Lead supervisor: Dr Federico Sabbadin
Co-supervisors: Prof Katherine Denby
The student will be registered with the Department of Biology
Phytophthora infestans, also known as potato late blight, stands as one of the most formidable oomycete pathogens in agriculture, inflicting economic damage surpassing $6 billion every year. Much of our understanding about oomycetes has been centered on intracellular effectors. However, a critical piece of the puzzle remains underexplored: the sophisticated array of proteins and enzymes these pathogens secrete to breach the plant cell wall — the plant's primary defense shield.
The plant cell wall is an intricate fortress, woven together with materials like cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. To penetrate this barrier, pathogens release specific enzymes, known as cell wall degrading enzymes (CWDEs), that dismantle these defenses. Through advanced RNAseq and proteomics methods, we've pinpointed several previously unknown families of these CWDEs that become highly active during infections, potentially functioning as oxygenases, esterases, and hydrolases.
This project presents an exciting opportunity to unravel these enzymes' molecular roles and evaluate them as potential targets to bolster crop protection. Under the mentorship of Dr. Federico Sabbadin and Prof. Katherine Denby at the University of York, you'll gain hands-on experience with advanced molecular biology, plant pathology, and enzymology techniques. You will harness the cutting-edge facilities at the Bioscience Technology Facility (BTF) and York Structural Biology Laboratory (YSBL) to delve deep into the characteristics of these novel enzymes. You will employ state-of-the-art dsRNA techniques to inhibit these pathogenic genes, shedding light on their critical roles in infection dynamics.
This is your chance to immerse yourself in groundbreaking research that could reshape our strategies for safeguarding crops against formidable pathogens.
The Departments of Biology and Chemistry both hold an Athena SWAN Gold Award. We are committed to supporting equality and diversity and strive to provide a positive working environment for all staff and students.
The WR DTP and the University of York are committed to recruiting future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and we have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.
Entry Requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with any biological, chemical, and/or physical science backgrounds, or students with mathematical background who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.
Programme: PhD in Mechanistic Biology (4 years)
Start Date: 16th September 2024
Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by the WR DTP panel in February 2024 on a date to be confirmed.