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PhD Studentships


The School Of Biological Sciences is pleased to welcome applications for PhD studentships.

Please see below details of projects, applying, as well as closing dates for applications and start dates.

Eligability to study a PhD in the School of Biological Science

Appliants are expected to have or be in receipt of a minimum of a 2.1 degree (or equivalent) in biology prior to the start of the project. See project descriptions for other eilgibility criteria.

Royal Holloway and other funded studentships

Closing date for these applications is midnight on 31st January.  Shortlisted candidates will be contacted within 2 weeks of this date. Start date September 2018.

These are 3 year funded studentships based on Research Council rates, including tuition fees and stipend.

For further details about the research projects, please contact the listed supervisor directly using the email link in their name below. 

To apply please see the 'How to apply section' below. 

The impact of human visitors on capuchin monkey behaviour in a remote Amazonian forest

Supervisor - Dr Sarah Papworth

Many animals which were formerly in remote areas have increasing contact with humans, partly due to increasing human population, but also due to the popularity of these locations as destinations for ecotourists. Many animals habituate to human presence, but there are still many questions about the impact of this habituation on their behaviour. 

This project will focus on the impact of human presence on the vigilance and spatial behaviour of large-headed capuchin monkey (Sajapus macrocephalus) in Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Initially, the presence of humans may increase the time allocated for vigilance, as individuals react to the presence of humans by being more vigilant. Over time, individuals should habituate to human presence and reduce human-directed vigilance. Geffroy et al. (2015) suggest that human tolerance creates a bolder individual which spends less time being vigilant, not only towards humans, but also towards other predators. Alternately, habituated animals may be protected by a ‘human shield’, as predators are scared away by the presence of humans. Over time, lack of exposure to predators may lead animals to become less vigilant. 

Predation risk is not evenly distributed across a landscape, and differing predation pressures can be represented using the landscape of fear. The landscape of fear describes the spatial variation in fear, or perceived predation risk by prey species (Laundré et al. 2010). This project will consider evidence for the human shield and spillover boldness hypotheses within the landscape of fear. Other studies of capuchin monkeys have suggested that increased vigilance impacts the amount of time which is available for feeding, and capuchin individuals appear to be less vigilant when there are more individuals of the group within 10m. However, we don’t know how human presence affects vigilance or how anti-predator behaviour varies across the landscape. 

This project will require extensive fieldwork in a remote part of the Peruvian Amazon, so previous experience of remote fieldwork is highly desirable. Spanish speaking ability and experience conducting analyses of GIS data are also essential.

The characterisation of health promoting fruits and vegetables

Supervisor - Prof Paul Fraser and Dr Genny Enfissi

Over 50% of all chronic disease states can be attributed to poor diets. There is a wealth of scientific evidence to support the association of fruit and vegetable consumption with improved health and wellbeing [1]. Thus, improving health through diet is a strategic priority, with governments advocating the consumption of five portions of fruits and vegetables per day [2]. Their health promoting properties has been attributed to the presence of certain phytochemicals frequently termed as “bioactives”. These bioactives include carotenoids, which represent one of the largest classes of naturally occurring pigments. Their ability to promote health and alleviate the onset of chronic disease states has been attributed to their potent antioxidant properties[3].The present global production of Capsicum fruit is 35 MTon/yr, having a unit cost of 400 $/ton (www.FAOSTAT.com). Capsicum fruit are the most rapidly growing fruit produce consumed. This is in part due to varieties with improved consumer traits and their comparative favourable post-harvest properties. Nutritionally, Capsicum fruit have a high antioxidant (carotenoids, phenolic, vitamin C and tocopherols) content and certain varieties have a unique xanthophyll content (lutein and zeaxanthin) in their fruit. These xanthophylls are associated with the prevention of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a chronic eye disorder, occurring with ageing. AMD accounts for 54% of all cases of blindness globally [4]. In the proposed PhD programme, newly developed Capsicum annuum (bell pepper) varieties with improved health conferring attributes linked to elevated antioxidant levels will be characterised. To achieve this goal:

