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Fluid dynamics in plants: its importance for transport and signalling (BLYTHMU19SF)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Blyth
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Fluid motion is vital to the function of healthy plants. For example, transpiration causes water to be drawn upwards from root to leaf through the conducting elements of the xylem, and pressure-driven flow carries the products of photosynthesis through the phloem. Flow in plant cells is also of tremendous important with respect to transport processes, notably via cytoplasmic streaming.

Flow in the xylem has traditionally been modelled using Poiseuille’s law for motion in a straight capillary tube of circular cross-section. In reality the geometry is highly complex. Xylem conduits are composed of tracheid cells and vessels cells. Tracheids taper at their ends and water moves between them via pits which resist flow and lower the overall conductance. The breakdown into tracheids and vessels varies from species to species (coniferous trees lack tracheids entirely).

Cytoplasmic streaming is driven by the movement of organelles along actin strands. The organelles drag fluid with them as they move, creating a fluid motion within the cell.
In this PhD project, we will study the above fluid dynamical plant problems. We will investigate water flow through the xylem to account for realistic cell and wall geometry, making progress via a synthesis of applied mathematical methods, both analytical and numerical.

The PhD supervisor, Dr Blyth, has close links the John Innes Centre for plant science (JIC), which is also part of Norwich Research Park and situated within walking distance of the main UEA campus . Substantial interaction with plant biologists and physicists actively working on both theory and experiment at JIC is expected throughout the duration of the project.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2019
Mode of study: Full-time

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.

Acceptable first degrees: Minimum 2:1 in Mathematics


i) K. J. Niklas, Plant Biomechanics, Chicago Press.
ii) P.J. Kramer & J. S. Boyer, Water relations of plants and soils, Academic Press.
iii) C. Pozrikidis, Introduction to theoretical and computational fluid dynamics, Oxford.

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