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SWBio DTP PhD project: Investigating the interplay of 3D chromosome structure and non-coding RNAs in plant defence

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP). The DTP offers an interdisciplinary research training programme delivered by a consortium comprising the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter, Cardiff University and Rothamsted Research, alongside six regional associate partners: Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Swansea University, UCB Pharma, University of the West of England and SETsquared Bristol. The partnership has a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high quality research and teaching, in collaboration with industry and government. For more information about the DTP, see
Studentships are available for entry in September/October 2020.

All SWBio DTP projects will follow a structured 4-year PhD model, combining traditional project-focussed studies with a taught first year which includes directed rotation projects.

Overview of this PhD project:

Lead supervisor: Dr Hans-Wilhelm Nützmann, Milner Centre for Evolution, Department of Biology & Biochemistry (University of Bath)
Prof Laurence Hurst, Milner Centre for Evolution, Department of Biology & Biochemistry (University of Bath)
Dr Keith Vance, Department of Biology & Biochemistry (University of Bath)
Dr Nicholas Kent, School of Biosciences (Cardiff University)
Dr Davide Michieletto, Department of Mathematical Sciences (University of Bath)

Every year, more than 20% of agricultural productivity is lost due to plant diseases caused by pathogens. An essential element for the plant to defend itself against disease is the ability to control the expression of its defence-related genes. Regulation of gene expression, switching genes on and off, is a process that is generally modulated on different molecular levels. Non-coding RNAs have only recently been recognised as playing an important role in gene expression control.

Here, we propose an interdisciplinary PhD studentship that investigates the interplay between non-coding RNAs, three-dimensional chromosome structure and plant defence gene expression. In this project we will apply both dry and wet lab techniques to study how ncRNAs induce changes in the 3D organisation of chromosomes and how these affect the plant’s defence response.

You will employ state-of-the-art molecular techniques including chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C), chromatin immunoprecipitation and RNA/DNA binding assays in functional molecular experiments. You will further be trained in the bioinformatic analysis of large-scale chromosome conformation and genomic datasets. This will enable you to study the association of ncRNAs and chromosome organisation across species and to implement simulations to model 3D chromosome structure at key defence genes.

Understanding how ncRNAs and 3D chromosome structure orchestrate the expression of plant defence genes will expand our fundamental knowledge of eukaryotic gene regulation and reveal novel paths to enhance the resilience of plants against pathogens.
Throughout this project, you will obtain multidisciplinary training in molecular and plant biology, bioinformatics and chromosome biology, vital skills for establishing a successful career in plant biology and biotechnology.

The doctoral researcher will be based at the newly established Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath – a flagship centre for research excellence with a core agenda of public engagement and an active student community – and integrated into an ongoing collaboration between the Milner Centre and the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO), Irapuato, Mexico.

Candidate requirements:

Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

How to apply:

Applications should be submitted on the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biosciences:

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section. You may apply for more than one project if you wish but you should submit a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships provide funding for a stipend at the standard UKRI rate (currently £15,009 per annum, 2019/20 rate), research and training costs and UK/EU tuition fees for 4 years.

UK and EU applicants who have been residing in the UK since September 2017 will be eligible for a full award; a limited number of studentships may be available to EU applicants who do not meet the residency requirement. Applicants who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

How good is research at University of Bath in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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