1. Antioxidant compounds (and intermediates) will be determined using targeted metabolite profiling and their contribution to total antioxidant activity determined using TEAC, FRAP and ORAC approaches. Experimentally, this will involve the use of HPLC/UPLC-PDA, LC-MS and spectrometric assays. These methodologies are established in the laboratory. 
2. Metabolomics and transcriptomics will be carried out to determine the molecular mechanisms associated with the increased antioxidant levels in these health promoting varieties. In this case global profiling using GC-MS, SPME GC-MS and LC-MS will be carried out and RNA-Seq datasets generated. In the laboratory these platforms are readily available and data handling pipelines leading to visualisation outputs in place. 
3. At a cellular level the plastid organelle, which is responsible for the formation of several antioxidant molecular classes will be characterised to provide insights into the biosynthesis, sequestration and regulation of these compounds. The approach will utilise differential centrifugation to isolate sub-plastid structures and subsequent spatial metabolomics and proteomics. 
These data will support the commercialisation of these new varieties and direct future rational breeding of varieties with improved health conferring properties. 

References. [1] Doll and Peto 1981, J. Natl. Cancer Inst., 66, 1191. [2]. www.nhs.uk/livewell/5ADAY. [3]. Packer et al. 1999. Antioxidant Food Supplements in Human Health, Acad. Press, NY. [4] Global Burden of Disease, 2015. Lancet, 386,743. 

Speciation, parasites, and toxic springs: a fishy tale?

Supervisors - Dr Rudiger Riesch and Prof Mark Brown

Parasites are ubiquitous in natural systems, and the way hosts and parasites influence each others’ evolutionary trajectories is a textbook example of antagonistic coevolution. However, how do parasites influence local adaptation during the colonization by their hosts of replicated extreme habitats? One potential hypothesis posits that extreme habitats might provide a ‘refuge’ from parasites and diseases, so that their hosts might be able to balance the costs arising from invading an extreme habitat with the benefits received from reduced parasitism. This could be achieved via two separate routes. First, if the physiochemical stressors of the extreme habitat have the same detrimental effects on free-living parasite stages or ectoparasites as on their host, then this could significantly reduce parasite pressure. Second, if the parasite life cycle is complex (i.e., involves more than one host), extreme habitats that exclude some of these hosts will also indirectly exclude these parasites. Direct tests for this in natural systems, however, are limited, and have produced contradictory results. This PhD project will address these issues by studying host-parasite interactions in several widespread livebearing fishes of the family Poeciliidae (mainly species of the genera Gambusia and Poecilia) that have repeatedly colonized toxic hydrogen-sulfide rich springs across the New World. The student will employ an integrative approach that combines environmental, ecological and evolutionary data to identify how parasites and their poeciliid hosts interact. The project will involve potential field work in Florida and Oklahoma in the USA, on Trinidad and in southern Mexico, coupled with lab work at Royal Holloway, University of London. This project has the potential to significantly contribute to our understanding of biological diversification as well as how hosts and their parasites interact during local adaptation and speciation.

Targeting the Gut Mucosa with Therapeutic Molecules  

Supervisor - Prof Simon Cutting and Dr Mikhail Soloviev

Bacterial spores (Bacillus species) are dormant bioentities capable of surviving indefinitely in the environment. Approximately 1 m in length these structures carry one chromosome that can be genetically manipulated. For biotechnology they offer great potential for delivery of molecules for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes. For example, as vaccines where antigens can be displayed on the spore surface and delivered by an oral route (Permpoonpattana, Hong et al. 2011). This concept has been tried and tested and shown to work for a number of important human and animal diseases including tetanus, influenza and Clostridium difficile (Hong, Hitri et al. 2017). They can also be used for delivery of anti-cancer drugs, for example Paclitaxel where spores are engineered to display an antibody that targets human cells and co-delivers the cancer drug (Nguyen, Huynh et al. 2013). Finally, and most remarkably, they can display enzymes on their surface that are functional offering a number of uses, for example in improved nutrition (Potot, Serra et al. 2010). We have recently designed a novel method for stably expressing molecules on the spore surface where there is no risk of recombinant spores (as GMOs) proliferating in the environment (Hosseini, Curilovs et al. 2017). This solves a major environmental problem over the deliberate release of GMOs. 

