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Getting Dirty with Soil Phosphorus (BREARLEYU20DTP)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, November 25, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A growing world population demands that agricultural production is managed sustainability. A major threat is our over-reliance for fertilizer on rock phosphate that is a dwindling and geo-politically vulnerable resource. This exciting project targets a major gap in scientific knowledge and seeks transformative solutions to this pre-eminent agricultural problem.

We propose that crops rely on soil microorganisms for mineralization of phytate into the inorganic phosphate form that they can use. The microbiological drivers, the processes and mechanisms enabling this are poorly understood. The knowledge gained from this project will define microbial contributeon to the organic phosphate parameters of healthy soils and allow us to integrate agricultural land management with sustainable reduction in phosphate fertiliser use. The supervisory team drawn from the UEA and Rothamsted Research offers a holistic interdisciplinary research project supervised by experts in environmental microbiology and plant phytate biology.

You will learn bioinformatics, metagenomics and transcriptomics, applying them to determine which microorganisms are responsible for phytate transformations in different soils. You will learn enzymology required to make phytate tracers that you will add to different soils to identify the metabolites made by different microbial communities. You will be instrumental in exchanging skills/technical approaches between the host laboratory and its other academic partners. You will engage with the disciplines of bioinformatics, plant biology and soil science and have opportunity to chart a project of wholly novel provenance.

You must be a numerate graduate of biological/biochemical or soil science, with demonstrable passion for development of a career in science.

Project supervisor:
Project sponsor: Norwich Research Park Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: 1 October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time
Studentship length: 4 years


- First degree (2:1 or above) in relevant subject
- English language (IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each section)


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 7th, 8th or 9th January 2020.

The NRP DTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year 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 students undertake a three-month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding Notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: View Website. Full Studentships cover a stipend (2019/0 rate: £15,009pa), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

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