University of Portsmouth Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Hacking the soil microbiome: enhancing rhizobial inoculants in the lab and in the wild

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

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Dr E Harrison , Dr A Krzywoszynska No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In this project we will investigate novel ways of improving the effectiveness of next
generation bio-fertilizers – including using naturally occurring mutualistic viruses (temperate phages) which associate with rhizobia to enhance the competitiveness of inoculant strains. Along side these experimental approaches we will explore the societal attractiveness and usefulness of inoculant technologies and practices. Finally, we will design and conduct experiments with growers to understand how they may be able to observe, intervene in, and improve their soil microbiomes through do-it-yourself approaches.

The project will give equal weight to the lab-based research and the stakeholder-based research. As a result, this project will suit a student who :
- Is interested in applying ecology and evolution in microbial communities to support agricultural innovation. Experience in working under sterile/clean laboratory conditions is desirable.
- Has previous experience in, or is motivated to learn qualitative social science methodologies, including interviews, focus groups, and participatory action research/knowledge co-production.

The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures focuses on advancing sustainability research and connecting it with the policy debate around how humans can live in a more sustainable way.

We are recruiting Scholars who will combine outstanding intellect with a strong commitment to public engagement, leadership and action. These ambitious individuals will complete interdisciplinary PhD research projects to help solve the challenges of sustainability. They will be supported by the Centre through a unique training programme, designed to equip them with the skills to become policy advocates and leaders in sustainability matters.

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded by The Institute for Sustainable Food and the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield. The Institute for Sustainable Food is an interdisciplinary initiative which aims to address the global challenges of food security, improving the sustainability of the world's future food supplies and encouraging more sustainable consumption.

The applicant is expected to have a 2:1 honours degree + Masters (or equivalent) or first class honours (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. This could be Biology, Microbiology, Geography or Social Sciences.


• Harrison & Brockhurst, 2017, Ecological and Evolutionary Benefits of Temperate Phage: What Does or Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger. Bioessays 39 (12)
• Krzywoszynska, Anna, et al. "Opening up the participation laboratory: The cocreation of publics and futures in upstream participation." Science, Technology, & Human Values 43.5 (2018): 785-809.
• Funtowicz, Silvio O, and Jerome R Ravetz. 1993. "The emergence of post-normal science." In Science, politics and morality, 85-123. Springer.
• Kaminsky et al 2019, The Inherent Conflicts in Developing Soil Microbial Inoculants, Trends in Biotechnology, 37 (2) 140-151
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