As such, it is now possible to fully develop the spores as a delivery vehicle. This project will focus on designing and constructing spores that display a number of important proteins with therapeutic potential. This will include IL-10, a cytokine, linked to reduction of colitis and symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (Steidler, Neirynck et al. 2003). The second component to this project will be the construction of spores that can deliver a number of anti-cancer drugs. The constructed spores will be characterised and evaluated in vitro and where necessary in vivo to demonstrate efficacy.

Life in Low Oxygen: how do naked mole-rats and Siamese fighting fish live in such harsh environments?

Supervisors - Dr Steve Portugal (RHUL), Dr Monica Daley (RVC), Prof Craig White (Monash), Dr Chris Faulkes (QMUL)

Some animals can live under environmental conditions that would cause humans long-lasting harm, and potentially death. Understanding the physiological mechanisms that underpin this ability to live in harsh environments can potentially provide solutions to human health problems, while elucidating how such specific adaptations evolved in the animal Kingdom. Two such examples of species that live in harsh environments - naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber) and Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) - inhabit incredibly low oxygen habitats, and are extremely tolerant of environments high in CO2.

The Bathyergidae rodent group, to which mole-rats belong, have been studied extensively for numerous reasons spanning multiple disciplines, due to the many unique features of this assemblage; longevity (they live 30 years despite being 5-inch long rodents), immunity to cancer, lack of muscle wastage with age, unique calcium structure in their teeth, a eusocial society like that of social insects. The Bathyergidae group can also survive CO2 saturations of over 6%. It is thought that the species have unique metabolic pathways that prevent oxygen starvation in the brain, allowing the animals to be highly active in such conditions, but the exact mechanism is not yet known. Outstanding questions about this phenomenon, therefore, are:
(a) how do the metabolic pathways of these species support the resilience to low oxygen concentrations, 
(b) what metabolic responses do they show to decreasing oxygen levels, and,
(c) how are the Bathyergidae able to live and perform high activity levels in such low oxygen conditions, and in turn, how is this linked to their oxygen-deficiency resilience. The clue is likely to be related to their subterranean lifestyle. This section of the project is to study the metabolic responses of Bathyergidae members to fluctuations in oxygen concentrations in (i) their natural environments, and (ii) a laboratory setting, via manipulations of oxygen concentrations. 

Similarly, Siamese fighting fish inhabit low oxygen environments, yet engage in vigorous territorial displays and aggressive physical interactions. Bettas are facultatively air-breathing freshwater fish, possessing a labyrinth organ that enables them to obtain oxygen directly from the air to supplement aquatic oxygen uptake. During aggressive encounters, male Bettas engage in intense fin and opercular flare displays, which cause significant changes in muscle metabolites and increased rates of oxygen uptake. Bettas are unable to pump water over their gills during the opercular flare displays (gills open) throughout aggressive encounters, and are therefore effectively unable to exchange respiratory gases with water when displaying. This project aims to (i) measure how this species perform high-intensity exercise and locomotive feats under such conditions, (ii) what scope there is for phenotypic plasticity (an individual to change and adapt to environmental perturbation) at the individual level, through experimental manipulation of oxygen levels in the water, and (iii) how territoriality is influenced by fluctuations in oxygen content of the water. 

