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Investigating how Plants use RNA to Cope with Stress (DING_J22DTP1)

   Graduate Programme

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  Dr Y Ding  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The diversity of RNA structure is wide and varied, from hairpins and bulges through to triplex and quadruplexes. These structures are able to control numerous biological functions from sensing of messenger compounds to dictating whether genes are switched on or off. This project will focus in particular on G-quadruplexes, four-stranded RNA structures which are formed from sequences which contain a lot of the base guanine. This project will aim to reveal some of the RNA-based mechanisms which alter gene regulation in plants in response to stress (for example during periods of drought).

This PhD project will involve using biophysical and molecular biology techniques to determine the type of structures which the RNA is able to fold into, how they change in response to the environment and what happens to the biology when they form. The project will be highly interdisciplinary and will involve training in a wide range of techniques, from biophysical and physiological characterisation to in vivo testing in plants. Led by Dr Yiliang Ding and Dr. Antony Dodd at the John Innes Centre along with Prof. Zoë Waller in the University College London, the successful applicant will enjoy the benefits of working in both a University environment and research institute.

The student will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent Honours degree in Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy or a related area. Informal enquiries are welcomed; for further information please contact Dr Yiliang Ding ([Email Address Removed]). 

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2021 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD 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 placement (PIPS) during their study. The placement 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.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP programme. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 25th January, Wednesday 26th January and Thursday 27th January 2022.

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply:

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 Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend for each year of the studentship (2021/2 stipend rate: £15,609), and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a.


1. Yang, X., Cheema, J., Zhang, Y., Deng, H., Duncan, S., Umar, M. I., Zhao, J., Liu, Q., Cao, X., Kwok, C. K. & Ding, Y. RNA G-quadruplex structures exist and function in vivo in plants. Genome Biol 21, 226, (2020).
2. Zhang, H. & Ding, Y. Novel insights into the pervasive role of RNA structure in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in plants. Biochem Soc Trans 49, 1829-1839, (2021).
3. Paajanen, P., Lane de Barros Dantas, L. & Dodd, A. N. Layers of crosstalk between circadian regulation and environmental signalling in plants. Curr Biol 31, R399-R413, (2021).
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