including the production of useful molecules, such as pharmaceuticals and enzymes, and the degradation of harmful ones, such as toxic waste.

Teaching Summary
During my PhD, I provided tutorials to undergraduates on the Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford in multiple subject areas, including: microbiology, molecular biology & genetics, and evolutionary biology. I also taught and demonstrated in laboratory practicals in these subject areas. I led many teaching seminars, including: effectively presenting scientific research and preparing for exams. I was heavily involved in access & outreach activities at Oxford, including holding the position of Access & Outreach Officer (2021-2022) at St Hugh’s College, Student Ambassador (2015-2018) at Jesus College, conducting a large number of mock interviews for prospective students from state schools, and running outreach workshops at events such as Cheltenham Science Festival. 
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