We invite applicants for a 4-year iCASE studentship to work in collaboration with our industrial partner Syngenta.
Pesticides are essential in crop production due to their role in improving crop yield and food security. Before being granted approval for use, pesticides are subject to regulatory evaluation using a framework designed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These tests provide evidence of the extent to which a pesticide persists in the environment and the risks they pose. Although valuable, the tests are conducted under laboratory conditions, which often lack environmental realism and therefore may not accurately reflect pesticide fate and transformation in the real world.
Previous collaborative research between Warwick and Syngenta has shown that when environmental samples are taken at different times of the year but incubated under the same conditions in the laboratory, pesticide degradation was slower when temperatures were colder in the real environment. Microbial degradation is one of the most important processes in determining pesticide fate and it is unclear if these differences in degradation are due to specific microbial communities not being present at colder times of year, or whether microbial consortia are acclimatised to colder temperatures and therefore are not as active at the higher laboratory temperatures.
You will compare pesticide degradation under incubation temperatures of traditional OECD test designs with temperatures more closely aligned to those at the time of environmental sample collection from the real environment (e.g. river water and sediment or soil). To determine pesticide degradation, you will use a range of analyses, including liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. This will be complemented with molecular profiling of microbial communities, including metagenomic and metabolomic analyses, to provide an understanding of how pesticide degradation is linked to the microbial communities and their functional characteristics. You will use the data to investigate the composition and activities of communities which underlie pesticide degradation and the temperature dependence of these interactions. Further work will investigate the extent to which temperature acclimatisation periods affect the composition of microbial communities and their capacity for pesticide degradation.
The project will provide understanding to guide regulatory approval of new chemicals and could aid the design of tests used to investigate the environmental fate of pesticides. It would also provide insight into how the microbial communities responsible for pesticide fate and transformation will be affected by a changing climate.
This iCASE studentship is co-funded by Syngenta, and the student will receive an uplift of £5000 per year on top of the MIBTP stipend. Syngenta are also providing an enhanced funding package to support both laboratory work and attendance at International conferences. The student has the opportunity to undertake a fully funded 3-month research placement at the company’s research centre in Bracknell.
Primary supervisor: Prof Gary Bending, University of Warwick
Non-academic partner: Dr Rebecca Southwell, Syngenta
Candidates are encouraged to contact Prof Gary Bending to discuss the project before applying if they wish to.
Deadline: 04 January 2024
To apply for a CASE studentship, please check your eligibility and complete the MIBTP application process.
Please ensure that you;
- Apply directly to the University of Warwick
- Clearly state you are applying for a CASE project and stipulate the project title.
- Please also complete the online ED&I form
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