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Understanding the effects of changing temperatures on seed dormancy, seed quality and seed conservation (PENFIELD_J22DTP2)

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  Dr S Penfield  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is a Joint-Studentship with Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

Plants use temperature as an important signal to modulate seed dormancy and seed longevity, and thus changes to seed germination are a key factor in climate change-led extinction events in plants. Changing temperature also causes lot-to-lot variation in seed properties that confounds seed quality for sale and seed conservation efforts by affecting properties during storage. During dry storage seeds enter a glass-like state which enables them to survive long periods of desiccation, but the temperature at which this glass transition occurs can have important effects on how the seed behaves both during storage and afterwards during germination.

In this project the successful student will investigate how temperature during seed production affects properties of seeds in the Brassica family, working closely with scientists at the John Innes centre and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. You will investigate how temperature affects the levels of key dormancy-inducing proteins in seeds as they desiccate at the end of seed development, and identify variation in Brassica family species that affects their germination or storage properties.

The project will use state-of-the-art molecular and biophysical approaches to understanding how temperature affects seed properties for agriculture and conservation including use of transgenics, fluorescence microscopy, molecular biology and seed biophysics. The successful student will work closely with scientists at The John Innes Centre and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, spending time at both institutions to complete their work. The training will provide a first class entry into careers in seed biology, either in agriculture, academia or in plant and seed conservation.

The Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) is open to UK and international candidates for entry October 2022 and offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD 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 placement (PIPS) during their study. The placement 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.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP programme. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 15th March 2022. 

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply:

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend for each year of the studentship (2021/2 stipend rate: £15,609), and a Research Training Support Grant for each year of the studentship of £5,000 p.a.
Please note that all international awards have been made for our programme for 2022 so we will not be accepting applications from international candidates, as defined by UKRI’s guidance on International Eligibility criteria for UKRI funded studentships - View Website -


Seed life span and food security.
Colville L, Pritchard HW.
New Phytol. 2019 Oct;224(2):557-562. doi: 10.1111/nph.16006.
Lipid Thermal Fingerprints of Long-term Stored Seeds of Brassicaceae.
Mira S, Nadarajan J, Liu U, González-Benito ME, Pritchard HW.
Plants (Basel). 2019 Oct 14;8(10):414. doi: 10.3390/plants8100414.
Chen X, Yoong FY, O'Neill CM, Penfield S. Temperature during seed maturation controls seed vigour through ABA breakdown in the endosperm and causes a passive effect on DOG1 mRNA levels during entry into quiescence. New Phytol. 2021 Nov;232(3):1311-1322. doi: 10.1111/nph.17646
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