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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Production of dsRNA biopesticides as alternatives to chemical pesticides

Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering

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Prof M Dickman No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Sheffield United Kingdom Agricultural Technology Analytical Chemistry Biochemistry Bioengineering Biotechnology Microbiology Molecular Biology

About the Project

We invite applications for a 3.5-year funded EPSRC PhD studentship to work under the supervision of Prof Mark Dickman at the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield in collaboration with Dr Peter Kilby at Syngenta.

The estimated global crop loss to pests is >$100 billion every year. These pests include insects, plant viruses, and fungi; many have no current means of control or have developed resistance against traditional chemical pesticides. Global crop yields suffer substantial economic losses (20-40% per year) owing to plant pests and pathogens, leading to reduced food security at household, national and global levels.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of novel insect control strategies. The application of dsRNA for the sequence specific inhibition of genes via RNA interference (RNAi) is emerging as an important tool for the development of novel biopesticides. dsRNA biopesticides can either be expressed in host plants or spray applied like chemical pesticides. dsRNA biopesticides have been used to successfully block the expression of essential genes, resulting in insect mortality in a variety of crop pests.

This studentship aims to develop technology to optimise the production of next generation, sustainable RNAi based biopesticides as alternatives to chemical insecticides. Quantitative proteomics and transcriptomics in conjunction with reverse engineering and synthetic biology approaches will be used to optimise the production of dsRNA biopesticides in microbial systems. In addition, we will develop novel analytical tools centred on liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to characterise and quantify the dsRNA, which is essential to assess the yield and quality of the dsRNA biopesticides. During the project the student will gain expertise in mass spectrometry, quantitative proteomics and transcriptomics, microbial engineering, RNA extractions, HPLC analysis, and dsRNA gel analysis.

EPSRC Studentship in Institute of Sustainable Foods  

3.5 year fully-funded programme starting October 2021 funding includes: 

•             Enhanced Research Council Stipend from Syngenta (estimated £18,000 per year) 

•             Tuition Fees at the UK fee rate (£4,473 per year) 

•             Research support and training grant (RTSG) 

Please note: international tuition fees for 2021 entry are £23,750 

For more information contact: [Email Address Removed]

Application deadline: 14 March 2021

Application Link:

Funding Notes

A 1st class or 2:1 honours degree in chemistry, bioscience, biochemical engineering or a related discipline. Experience working in a research laboratory is desirable. All applicants should have a strong interest in biotechnology.
If English is not your first language then you must have International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 6.0 in each component. See:
The studentships are available to UK and international students. Further information about student eligibility can be found here:
The new UKRI eligibility requirements for international students (published Oct 2020) can be found here:

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