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Do shared genetic pathways control drought tolerance and senescence in wheat? (BORRILL_J22CASE)

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  Dr Philipa Borrill  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We need to increase the production of staple crops such as wheat by 50 % by 2050 to meet the global demand for food. However, water scarcity represents a major limiting factor for crop production and poses an increasing risk to global wheat production due to climate change. In recent years drought has affected wheat yields in the UK, contributing to 2020’s harvest being the smallest for three decades. In this project we will use interdisciplinary approaches to identify new gene targets to improve drought tolerance and secure wheat yields for the future. 

We have recently discovered several transcription factors which delay senescence (ageing) in wheat, which we hypothesise could provide a route to improve drought tolerance, as has been shown in other plant species. We will use a combination genetic variation studies, knock-out mutants and overexpression lines to ask whether these transcription factors can be used to improve drought tolerance. This part of the project will provide opportunities to run greenhouse and field trials in an academic and commercial research environment and gain a wide range of molecular biology skills.

A second part of the project will focus on comparing the networks of genes which regulate drought responses to those regulating senescence, to identify shared and divergent regulation at the genetic level. This part of the project will develop skills in genomic and big data analysis, thereby providing the student with an interdisciplinary skill set suitable for a wide range of future career paths.

The student will benefit from tailored training opportunities through the DTP training programme and from the outstanding scientific environment across the NRP. They will be supported by academic and industrial supervisors and work closely with members of their lab group and department.

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2021 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP CASE students undertake a three to 18-month placement with the non-academic partner during their study. The placement offers experience designed to enhance professional development. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 25th January, Wednesday 26th January and Thursday 27th January 2022.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply:

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD CASE studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend for each year of the studentship (2021/22 stipend rate: £15,609), and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a. plus a CASE Partner RTSG contribution of £1,400 p.a.


Borrill P, Harrington SA, Simmonds J, Uauy C. 2019. Identification of transcription factors regulating senescence in wheat through gene regulatory network modelling. Plant Physiology 180: 1740-1755.
Borrill P. 2020. Blurring th eboundaries between cereal crops and model plants. New Phytol, 228: 1721-1727.
Gálvez S, Mérida-García R, Camino C, Borrill P, Abrouk M, Ramirez-Gonzalez RH, Biyiklioglu S, Amil-Ruiz F, The IWGSC, Dorado G, Budak H, Gonzalez-Dugo V, Zarco-Tejada P, Appels R, Uauy C, Hernandez P. 2019. Hotspots in the genomic architecture of field drought responses in wheat as breeding targets. Functional & Integrative Genomics.10: 295.
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