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How to build a biological decoder – dissecting calcium specificity in plants (MILLER_U22DTP2)

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr B Miller  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Calcium is one of the most common secondary messengers involved in cell signalling in plants. A first response to a vast array of abiotic and biotic stresses includes changes in cytosolic calcium concentrations that regulate downstream processes. That so many processes seem to be governed by the change in the concentration of calcium has given rise to what has been called the calcium specificity problem: how can one ion species be responsible for conveying such diverse developmental processes and differentially active different pathways?

The aim of this PhD project is to develop a deeper understanding of how calcium signals are interpreted by cells and decoded into specific biological responses in plants. The project will focus on a calcium- and calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CCaMK) in the model plant Medicago truncatula, and will study the mechanism by which CCaMK is regulated by calcium and how this allows the decoding of specific calcium signals.

This project will combine molecular biology, biochemistry and mathematical modelling, and will provide the student with excellent opportunities for multi-disciplinary training in plant molecular genetics, biochemical techniques and synthetic biology, as well as computational modelling approaches.

The NRPDTP is offering fully-funded studentships for October 2022 entry. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship placement (PIPS) during their study and are offered opportunities to enhance professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

Please note that all international awards have been made for our programme for 2022 entry so we will not be accepting applications from international candidates, as defined by UKRI’s International Eligibility criteria for UKRI funded studentships (Annex B).

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 27July 2022.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply: https://biodtp.norwichresearchpark.ac.uk/

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year NRPDTP PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend to cover living expenses (2022/3 stipend rate: £16,062), and a Research Training Support Grant of £5,000pa for each year of the studentship.


Gutaker et al. (2020) Genomic history and ecology of the geographic spread of rice. Nature Plants 6: 492-502.
Latorre et al. (2020) Isolation, Library Preparation, and Bioinformatic Analysis of Historical and Ancient Plant DNA. Curr Protocols Plant Biol 5(4): e20121.
Higgins et al. (2021) Resequencing of 672 Native Rice Accessions to Explore Genetic Diversity and Trait Associations in Vietnam. Rice, 14: 52.
Higgins et al. (2021) Identifying genomic regions and candidate genes selected during the breeding of rice in Vietnam. bioRxiv, 2021.08.04.455072v1
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