Andrew Farrer

Mr Andrew Farrer

PhD Candidate

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences

Andrew G. Farrer is a PhD Candidate at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD). His research looks at how the human oral microbiota (bacterial community) is impacted by cultural and environmental shifts through time, and what this means for health and disease, past and present. He specialises in ancient DNA techniques, recovering the oral bacteria of British individuals who lived during the last 2,000 years.

Science engagement is also a key part of Andrew's PhD project. He has helped develop and coordinate the ACAD outreach program, which includes collaborations with the Children's University and COMPASS initiatives, and has personally presented his research to various audiences. He was judged the University of Adelaide's 3 Minute Thesis Winner and People's Choice, and placed in the top 10 of the international TransTasman event in 2015.


Originally from the UK, Andrew moved to Australia to undertake his PhD entitled "Ancient DNA studies of dental calculus", at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. This project uses ancient DNA techniques to identify and reconstruct the oral microbiota (bacterial community of the mouth) preserved within human dental calculus. The key aims of the project are to understand how past cultural and environmental changes in Great Britain impacted health and disease through time, and shaped the modern oral microbiota.

In 2010, Andrew gained an Honours degree in Zoology from the University of Manchester, UK, which focused on genetics, behaviour and morphology. His honours project was in Prof. T. Brown's laboratory, extracting and analysing ancient human mitochondrial DNA. Subsequently, he graduated with an M.Phil. in Human Evolutionary Studies (Biological Anthropology) from the University of Cambridge, UK in 2013. Taught elements explored hominin genetic, cultural, and morphological evolution, primatology, and advanced statistical analyses. His research project analysed genetic data to infer baboon troop (sub-population) interactions.

Community Engagement

Panelist - Open in Action: The Case for Open Access Publishing: Panel discussion as part of Open Access Week 2016, University of Adelaide October 2016

ScienceAlive! Career Ambassador - National Science Week event: Speaking to high school students about science careers and university August 2016

Session Chair - School of Biological Sciences Postgraduate Symposium: Leading a session of research talks July 2016

"The life on us: Fossils of a microscopic world" - Article: Outreach to high schools on why ancient dental calculus can be used to study impacts of changing culture, eScience Magazine May 2016 

"LabARTory" - Blog Post: Artistic elements of an ancient DNA lab, ACAD December 2015

"Thank you to our generous supporters" - Video: Non-speaking role to thank University supporters, specifically scholarship donor Mrs Denholm December 2015

"Science says! - Adelaide" - Event: Panel show organised by Science Nation, hosted by RiAus November 2015

"Revealing a skeleton's history by cleaning its teeth" - Article: Letter to Mrs Denholm in the Lumen (University of Adelaide Magazine) Winter 2015

"Andrew Farrer – Ancient DNA and the life on us" - Interview: Discussing the 3 Minute Thesis competition and PhD research, Radio Adelaide October 2015

"TransTasman 3 Minute Thesis: Ancient DNA and the life on us" - Talk: Final 10 of the Asia-Pacific competition, University of Queensland October 2015

"3 Minute Thesis Final, University of Adelaide: Ancient DNA and the life on us" - Talk: University of Adelaide September 2015 - Winner: $3,000 Travel Grant

"OAGR: a brand new genome database" - Blog Post: Showcasing a new ancient DNA database, Co-author: Jimmy Breen, ACAD August 2015

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Bacteria in your Body" - Event: Children's University, extra-curricular science for primary school children, Co-presenter: Laura Weyrich July 2015

"Cleaning the teeth of skeletons: Ancient DNA studies of the oral microbiota" - Talk: ADOHTA Professional Development Evening July 2015

"Cleaning the teeth of skeletons: Ancient DNA studies of dental calculus" - Talk: Community presentation, Boroughbridge, UK March 2015

"I hope you remembered to shower" - Blog Post: Insight into ancient DNA protocols, ACAD February 2014

  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Amount
    2015 TransTasman 3 Minute Thesis: Final 10
    2015 University of Adelaide 3 Minute Thesis: Winner and People's Choice University of Adelaide
    2015 School of Biological Sciences Postgraduate Poster Symposium: Runner-Up University of Adelaide
    2014 Royal Society of South Australia Postgraduate Lightning Talks: Winner Royal Society of South Australia
    2014 L. F. and D. Denholm Scholarship University of Adelaide
    2013 University of Adelaide PhD Scholarship University of Adelaide
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2011 - 2012 University of Cambridge United Kingdom M.Phil. Human Evolutionary Studies
    2007 - 2010 University of Manchester United Kingdom B.Sc. (Hons) Zoology
  • Research Interests

  • Journals

    Date Citation
    2017 Weyrich,L, Duchene,S, Soubrier,J, Arriola,L, Llamas,B, Breen,J, Morris,A, Alt,K, Caramelli,D, Dresely,V et al, 2017, Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus, Nature, 544, 7650, 357-361 10.1038/nature21674
    2015 Cooper,A, Weyrich,LS, Farrer,AG, 2015, The relevance of ancient dna to contemporary disease, Pathology, 47, S28-S28 10.1097/01.PAT.0000461404.99154.f1
    2015 Cooper,A, Weyrich,L, Dixit,S, Farrer,A, 2015, The skin microbiome: Associations between altered microbial communities and disease, Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 56, 4, 268-274 10.1111/ajd.12253
  • Conference Items

    Date Citation
    2015 Farrer,AG, Weyrich,LS, Cooper,A, 2015, Ancient DNA studies provide a basis for medical research, 2015 ASMR SA Scientific Meeting, National Wine Centre, University of Adelaide, South Australia
  • Internet Publications

    Date Citation
    2015 Farrer,AG; 2015; LabARTory – the art of science architecture
    2015 Farrer,AG, Breen,J; 2015; OAGR: a brand new genome database
    2014 Farrer,AG; 2014; I hope you remembered to shower


Royal Society of South Australia Small Research Grants Scheme: $1,250                                                                                                                                                            Title: "The changing function of the microbiota throughout Medieval and Post-Medieval London, U.K."

  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2015 Member The Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Australia
    2014 Member Royal Society of South Australia
  • Position: PhD Candidate
  • Phone: 83135148
  • Email:
  • Fax: 8313 4364
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Darling Building
  • Room: 2 05a
  • Org Unit: Genetics & Evolution

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