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Macroevolutionary Dissection of Infection and Immunity in the Green Lineage


   Plant Sciences

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  Dr Philip Carella  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Norwich United Kingdom Biochemistry Evolution Genetics Microbiology Molecular Biology Parasitology Plant Biology

About the Project

Extant land plants are continually challenged by a diverse set of microbes. An extensive body of work describes the range of beneficial, commensal, and detrimental microbes colonizing angiosperms (flowering plants) and the molecular processes associated with the establishment of symbiosis or immunity. In comparison, our knowledge of plant-microbe interactions in divergent land plants, such as those belonging to the non-vascular bryophyte group (liverworts, hornworts, mosses), is limited. Since a large phylogenetic distance separates bryophytes from angiosperms, members within this early divergent lineage offer unprecedented evolutionary insight, with opportunities to delineate the functions of broadly conserved immunity genes and to discover novel sources of disease resistance. In a similar manner, the broad host range phytopathogens infecting bryophytes and angiosperms provide new insight into the evolution of pathogen virulence strategies required for the infection of distantly related host plants.

In this PhD project, the prospective student will investigate host-pathogen interactions in distantly-related model plants (bryophytes, non-seed vascular plants, and flowering plants) using broad host range phytopathogens like the oomycete Phytophthora palmivora. They will investigate the functions of conserved immunity genes in providing resistance to infection and will assess phytopathogen effector proteins for their ability to subvert host immunity in divergent lineages. Interested candidates from any background are encouraged to contact Dr. Carella ([Email Address Removed]) with their CV and a brief statement of interest (maximum 500 words).

One candidate will be selected to work on a project proposal. They will then compete at interview, with up to 9 other candidates, for one of up to four Sainsbury PhD Studentships. Interviews will be held in London on 20th/21st January 2022. It is expected that the studentship holder spend six months during their 3rd or 4th year at another university/institute to gain additional experience. Please note that students are not normally allowed to apply to the institution where they carried out their undergraduate degree.


Funding Notes

Enhanced four-year postgraduate studentships starting in October 2022, will once again be awarded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
Maintenance stipend in the first year will be £21,545 (to increase by 4% annually). In addition to this, there is an annual payment of £5,500 for department laboratory fees, and £700 for books, conferences and travel. Tuition fees are also paid by the Foundation.
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