Circadian rhythmicity in plant-endophyte interactions

Supervisor - Dr Paul Devlin

Plants, like all higher organisms, are host to an extensive microbial community. Bacteria and fungi can be found on all plant surfaces and, significantly, can even exist as endophytes within the tissues of the plant. Relationships between plant and microbiome can be commensal, mutualistic, amensal or parasitic but, in the healthy plant, numerous benefits have been demonstrated to be afforded to the plant as a result of the presence of microbes. Endospheric microbes can play a significant role in increasing plant biomass, improving nutrient acquisition and even reducing insect herbivory. Microbes within the endosphere have also been demonstrated to trigger some plant defence responses, which enhances general pathogen resistance. 

Recent metagenomic developments are enabling novel yet fundamental insights to be gained on the important interactions between plants and their associated microbiome. It is well established that plants have circadian growth patterns and that different metabolic pathways are triggered at different stages in this rhythm. Our central hypothesis is that plant-associated endophytic microbes in turn respond to these rhythms via the variation in availability of the resulting metabolites within the plant at each of these timepoints. This project will look for circadian and diurnal variation the plant-endospheric microbe interaction. Since endospheric bacteria/fungi confer a benefit to the plant in coping with abiotic and biotic stress and since both stresses vary greatly over the course of a day, this is likely to have important implications for the plant.

The project will examine the composition and activity of the endophyte community via a next generation sequencing approach analysing 16s ribosomal RNA and rRNA genes. At the same time a metatranscriptomics approach will be used to model metabolic pathway variation in both the plant and the microbes over the diurnal period. We will make use of the model plant, Arabidopsis, to allow us to examine this interaction in a range of circadian clock mutants and diurnal growth regimes. This will provide valuable information on the importance of synchronisation between the plant and its endospheric microbiome. Both bacterial and fungal endophytes will be examined in this regard and all data will be linked to plant health, in particular response to biotic and abiotic stress applied at different timepoints. Through characterising the gene expression events that occur in relation to the circadian rhythm and linking these to plant health, we will form a much clearer understanding of the feedback processes that occur in plant-endophytic microbe interactions.  The project has the potential to develop a considerable amount of impact, through more precise targeting of fertilisers and plant protection chemicals, ultimately leading to an improvement in food security.  We are confident that understanding such a novel system could have huge potential in more formulating more precise and more efficient growing conditions, particularly for protected crops.

How to apply for a Royal Holloway Studentship 

  • Download and complete the studentship Pre-assessment form available here

  • Email the completed pre-assessment form to  SBSstudentships@royalholloway.ac.uk together with

           a) an up to date CV

           b) copies of any relevant academic transcripts

  • Arrange for two referees to send a reference (in any format) direct to SBSstudentships@royalholloway.ac.uk before midnight on the closing date. Ask them to Include your name in the subject field of the email.

Clearly state the name of the supervisor and project you are applying for in any communication.

Please do not send your pre-assessment papers to the project supervisor or through the College online application portal. No other papers, documents or forms are required or will be considered at this stage.

Applicant details and supporting documents will be made available to Royal Holloway staff and any interested parties such as collaborators and funding bodies.

BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship

Our Doctoral Training Partnership reflects the breadth of science at Imperial College London (ICL) and Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL), and projects are offered with the intent to promote a multidisciplinary training in the modern biosciences. Our programme covers the full remit of BBSRC science, with a special emphasis on developing and applying quantitative skills.

The studentships are offered on a 1+3 basis (1 Year of Masters study followed by 3 years of PhD Research). The Masters Course will commence in October 2018 followed by the commencement of the PhD in October 2019.

To be eligible, candidates must either have, or expect to obtain, a BSc degree at 2.1 level or higher, or an equivalent qualification. Depending on the project(s) candidates with life sciences, physical sciences, chemistry, computer sciences or mathematics backgrounds will be considered.

In exceptional circumstances, and when a candidate already holds, or is expected to obtain, a Masters degree in an appropriate subject for a particular PhD project, a 3-year studentship with direct entry to PhD will be allowed.


