PhD Studentship: Fungal Endophytes Protect Wheat from Disease and Stress

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Applications are invited for a funded PhD in Biological Sciences starting in September 2013 at the University of Exeter to work under the supervision of Professor Sarah Gurr, who joins the University in February. Successful applicants will be based within Biosciences (Streatham Campus, Exeter) at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences,

The dramatic rise of wheat prices in the EU in the closing weeks of 2012 likely reflects i) poor harvests due to drought and/or deluge and its impact on local harvests and global imports ii) losses caused by the most devastating foliar disease of wheat, notably Septoria tritici blotch (STB) caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella graminicola. Currently, STB control is orchestrated by deployment of partial resistance and the use of antifungals. However, fungicide resistance has developed recently in the fungal population to the 2 dominant chemistries, the azoles and the QoIs. With the 20:20TM wheat vision (harvests of 20 tonnes per hectare in 20 years), crop protection from biotic and abiotic stress is paramount to enable full yield potentials to be met.

This projects aims are:

i. To detail the M. graminicola life-cycle in resistant and susceptible wheat cultivars, using various cellular markers, plant and fungal redox sensors

ii. To characterise endophytic fungi associated with ancestral and modern wheat cultivars using ITS and next generation sequencing technologies

iii. To investigate the endophytes as natural bioprotectants of STB infection, drought and anoxic stresses, and temperature extremes. These investigations will be run in parallel to assays with other fungi shown to elicit induced systemic immunity (ISR) in monocots to foliar pathogens

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iv. To evaluate defence gene expression in planta during host-pathogen-endophyte interactions

v. To use the North Wyke farm platform to undertake growth chamber and field trials of wheat endophyte bioprotection

Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

The studentship covers a stipend of £13,726 pa and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet residency requirements. Due to funding, candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project and have no restriction on the period they may stay in the UK. Students from EU countries who dont meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Please contact Prof Gurr ( for informal enquires about the project. General enquiries can be made to


Application deadline: 7th February 2013

Number of awards: 1

Value: £13,726 pa plus UK/EU tuition fees

Duration of award: per year

Contact: CLES Postgraduate Research Team

How to apply Please upload the following documents to the studentship application form – Click here to apply

The preferred format for all uploaded files is .pdf and filenames should start with your last name

* CV

* Covering letter (outlining academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).

* Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if still studying)

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* 2 references (if your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to

Closing date for applications is midnight Thursday 7 February 2013.

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