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Understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of cell-fate transitions and their potential application for crop improvement.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M de Lucas
    Dr A Prashar
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Potatoes are a main component of human diet. More than 100kg of fresh potatoes are consumed per capita in the UK. Potato harvesting is seasonal (August-October), thus to help maintain continuity of supply and to maximise the potential for all year-round processing, more than 4.2 million tonnes are put on storage for long periods (up to 10 months).

The principal post-harvesting loss is due to natural sprouting. To reduce sprouting, tubers are held under cold and dark conditions and/or chemically treated with sprout suppressants. On one side, refrigeration is expensive and has high carbon footprint. On the other, the sprouts suppressant “Chlorpropham” (CIPC), on which the potato industry is heavily reliant, will be illegal in 10/2020. With all the above, it’s important to identify novel potato varieties with delayed or reduced sprouting response or the implementation of new post-harvesting methods that reduce sprouting.

In this project, we propose to investigate the genomic changes occurring during potato sprouting with unprecedent level of detail. This analysis, together with our current knowledge in cell fate regulation, will lead us to the identification of the molecular switchers involved in sprout-induction. By using a well-characterise and diverse potato cultivars, we will initiate a potato breeding program the generation of a novel variety with reduced sprouting response.


Applications should be made by emailing [Email Address Removed] with a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees), and a covering letter – including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected.

In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (Word document) to [Email Address Removed]. A blank copy of this form can be found at:

Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed]

Please note that the closing date for applications is Monday 18th May at 12noon.

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 for 2019-20). The PhD will start in October 2020. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. Please note, there are 2 stages to the application process.


Fruit‐dependent epigenetic regulation of flowering in Citrus, 2019. The New Phytologist, nph.16044.

PIF4‐induced BR synthesis is critical to diurnal and thermomorphogenic growth, 2018. EMBO Journal e99552–15

TOPLESS mediates brassinosteroid control of shoot boundaries and root meristem development in Arabidopsis thaliana, 2017. Development 144(9), 1619–1628.

Transcriptional Regulation of Arabidopsis Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 Coordinates Cell-Type Proliferation and Differentiation, 2016.Plant Cell 28: 2616–2631.

BR-dependent phosphorylation modulates PIF4 transcriptional activity and shapes diurnal hypocotyl growth, 2014. Genes & Development 28: 1681–1694.

A molecular framework for light and gibberellin control of cell elongation, 2008. Nature 451: 480–484.

Construction of a dense SNP map of a highly heterozygous diploid potato population and QTL analysis of tuber shape and eye depth, 2014. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 127(10); 2159-2171.

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