In all cases, candidates must fulfil the eligibility criteria: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/studentship-eligibility-pdf/

The residence eligibility criteria are satisfied in full if all three of the following conditions are met: (a) the candidate is settled in the UK i.e. is ordinarily resident in the UK without being subject under the immigration laws to any restriction on the period for which they may stay in the UK; (b) the candidate has been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands for three years immediately prior to the date of start of their course; (c) not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education, which does not apply to UK or EU nationals.


The studentship covers: an annual tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate, contribution towards research costs, and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

How to apply

To apply for a BBSRC DTP studentship, follow the instructions below:

1) Check the available projects. The projects based at Roayl Holloway as listed below.
You may contact potential lead supervisors for details about the projects (please note that the first name mentioned in the project description is the lead supervisor, and their contact details are given).
2) Submit a full CV, and academic transcripts if available.
3) Complete and submit the ICL / RHUL BBSRC DTP application form by downloading the ICL RHUL BBSRC DTP APPLICATION FORM. You may apply for up to 3 different projects.
4) Complete and submit the “reporting form” by downloading the ICL RHUL BBSRC DTP REPORTING FORM. This is for reporting purposes as requested by the Research Council.
‌5) Please send all documents in a single email to: dtp@imperial.ac.uk


The application deadline is 5pm on the 7th February 2018.

Interviews are expected to be held during the week commencing 5th March 2018.

Royal Holloway Based Projects

Social epidemiology:  interactions, networks, and disease spread in a key pollinator

Supervisor 1:     Professor Mark J F Brown, RHUL
Supervisor 2:     Professor Matthew Fisher, Imperial College London

Disease spread – in humans, domesticated animals and plants, and wildlife – is a key threat to health and ecosystem services. However, how diseases spread – their epidemiology – in complex social organisms, like humans and bees, is poorly understood. Determining how diseases spread in social networks is key to understanding and controlling them. Bumblebees and their parasites provide a key model system in which to develop an understanding of such epidemiology. In addition, bumblebees are key pollinators that are undergoing decline across the globe, and one reason for these declines is parasites and the diseases they cause. Consequently, understanding disease spread in bumblebees also has significant applied conservation value. 

This project will use the bumblebee Bombus terrestris and its parasites Crithidia bombi and Nosema bombi, both of which have significant impact on bumblebee colonies, to ask how social structures affect parasite epidemiology. Importantly, it will combine both empirical experiments and modelling work to understand parasite dynamics. Empirical research will range from controlled laboratory experiments, through controlled semi-field experiments, to observations in wild field populations of parasite dynamics. Modelling work will use the classic Susceptible-Infected modelling framework for parasite epidemiology to explore, explain, and predict the empirical data. 

The results of the project will provide a detailed insight into how social networks impact disease epidemics, and specifically how these occur in bumblebees. In addition to its scientific impact, it will feed into policy and management of pollinators in the UK, and globally. 

The studentship will be supervised by Professor Mark Brown (RHUL), an expert in bumblebees and their parasites, Professor Matthew Fisher (Imperial), an expert in the epidemiology of emerging diseases, and Professor Vincent Jansen, an expert in the mathematical modelling of disease. Together, they will train the successful student in the background knowledge, methodological techniques, and theoretical skills needed for the project. 

The successful candidate will have achieved a 1st class honours degree, and possibly a Masters degree, in a relevant subject. You will be enthused about pollinators, parasites, and epidemiology, and eager to learn and discover more about all three. You will join a vibrant research group, and be part of the broader Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour within the School of Biological Sciences.

For information contact: Mark.Brown@rhul.ac.uk

Intracellular communication and the control of chloroplast development

Supervisor 1:      Dr. Enrique López-Juez, RHUL 
Supervisor 2:      Prof. Peter Nixon, Imperial College London

Plant biology has arguably never been as relevant as it is today. The biology of chloroplasts underpins the biology of whole plants, and the two most-important impacts of plants for humanity: as food source and as carbon sink1. Yet a surprising number of aspects of chloroplast biology remain poorly understood.

