Thermal acclimation and adaptation in fungal bio-control agents, BBSRC SWBio, PhD in Biosciences studentship (Funded) Ref: 3293

About the award

Supervisors

Lead Supervisor

Dr Ben Raymond, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors

Dr Daniel Henk, University of Bath

Professor Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, University of Exeter

Location:  University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE 

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:

Metabolism determines the rate of life, and for the majority of organisms this is strongly determined by
environmental temperature. Microorganisms can alter their response to temperature in the short term (by
physiological acclimation) and in the long-term (by evolutionary adaptation) 1. Importantly for biological control, metabolic rates are strong predictors of competitive outcomes between organisms 2. Biological control agents can provide sustainable alternatives to the control of arthropod and fungal pests. However, poor understanding of the variation in control efficacy can hamper the success of biological methods. Since many fungal biological control organisms suppress target pests via competitive interactions, better understanding of what determines metabolism could lead to improvements in application, production or development of biological control agents. For example, our preliminary work indicates that a short (10 day) physiological acclimation period at different temperatures can impact growth of the biocontrol species Trichoderma harzianum as well as the pathogen Botrytis cinerea.

This PhD project will characterize the extent and importance of acclimation in fungal biocontrol organisms. There
are several questions that could be addressed in this project. First, how does physiological acclimation vary among a range of biological control agents used to control arthropod and fungal pests? Second, does this acclimation have consequences for interactions with pests? Critically, if acclimation produces epigenetic changes that are passed through spores then the temperature at which biocontrol agents are grown could have important consequences for field efficacy. Third, does acclimation in the biological control agent follow a similar pattern to acclimation in pests and host plants? Finally, can longer-term adaptation improve the performance of biocontrol agents at temperature extremes?

Training and support fromsupervisory team. The whole team has broad experience of microbiology and evolutionary biology. BR specializes in applying evolutionary and ecological concepts to biocontrol while GYD is an expert in thermal and metabolic ecology while DH specializes in fungal genomics and  haracterizing evolutionary change. The project would suit a keen microbiologist / evolutionary ecologist with an interest in applied issues. The ability to carry out careful experiments is very important for this project, while an interest in quantitative analysis and / or transcriptomics or genomics would be desirable.

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