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Sex pheromone metabolism in Coccoidea (PATRONE20DTP1)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, November 25, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Sex pheromones are substances secreted by animals that elicit powerful attractant effects and mating stimuli on individuals of the same species. The sex pheromones of Coccoidea (scale insects and mealybugs) are emitted by virgin females to attract mates. Each Coccoidean species appears to have evolved a characteristic biosynthetic pathway that generates a specialised terpenoid sex-pheromone. Closely related species often produce pheromones with very different structures suggesting that positive selection has forced the evolution of signals that can be clearly discriminated from those of closely related taxa. However, as very little is known about the genetic basis of Coccoidea pheromones, how this chemical diversity evolved is largely unknown.

This project will explore fundamental questions about the evolution of chemical diversity in Coccoidea. In addition, it will provide the potential for new methods of sustainable pest management. Many species of Coccoidea are aggressive pests of agriculture and horticulture and better control methods are highly desirable. Sex-pheromones are successfully used for controlling a number of insect species and provide a sustainable alternative to conventional pesticides, the use of which are progressively being restricted due to concerns about their non-specificity and negative impacts on biodiversity. The complex structures of Coccoiden sex pheromones mean chemical synthesis is extremely difficult and economically unviable. Our lab is part of a European consortium involved in uncovering the genetic basis of insect sex pheromones with the aim of enabling heterologous bioproduction for sustainable pest management (

This project will use diverse techniques and technologies including bioinformatics, molecular biology, synthetic biology and biochemistry. Training will be provided in all areas.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 7th, 8th or 9th January 2020.

The NRP DTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second-class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding Notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: View Website. Full Studentships cover a stipend (2019/0 rate: £15,009pa), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

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