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Characterization of PHYTOCHROME INTERACTING FACTOR activity during the establishment of fruit photosynthesis in Arabidopsis thaliana

   Faculty of Health and Life Science

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  Dr D Ó’Maoiléidigh, Dr M de Lucas  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Agricultural activities are partially to blame for the climate and biodiversity crises. Destruction of habitats, usage of chemicals and energy, and the production of destructive waste (e.g. animal waste, greenhouse gases) must be reduced in order to reduce the impacts of climate change and to maintain healthy ecosystems. Furthermore, the global population is increasing rapidly and will surpass our ability to produce enough food without drastic changes. Plant-based solutions will eliminate or mitigate many of these problems.

We aim to improve the photosynthetic performance of plants to generate higher seed oil contents, which are excellent alternatives to animal-based products. Although photosynthesis in leaves is vital to plant growth, photosynthetic activity of fruits is irreplaceable in some crops in terms of generating seed oil. Rather than focusing on the biochemical pathways underlying seed oil production, we will use the power of developmental biology to understand how photosynthesis in fruits is established. Through this understanding we will identify strategies to implement in crop species to improve the activity of photosynthesis in fruits. Another outcome of this research may be the improvement of water usage efficiencies for crops since fruit photosynthesis is more resistant to drought than leaf photosynthesis.

Your training in this project will provide you with a solid foundation in plant development and physiology as well as training in molecular biology, biochemistry, gene expression analysis, and genome editing. You will work within a team that is focused on understanding fruit photosynthesis in several plant species and you will be connected the N8 Agrifood consortium. You will generate mutant combinations in model plant species (using CRISPR-Cas9), transgenic plants, and assess the activities of transcription factors using gene expression profiling (e.g. RNA-Seq, qRT-PCR, confocal microscopy), and biochemical assays (e.g. chromatin immunoprecipitation). You do not need experience of these techniques prior to application as we enjoy training and collaborating to improve the skill set of all team members.

As a PhD researcher in the group, your career development will be a priority. We will work towards agreed goals in a productive and enjoyable manner. We aim to have as diverse a team as possible and welcome all applicants of any background with an undergraduate/Master’s degree in biology (plant biology experience is not necessary). If you are interested in applying for this project, please get in touch before your application to discuss it further to improve your chances of being selected by the assessment panel.


Applications should be made by emailing [Email Address Removed] with:

·        a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees);

·         a covering letter – clearly stating your first choice project, and optionally 2nd ranked project, as well as including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project(s) and at the selected University;

·        copies of your relevant undergraduate degree transcripts and certificates;

·        a copy of your passport (photo page).

A GUIDE TO THE FORMAT REQUIRED FOR THE APPLICATION DOCUMENTS IS AVAILABLE AT Applications not meeting these criteria may be rejected.

In addition to the above items, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (as a Word document) to [Email Address Removed]. A blank copy of this form can be found at:

Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed]. The closing date for applications is 10th January 2022 at 5.00pm (UK time).

Funding Notes

Studentships are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for 4 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


Photosynthetic activity of reproductive organs. (2019) J Exp Bot 70(6): 1737-1754
Floral homeotic proteins modulate the genetic program for leaf development to suppress trichome formation in flowers. (2018) Development 145(3)
Control of reproductive floral organ identity specification in Arabidopsis by the C function regulator AGAMOUS. (2013) The Plant Cell 25, 2482-2503
Light regulates xylem cell differentiation via PIF in Arabidopsis. (2021) Submitted
A molecular framework for light and gibberellin control of cell elongation. (2008). Nature 451: 480–484.
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