Role of the fungal cell wall in the interaction of plant pathogens with the host, BBSRC SWBio, PhD in Biosciences studentship (Funded) Ref: 3283

About the award

Supervisors

Lead Supervisor

Dr Steve Bates, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors

Dr Mike Deeks, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter
Dr Jason Rudd, Rothamhamsted Research

Location:  University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Exeter EX4 4QJ

The SWBio DTP is one of the 12 Doctoral Training Partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training in areas of their strategic relevance.  The SWBio DTP is a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol (lead), Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, and Rothamsted Research. Together, these institutions present a distinctive cadre of bioscience research staff and students with established international, national and regional networks and widely recognised research excellence.

The aim of this DTP is to produce highly motivated and excellently trained postgraduates in the BBSRC priority areas of Agriculture & Food Security (AFS) and World-Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB). These are growth areas of the biosciences and for which there will be considerable future demand.

The award:

There are over 30 (including up to 5 CASE studentships) fully-funded 4 year studentships* available to start in September 2019 across a wide range of biosicence academic disciplines. 

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).  Up to 6 fully-funded studentships are being offered to start in September 2019 at the University of Exeter.

Project Description:

Food security is one of the most pressing challenges currently facing humanity. The world population is predicted to reach nine billion by 2050, requiring food production to increase by 50% against a backdrop of climate change and the loss of arable land. Despite agricultural advances plant pathogens still account for losses of 10-16% in the global harvest, making the need for new control strategies urgent. Zymoseptoria tritici is the major cause of wheat loss in the UK, and a major target for the cereal fungicide market. Throughout the infection process Z. tritici remains outside, but in close contact with, the host cell. Therefore the Z. tritici cell wall must form intimate contacts with the host; as such our central hypothesis is that the Z. tritici cell wall plays a vital role in virulence, host recognition and disease.

To address this hypothesis we have three specific objectives:
[1] to undertake the first analysis of Z. tritici cell wall structure;
[2] to determine the importance of cell wall components in virulence through constructing a series of gene deletion strains lacking the enzymes required for their synthesis;
[3] to determine the relative role of cell wall epitopes in triggering the plant defence response.


Through this project we will therefore fully characterise the cell wall in this important plant pathogen, and determine the importance of cell wall epitopes in both plant infection and the triggering of the plant defence
response. Understanding how the pathogen is recognised, and an effective defensive response mounted, could ultimately lead to the development of novel strategies for providing durable plant resistance.
 

Eligibility 

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet both the academic and residence criteria. 

For UK/EU nationals who meet the residency requirements outlined by the BBSRC, the studentship will cover funding for 4 years (48 months) as follows.  These awards might be available to part-time students, but only in exceptional circumstances.  It is recommended you speak to the lead supervisor prior to submitting an application.

•    a stipend at the standard Research Council UK rate; currently £14,777 per annum for 2018-2019
•    research and training costs
•    tuition fees (at the standard Research Councils UK rate)
•    additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship

Please refer to the regulations or Annex 1 of the Research Council Training Grant Guide to confirm that you meet the residence criteria for a fully-funded studentship.  Any further queries in relation to residency must be directed to the institution that you are applying to.

 

Entry requirements

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.  Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Masters degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification or experience is required.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.5 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable, please see  http://www.bristol.ac.uk/study/language-requirements/profile-c/.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend.  Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding. 

Please refer to the regulations or Annex 1 of the Research Council Training Grant Guide to confirm that you meet the residence criteria for a fully-funded studentship.

The four universities have a very limited number of fully-funded 4 year studentships that EU nationals who do not meet the residency requirements would be eligible for.  Please contact us for for more information.

How to apply

Please be aware you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • CV
  • Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project.  Please indicate your preferred project choice if applying for multiple BBSRC SWBio DTP projects.
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim transcript if you are still studying.
  • Two academic referees - see information below about references.
  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English (see entry requirements above)

The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday, 3 December 2018. Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter on 7 and 8 of February 2019.

Reference information
You will be asked to name 2 referees as part of the application process, however we will not expect receipt of references until the shortlisting stage. Your referees should not be from the prospective supervisory team.

If you are shortlisted for interview, please ensure that you two academic referees email their references to the pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk, 7 days prior to the interview dates.  Please note that we will not be contacting referees to request references, you must arrange for them to be submitted to us by the deadline.

References should be submitted by your referees to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.


If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk.

Project-specific queries should be directed to the primary supervisor.

Selection process:

Please note, the studentship selection process will take place in two stages:

1.     The project supervisors will consider your application and may invite you to visit for an informal interview. You can apply for more than one BBSRC SWBio DTP project, although supervisors may take into account your interest and commitment to their particular project.  If you apply for multiple projects, please indicate your preferred project choice in your letter of application.  Each application for an individual project will be considered separately by the project supervisors.

2.     After closure of applications, each supervisory team will then nominate their preferred applicant.  A shortlist will be selected from these nominations and shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview on a selection day at the University of Bristol.  Please note that nomination by a project supervisor therefore does not guarantee the award of a studentship.

Data Protection
During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

  •     the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme,   
        which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
  •    administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.

Summary

Application deadline:3rd December 2018
Value:Tuition fees and an annual stipend allowance at Research Council rates, currently £14,777 per year for 2018-19
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Recruitment Office pgrenquiries@exeter.ac.uk