Fully Funded Studentship Molecular Evolution of Host-Specificity in a Plant Pathogen (BROWN_J14DTP)

Deadline:  29 November 2013. Available from 1 October 2014. 

Supervisor: Professor James Brown


The Project:

The study of variation in DNA sequences is a powerful tool to gain insights into biological evolution, both to investigate the past events which have shaped modern populations and to understand how current populations respond to natural selection. This project will give a student the opportunity to investigate the molecular evolution of an economically important fungal pathogen in order to understand how it has become a destructive parasite. The study organism is Blumeria graminis, the Ascomycete fungus which causes powdery mildew, a damaging disease of cereal crops and forage grasses. 

Three research questions are currently of particular interest. One is how and when forms of B. graminis evolved which are highly specific to different cereal and forage crop species. Another is how fungal avirulence -effector genes evolve in such a way as to enable B. graminis to evade recognition by the host plant’s resistance mechanism. A third is to identify which genetic mutations enable B. graminis populations to become insensitive to the fungicides used to control mildew in arable crops.

The project will combine research in molecular evolution with plant pathology and applicants with a specialist interest in either area can be considered. While currently topical questions have been outlined above, there will be scope for the student to develop her or his own interests. There will be good opportunities for working with other labs within the lively network of powdery mildew researchers in Europe.

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Recommended reading:,Host-specificity: Troch et al. 2013, Molecular Plant Pathology (forthcoming: copy available on request),Host-parasite coevolution: Brown & Tellier 2011, Annual Review of Phytopathology 49:345-367,Blumeria genome: Spanu et al. 2010, Science 330:1543-6.

Entry Requirements:

2:1 or 2:2 plus Masters. English Language – IELTS 6.5 overall with 6 in each category. 

Funding for PhD studentships from BBSRC is available to successful candidates who meet the UK Research Council eligibility criteria including the 3-year UK residency requirements. These requirements are detailed in the BBSRC eligibility guidelines:

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/web/FILES/Guidelines/studentship_eligibility.pdf. All candidates should check to confirm their eligibility for funding.

The current stipend for 2013/14 is £13,726 per annum.

Making Your Application:

For further information and to apply, please visit the ‘How to Apply’ page on our website: http://biodtp.norwichresearchpark.ac.uk/how-to-apply

Additional Information:

In keeping with the postgraduate training policy of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) all students recruited onto this programme will be required to undertake a three months internship during the second or third year of their study. The internship will offer exciting and invaluable experience of work in an area outside of research, and full support and advice will be provided by a professional team from the UEA.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) – a collaboration between the Norwich Biosciences Institutes and the University of East Anglia. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the Studentship Competition. The interview dates will be the 14th and 15th January 2014. 

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