Chloroplast development is under the control of the plant cell’s nucleus. It is also subject to inter-organellar, chloroplast-to-nucleus communication2. Genetics has begun to help understand such communication, by identifying “genome uncoupled” (gun) mutants. Such mutants have shown that an aspect of the metabolism of tetrapyrroles (chlorophylls and haem) plays a role in either suppressing chloroplast development when chloroplasts are faulty, or promoting it when they are functional. They have also identified a chloroplast nucleic acid-associated protein (GUN1) important for signalling to the nucleus. No cytoplasmic or nuclear component has been identified. In animal cells master regulators of mitochondrial development have been uncovered in the last 15 years, yet those for chloroplast development in the nucleus of plant cells, evidence of whose existence has existed for some time, remain to be found2.

Building on earlier work3, we have devised two novel genetic screens targeting

(a)     downstream regulators of plastid-to-nucleus communication

(b)   positive nuclear regulators of chloroplast development

Our aim is to carry out both of these genetic screens at the Royal Holloway (RHUL) laboratory3. In both cases, albeit through different methods, we will be able to identify mutated genes of interest in the course of the project. We will then aim at understanding their mode of action. For mutant screen (a) this will depend on the nature of the component identified, and will likely involve biochemistry at the Imperial College (IC) laboratory, and for both (a) and (b), a combination of genetics, cell biology, quantitative microscopy and molecular biology at RHUL and IC. The outcomes of both mutant screens will be examined for biotechnological potential at IC4.

For information contact: E.Lopez@rhul.ac.uk

Describing bee foraging patterns by eavesdropping on the waggle dance

Supervisor 1:     Vincent Jansen, RHUL
Supervisor 2:     Elli Leadbeater, RHUL
Supervisor 3:     Richard Gill, Imperial College London

Bees pollinate of over 75% of our crop species. Therefore understanding how bees move across the landscape and whether we can cue into these patterns is important to food security. Honeybees are very important crop pollinators and workers use the waggle dance to communicate resources which we can observe and cue into.

When looking for new food sources bees need to search efficiently. To do so they need to avoid searching areas multiple times. This would dictate that they should not search randomly, but should attempt to search and forage at various scales. On the other hand, as nectar and pollen is found it will need to be transported back to the hive; food that is located far away is more costly to bring back. We therefore expect that food sources that are located further away are less desirable. Honey bee foraging pattern are a balance between optimising coverage and minimising transport costs.   

In this project we will develop models to investigate and describe foraging patterns, and then use statistical methods to find out which models describe the bees behaviour best. One question that we would like to study is to what degree bees’ foraging behaviour can be described as scale free. Initially, the project will develop a statistical methodology using recorded waggle dance data to analyse foraging patterns in different locations, capitalizing upon our existing extensive network of beekeepers across London and the Home Counties. Additional questions can be addressed, and experimental manipulations carried out if needed, using the observation hives at Royal Holloway or at other locations.

The observation of waggle dances allows to glean information about foraging location in the bees’ “own words”, and to study how the hive “chooses” to allocate its workforce through recruitment. This lends itself to studying wider questions around bee behaviour about how information is passed on between bees, potentially using social network analysis to understand how this changes with environmental circumstances. 

For information contact: Vincent.Jansen@rhul.ac.uk

Metabolic costs of learning and memory in a key pollinator

Supervisor 1: Elli Leadbeater 
Supervisor 2: Steve Portugal
Supervisor 3: Samraat Pawar Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park), Imperial College 

The bumblebee Bombus terrestris is a key UK pollinator that relies upon sophisticated cognitive abilities to efficiently exploit a complex floral landscape. Impairment of cognitive function has been put forward as a mechanism that may underlie well-documented negative effects of pesticides on bees, but the key supporting data are currently missing. This is because we know almost nothing about how cognitive abilities impact upon fitness in bees. Current work in my research group aims to close this knowledge gap, and this project will contribute by assaying the mechanistic costs of cognitive investment.

