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A genomic approach to understand insecticide toxicokinetics in a global crop pest. PhD in Biosciences (SWBio DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 02, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Lead Supervisor
Prof Chris Bass, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Additional Supervisors
- Prof Richard ffrench-Constant, Department of Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter
- Dr Jacob Riveron, Department of Bioscience, Syngenta

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

Programme Overview
The South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) is led by the University of Bristol, together with the Universities of Bath, Cardiff and Exeter, alongside Rothamsted Research. This partnership also includes the following collaborative partners; Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), Swansea University, UCB Pharma, University of the West of England (UWE) and SETsquared Bristol.

These institutions represent a distinctive group of bioscience research staff and students, with established international, national and regional networks, and widely recognised research excellence. As research leaders, we have a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high-quality research and teaching, in partnership with industry and the government.

The programme particularly aims to provide students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training within the following themes:
- Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery
- Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food
- Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Importantly this research training is also underpinned by transformative technologies, allowing you to expand the boundaries of your research through innovative tools, technologies and approaches.

For more information about the programme structure, please visit

Funding for 2020/21
These studentships are available to UK and EU nationals who have established UK residency (EU nationals must have ordinarily lived in the UK throughout the three years preceding the start of the studentship).

Project Description

Background and project aim: Aphids are among the world’s most damaging group of insect pests causing tens of millions to billions US$ of yield loss per annum across a wide range of crops. The evolution of aphid resistance to the insecticides used for control currently represents a serious threat to their sustainable control. There is thus an urgent need to understand the key processes that influence how insecticides enter, move about, are modified, and leave the aphid body - and understand how these are modified in resistant clones. The aim of this studentship is to address this knowledge gap by leveraging new tools and resources to characterise the key genes of aphids and their internal microbes that affect the uptake and translocation of insecticides in insecticide susceptible and resistant aphids.

Experimental approaches: The project will leverage extensive biological and genomic resources we have developed for the peach potato aphid, Myzus persicae, an economically important pest aphid species worldwide. These include a living library of over 100 clones collected from almost every continent in the world. The student will use a variety of approaches to explore the uptake and translocation of specific insecticides in a selection of the M. persicae clones held in the host lab, including insect bioassays, high performance mass-spec analysis, and bioinformatics analysis of genomic and transcriptomic data already available to us. Candidate genes associated with altered insecticide uptake will be functionally characterised using cutting-edge transgenic approaches. Finally the influence of the microbiota on insecticide uptake will be explored using a combination of metagenomic analysis, antibiotic treatments and culture-based approaches.

Impact: The project will provide fundamental insights into the key genes involved in insecticide uptake, and the quantitative or qualitative alterations in these genes that lead to resistance. Furthermore the knowledge and tools developed during the project will facilitate the future development of novel methods of controlling a global crop pest.

Benefits to the student: The student will be trained in a variety of state-of-the-art approaches that are highly sought-after by employers in academia and industry including molecular approaches and bioinformatics. The student will be based in a thriving group comprising multiple PhD students and post-doctoral researchers and will also benefit from exposure to industry through the Syngenta link/placement. Finally, the student will benefit from an annual enhancement of £2,500 per annum to the standard stipend.

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet both the academic and residence criteria in line with UKRI guidelines. Please see the following webpage for further details

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover:

• a stipend* at the standard UKRI rate; currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-2020
• research and training costs
• tuition fees (at the standard UKRI rate)
• additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship

Funding Notes

SWBio DTP funded CASE studentship available for September 2020 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,009 per annum for 2019-20, on a full time basis.

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