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ONE Planet DTP - Predicting the effects of increasing soil temperatures on beneficial plant symbionts and plant pathogens through Synthetic Biology. (Ref: OP20300)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The rapid increase in global temperature is already affecting the productivity and composition of natural and agricultural ecosystems. It can also change existing relations between key species, e.g. ongoing coral bleaching is triggered by algal endosymbionts of corals leaving the host because of the increased water temperature. Would increasing soil temperatures change relationships between plants and their microbiota in a similar fashion? Both plants and bacteria could adapt to increasing soil temperatures, bacteria however can evolve much faster than plants. Plant pathogens therefore are likely to adapt much quicker to climate change, which could give them a competitive advantage. At the same time, fast-evolving bacterial symbionts of plants could either mitigate or amplify the effects of increased temperature on plant hosts.
This project aims to artificially accelerate the evolution of key plant pathogens and symbionts (e.g. Rhizobia for N2 fixation and auxin-producing bacteria) driven by climate change (increasing soil temperature). This will be achieved using a number of Synthetic Biology approaches to precisely induce mutagenesis and selecting for mutants with improved growth at higher temperatures. We will study the effects on plant hosts when cocultured with these artificially-evolved pathogens and symbionts at increasing temperatures. Environmental and ecological data combined with our findings will allow us to predict what changes will occur in bacteria and engineer plants and their symbionts to better resist the climates of the future.
Prerequisites: enthusiasm, initiative and an ability to undertake independent research; at least a 2:1 honours degree in biology or related subject is expected. For more information, please contact Dr Ciarán Kelly () and Dr Maxim Kapralov ().

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. OP.....) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

We have a minimum of 12 (3.5 year) PhD fully funded studentship awards available for October 2020 entry. Each award includes fees (Home / EU), an annual living allowance (for 2019/20 this is £15,009) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required).

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