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IAFRI PhD Studentship: Smart Materials for Plant Health: Passive Monitoring of Viruses and Viral Vectors

   School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr T Howard  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Viruses, and their vectors, pose a serious threat to global agricultural systems. Losses associated with viral diseases are estimated at €15b to €45b per year. Central to effective biosecurity are surveillance and diagnostics. Our interest is in passive monitoring systems characterised by easy-to-use protocols, low fabrication and operational cost, and full in field functionality. These platforms should be capable of rapid re-programming to emerging targets.

The PhD candidate will design molecular cascades capable of identifying target viruses and viral vectors. You will experimentally test designs for sensitivity and specificity. You will be trained in mathematical modelling of biological systems and in the use of statistical Design of Experiments. By coupling these skills with pipetting robotics available in our laboratory, you will rapidly test, understand and optimise molecular performance. Further, you will take advantage of our expertise in embedding cell-free molecular biology reactions in physical chassis to develop multifunctional materials.  

In collaboration with Fera Ltd. you will employ a user co-design framework to understand the requirements of the device in real world situations. You will consult with potential end users and the outcome of these discussions will directly inform technology development.

The PhD is appropriate for a student with interests in synthetic biology (notably model-guided design-build-test cycles), who wishes to pursue these interests in a project with real-world applications and design constraints.

For further information please contact: [Email Address Removed] and include ‘IAFRI PhD’ in the email subject line.

Number Of Awards


Start Date

October 2022 

Award Duration

3 years


IAFRI - Fera Science Ltd & Newcastle University (School of Natural and Environmental Sciences)


Lead supervisor

Thomas Howard (Newcastle University): [Email Address Removed]

Additional supervisor(s)

Adrian Fox (Fera Science Ltd): [Email Address Removed]

Catherine Harrison (Fera Science Ltd): [Email Address Removed]

Jenny Tomlinson (Fera Science Ltd): [Email Address Removed]

Jem Stach (Newcastle University): [Email Address Removed]

Eligibility Criteria

IAFRI studentships are funded jointly by Newcastle University and Fera Science Ltd for 3 years. Funding will cover stipend, tuition fees and research consumables at the UK rate only. IAFRI studentships are available to both UK and international applicants. Residency rules apply. International and EU fee rate candidates will need to cover additional costs.

We are looking for highly motivated individuals who have or are expecting to attain at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject and with experience in/an aspiration to work in or alongside industry.

How To Apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system.

You will need to:

  • Insert the programme code 8020F in the programme of study section
  • Select ‘PhD Biology (full time) - Biological Sciences’ as the programme of study
  • Insert the studentship code IAFR2204 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • Attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code IAFR2204 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
  • Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.

Contact Details

Thomas Howard: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

100% of Home tuition fees paid and annual living expenses of £15,609.
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