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Plant responses to changing environments: biotic and abiotic stress of crops

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Pritchard
    Dr Juliet Coates
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Our labs focus on plant physiology and uses conventional and molecular tools to understand how plant responds to changing environments. The focus can be on abiotic stresses such as drought, temperature and salinity but also includes the interaction between plants and their herbivores. This herbivore-plant interaction mainly examines the biology of sap sucking pests such as white fly, aphids and the brown plant hopper.

We use pressure probe technology to measure water relations pressure in single cells. We are interested in the biochemistry and rheology of plant cell walls and how they interact to regulate plant cell expansion. The supply of solutes to growing cells and seeds is through the phloem and we study the supply of water and solutes to these regions through the phloem. Thus we are interested in the physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology of the phloem. We are also interested in the way in which inorganic nutrients such as calcium, nitrogen, potassium etc move to the leaves through the xylem.

The whole plant and cellular physiological questions that we are interested in are informed by the emerging molecular techniques. These include the ability to measure gene expression of whole genomes using transcriptomics; we can identify the proteins present in different environmental situations using proteomics and also can look at how perturbation of plants leads to changes in the whole metabolome.

If you wish to pursue you research with us at Birmingham the most important thing is to identify a sound focused project. Some the techniques, in particular transcriptomics and metabolomics are, at present, better undertaken on the more well studied model plant species such as Arabidopsis, barley and rice where there are a range of resources that facilitate studies in these species.


To find out more about studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, including full details of the research undertaken in each school, the funding opportunities for each subject, and guidance on making your application, you can now order your copy of the new Doctoral Research Prospectus, at: www.birmingham.ac.uk/students/drp.aspx

Candidates with independent support are encouraged to apply but are reminded that projects with significant technical approaches are expensive and we normally ask for an annual bench fee of £6000 to cover this.

Please find additional funding text below. For further funding details, please see the ‘Funding’ section.
The School of Biosciences offers a number of UK Research Council (e.g. BBSRC, NERC) PhD studentships each year. Fully funded research council studentships are normally only available to UK nationals (or EU nationals resident in the UK) but part-funded studentships may be available to EU applicants resident outside of the UK. The deadline for applications for research council studentships is 31 January each year.

Each year we also have a number of fully funded Darwin Trust Scholarships. These are provided by the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh and are for non-UK students wishing to undertake a PhD in the general area of Molecular Microbiology. The deadline for this scheme is also 31 January each year.

Funding Notes

All applicants should indicate in their applications how they intend to fund their studies. We have a thriving community of international PhD students and encourage applications at any time from students able to find their own funding or who wish to apply for their own funding (e.g. Commonwealth Scholarship, Islamic Development Bank).

The postgraduate funding database provides further information on funding opportunities available http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/funding/FundingFilter.aspx and further information is also available on the School of Biosciences website http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/biosciences/courses/postgraduate/phd.aspx


1. Stefano Gattolin, H. John Newbury, Jeffrey S. Bale, Hua-Ming Tseng, David A.Barrett, Jeremy Pritchard (2008) A Diurnal Component to the Variation in Sieve Tube Amino Acid Content in Wheat Triticum aestivum L. Plant Physiology 147: 912-921

2. Wang CX, Wang L, McQueen-Mason SJ, Pritchard J, Thomas CR (2008) pH and expansin action on single suspension-cultured tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) cells. Journal of Plant Research 121. 527-534.

3. Shakesby AJ, Wallace IS, Isaacs HV, Pritchard J, Roberts DM, Douglas AE . (2009) A water-specific aquaporin involved in aphid osmoregulation: Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 39: 1-10.

4. Kerton M, Newbury HJ, Hand D. Pritchard J. (2009) Accumulation of calcium in the centre of leaves of coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) is due to an uncoupling of water and ion transport. Journal of Experimental Botany 60: 227-235.

5. Tseng, HM; Gattollin, S; Pritchard, J, Newbury HJ, Barett DA (2009) Analysis of mono-, di- and oligosaccharides by CE using a two-stage derivatization method and LIF detection Electrophoresis 30: 1399-1405.

6. Daniels M, Bale JS, Newbury HJ, Lind RJ, Pritchard J. (2009). A sublethal dose of thiamethoxam causes a reduction in xylem feeding by the bird cherry-oat aphid (Rhopalosiphum padi), which is associated with dehydration and reduced performance. Journal of Insect Physiology 55: 758-765

7. Hunt, E Gattolin, S Newbury, HJ Bale, JS Tseng, HM Barrett, DA Pritchard, J (2010) A mutation in amino acid permease AAP6 reduces the amino acid content 0f the Arabidopsis sieve elements but leaves aphid herbivores unaffected Journal of Experimental Botany 61: 55-64.

8. Ghaffar, MBAB Pritchard, J Ford-Lloyd, B (2011) Brown Planthopper (N. lugens Stal) Feeding Behaviour on Rice Germplasm as an Indicator of Resistance PLOS ONE Volume: 6 Issue: 7

9. A. R. Evans; D. Hall; J. Pritchard; H. J. Newbury (2011) The roles of the cation transporters CHX21 and CHX23 in the development of Arabidopsis thaliana Journal of Experimental Botany doi: 10.1093/jxb/err271

10. N. Gould M.R. Thorpe J. Pritchard J.T. Christeller, L.E. Williams, G. Roeb, U. Schurr, P.E.H. Minchin (2012) AtSUC2 has a role for sucrose retrieval along the phloem pathway: Evidence from carbon-11 tracer studies Plant Science

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.80

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

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