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Gifts that keep on giving: maternal effects and insect pest control (CHAPMANU20DTP1)

Project Description

The student will train at the interface of genetic engineering and fundamental biology to understand the role of maternal RNAs in early development. Variation in the diversity and levels of maternal RNAs are key to understanding evolutionary adaptation and plasticity, as well as aiding in the development of next generation gene drive systems for insect control.

Successful early embryonic development occurs as a result of a precise balance between the effects of both embryonic and maternal genomes. Very little of this process is known in key insect pests and it is of particular importance for effectively tackling serious agricultural pests such as the medfly (Ceratitis captita). This is an extreme generalist whose larvae can thrive in over 350 different host fruits, many of which are of global economic importance. Understanding the mechanisms and balance of maternal vs embryonic effects on development in this species is crucially important to reveal fundamental characteristics of generalist insect pests and to deliver new tools for population suppression. The project is a collaboration with the Pirbright Institute, a world-leading research centre for the development of genetic technologies. The project aims to identify and manipulate RNAs deposited in eggs by mothers in the medfly. This will reveal the fundamental role of these RNAs in the unusually wide dietary success of this species and offer significant potential to increase the efficiency of next generation genes drives through improvements to gene editing.

The student will gain cutting-edge research skills in molecular genetics, CRISPR/Cas9 technology, genomics and reproductive biology. They will train at UEA, Pirbright and Earlham Institute, and will gain key insights into the development and application of novel gene drive systems in the applied sector. They will receive excellent training and career development from the thriving Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership.

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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