This course allows you to work alongside our world renowned experts from the School of Life Sciences and gain a ’real research’ experience. You will have the opportunity to select a research project from a variety of thematic areas of research.
You will be part of our collaborative working environment and have access to outstanding shared facilities such as microscopy and proteomics. Throughout your year, you will develop an advanced level of knowledge on your topic of interest as well as the ability to perform independent research in the topic area. Alongside basic science training in experimental design, data handling and research ethics, we will help you to develop skills in critical assessment and communication. This will be supported by workshops in scientific writing, presentation skills, ethics, laboratory safety, statistics, public engagement and optional applied bioinformatics.
Plant architecture, or body plan, plays a key role in determining grain yield of crop plants. However, we have little understanding of the molecular genetic basis of architecture in the temperate cereals such as barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), especially in comparison to the warm weather crops such as rice (Oryza sativa). Preliminary data from the McKim lab suggests that a family of microRNA (miRNA) - regulated transcription factors called the SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN -LIKEs (SPLs) are associated with agronomic traits in barley. This is consistent with work suggesting these factors control ideal plant architecture traits in rice and maize (Jiao et al., 2010; Miura et al., 2010; Wang and Wang, 2015). In this project, the student will test this link through functional characterisation of barley SPLs (HvSPL) by reverse genetics. The student will examine how overexpression and loss of function of HvSPLs in transgenic barley influences architecture and agronomic traits. Through this work, the student will elucidate the functional roles of the SPL transcription factors in barley and their putative contribution to phenotypic variation, revealing potential routes to improved yield through directed breeding.
This project will allow scope for the student to master molecular techniques including construct cloning and in situ hybridisation, in addition to glasshouse skills and bioinformatics. The student will train within the unique environment offered by the Division of Plant Sciences, based at the James Hutton Institute (JHI), a centre of world-class expertise in barley.