The brain of an adult bee is developmentally plastic, and it has recently become apparent that repeated exposure to complex learning tasks brings about increased neural density in the mushroom bodies (a neural region associated with learning and memory in insects). Thus, it is possible to manipulate cognitive investment by manipulating learning experience across individuals. We have developed a radial arm maze (RAM) protocol, whereby individuals must remember which of the multiple maze arms available have already been visited within a trial, for use in bees. Repeated task exposure places considerable demands on working memory and should thus lead to cognitive investment. We will assay the costs of that investment, by comparing groups of bees that experience repeated training in the RAM with controls that (a) also forage in the RAM but are not required to use memory to find food (b) never forage in the RAM. For each group, we will assay:

(a)       Basal metabolic rate. Neural tissue is energetically expensive to maintain, so we predict that repeated experience of a cognitively demanding task will lead to an increase in basal metabolic rate.

(b)      Immune response. Cognitive investment may trade-off against other fitness-determining traits, so we predict lower response to immune challenge in the experimental group.

(c)       Life-history variables. Either of the above mechanisms (increased energetic costs of neural tissue, or reduced immune function) should lead to differential mortality between experimental and control groups. We will assay intrinsic (lab-based) and extrinsic (field-based) mortality. 

These three questions form the core basis for the project. In the final year, the student will be encouraged to pursue questions that arise from the results according to their specific interests, which may include identification of genes associated with cognitive investment through brain gene expression profiling of control and experimental bees.

For information contact: Elli.Leadbeater@rhul.ac.uk

DNA damage signalling protects plants against a broad range of environmental stresses

Supervisor 1                       Prof Laszlo Bogre, RHUL
Supervisor 2                       Dr Jie Song, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London
Supervisor 3                       Dr Ian Henderson, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

How plant growth is adapted to environmental conditions is a fundamental biological question and is of central importance for crops and sustainable agriculture. A picture is arising that the DNA damage signalling pathway has a broader role than repair processes and also involved in growth adaptation to a variety of biotic and abiotic stresses. We have recently discovered that in parallel to the canonical DNA damage signalling pathway to the transcription factor, SOG1, the RETINOBLASTOMA RELATED (RBR) together with the E2F transcription factors play important transcriptional and non-transcriptional roles to connect DNA damage and stress signals to chromatin-mediated responses [1]. We also have discovered that RBR and E2F are part of large evolutionary conserved protein complexes called DREAM to recruit chromatin and DNA modifying proteins [2-4]. Within this project we will investigate how and where on chromosomes these RBR complexes become recruited in a DNA damage response pathway regulated manner. We will also aim to discover the chromatin landscape created by these complexes and how these modifications contribute to the adaptation of plants to environmental changes. 

1.         Horvath, B.M., et al., Arabidopsis RETINOBLASTOMA RELATED directly regulates DNA damage responses through functions beyond cell cycle control. EMBO J, 2017. 36(9): p. 1261-1278.
2.         Magyar, Z., L. Bogre, and M. Ito, DREAMs make plant cells to cycle or to become quiescent. Curr Opin Plant Biol, 2016. 34: p. 100-106.
3.            Kobayashi, K., et al., MYB3Rs, plant homologs of Myb oncoproteins, control cell cycle-regulated transcription and form DREAM-like complexes. Transcription, 2015. 6(5): p. 106-11.
4.         Kobayashi, K., et al., Transcriptional repression by MYB3R proteins regulates plant organ growth. EMBO J, 2015. 34(15): p. 1992-2007.

For information contact: L.Bogre@rhul.ac.uk

For further details of the individual staff  research interests, please refer to their individual research webpages. Interested applicants are invited to send enquiries by email to the respective individual supervisors. General admission enquiries should be sent to the School’s Director of Graduate Studies, Dr Mikhail Soloviev.


Other studentships available

Our partners in the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership, Imperial College London also have studentships available. Details of their projects selected for their DTP Studentships together with instructions on how to apply and criteria for student eligibility may be found on their website. We are also partners in the London NERC DTP and have projects advertised on their website.


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