PhDs

Through our long term research commitment to deliver innovation across strategically important industry sectors, Fera offer a range of PhD studentships to grow the specialist skills base required within the agrifood sector.

PhDs

Fera works with the Institute for AgriFood and Innovation (IAFRI) to form a targeted PhD training programme to foster emerging talent within this vibrant industry. Through world-leading research activities with industry experts; extensive new solutions, techniques, skills and best practices can be found and utilised effectively within the agrifood sector to achieve ongoing innovation across this diverse industry. Fera Science Ltd has an excellent and long-standing track record of supporting PhD studentships. Working with our extensive network of academic partners, we have for many decades co-sponsored between 20-30 studentships a year.


Current PhDs Opportunities - IAFRI (Newcastle University)


Value of award

100% tuition fees at UK/EU rate plus an annual stipend of £14,553 (subject to Research Council UK increase for 2018/19 entry).  Successful non-EU international students will be required to make up the difference between the UK/EU fees and international fees. There are 6 awards available.


Start date and duration

September 2018 for three years


Application closing date

Closing date is midnight on Saturday 31 March 2018 (BST). Interviews will take place during April/May 2018.


Overview

Six studentships are available (from 10 projects)  based on IAFRI’s current studentship themes.

1/ Environmental fate of molluscicides - challenging the current risk assessment approach

2/ Packaging with nanomaterials from agri-food by-products for shelf life extension of food and feed

3/ Developing DNA-metabarcoding technologies for the nationwide surveillance of pest and beneficial insects

4/Modular, cell-free synthetic gene networks to enable rapid deployment of infield diagnostics for plant health monitoring

5/ Druggability assessment of juvenile hormone receptor PAS-B domain for development of next generation insecticides

6/ Development of a detection system for bioinoculants based on “in situ” metatranscriptomics

7/ Exploring receptor divergence between honey bees and mites to target future treatments

8/Smart Labels for Intelligent Packaging

9/ Characterisation and Performance Of Insect Chitin And Chitosan

10/ Diatom Recording Using Metabarcoding (DRUM)


You will be based at either Newcastle University or Fera Science Ltd in York.

Sponsor IAFRI (A joint venture between Fera Science Ltd and Newcastle University)


Interested? Learn More

Predicting crop disease from molecular assessment of the distribution and quantification of soil-borne plant pathogens.

Background

The project compliments an ongoing 5-year AHDB-funded research partnership on the importance of soil biology in the overall management of soil health and the optimisation of soil biological function to support crop and grassland productivity and minimise the risks of soil-borne disease. The work will extend efforts to develop and demonstrate robust DNA-based diagnostics for routine monitoring of soil borne pathogens and identification of the best management practices to minimise disease risk. Intractable soil-borne pathogens represent a varying constraint to arable and horticultural production. The distribution and numbers of plant pathogenic fungi and nematodes in soils change in response to the rotation cycle and management practices such as organic amendment, tillage and liming.

Hypotheses to be investigated

Molecular detection of soil-borne plant pathogens can be used to predict incidence and severity of key crop diseases in a rotation cycle.

Theoretical underpinnings

A toolbox of validated molecular diagnostic methods, using real-time qPCR analysis, exists for almost all soil-borne fungal and nematode pathogens of crop plants. A procedure for extracting and purifying DNA from large soil volumes (250-1000g) allows representative analysis of these pathogen targets in field soils. Validation work in the first year of the AHDB Partnership on Soil Biology and Soil Health has demonstrated that individual pathogens can be reliably quantified in samples collected from field plots representing different UK soil types, crop rotations and soil management strategies. The relationship between inoculum distribution and level in soils and the risk of disease development after planting has been established for some pathogens. Additional investigation will broaden the range of pathogens for which the risk of disease can be related to quantitative detection and distribution data obtained from pre-planting analysis of field soils.

Methodology

Soils with known disease and management histories, from field demonstration plots and experiments already planned at various long-term soil management sites within the Research Partnership, will be sampled on a grid basis before planting and during 3 cropping seasons. Composite soil samples, each from up to 16 grid locations per site per crop, will be tested for multiple pathogen targets. DNA extraction methods and qPCR assays will be optimised for different pathogens and validation data on sensitivity and specificity of pathogen detection and quantification will be obtained. Field assessment of disease incidence at various cropping stages during each season will be used to model relationships between pathogen inoculum distribution and level in soils and the risk of disease development. Relevant information will be incorporated into management support systems e.g. www.soilquality.org.uk and www.CropMonitor.co.uk.

Training provided

The student will receive specific training in plant pathology (especially mycology and nematology), management and assessment of field trials, DNA extraction and purification, quantitative real-time PCR analysis, modelling and statistical analysis of data.

Location of training and research

The student will be based at Fera with access to laboratory facilities for plant pathology and molecular biology. Access to long term soil management field sites will be available through Newcastle University, ADAS, SRUC and NIAB.


Closing Date: April 2018

Applicants should send a copy of their CV by email to:
john.elphinstone@fera.co.uk


High throughput sequencing to measure changes in soil biology in response to long-term management practices. (University of Lincoln)

The position includes: Stipend at RCUK rates - £14.5k per annum.  Doctoral Home/EU fees at University of Lincoln rates - £4,246.


Background

The project compliments an ongoing 5-year AHDB-funded Research Partnership on the importance of soil biology in the overall management of soil health and the optimisation of soil biological function to support crop and grassland productivity and minimise the risks of soil-borne disease. The doctoral student will be enrolled at the University of Lincoln and based mainly at Fera. 


Project Description

Metabarcoding and metatranscriptomics analyses on DNA purified from soil will be used to investigate the effects of crop rotation and management practices (organic amendment, tillage and liming) on the diversity and function of biological communities. 


 

Overview

Biological communities in soil contribute to the overall soil health status by affecting nutrient cycling and suppressing plant pathogenic organisms. Community population dynamics can change in response to the crop rotation cycle and management practices such as organic amendment, tillage and liming. High throughput sequencing technology is revolutionising the way in which the functions and diversities of soil communities are investigated through analysis of directly or indirectly extracted DNA. Available markers can be exploited to monitor overall changes in: soil biodiversity,  microbial effects on nutrient availability - microbial symbionts - plant pathogens -nematode assemblages 


Key markers will be recommended for use in routine assessment of soil health status. 


The student will be based at Fera with access to laboratory facilities for molecular biology and next generation sequencing. Statistics and bioinformatics support are available at Fera. Sequencing and bioinformatics facilities are also available at University of Lincoln. Access to long term soil management field sites will be available through the Research Partnership (ADAS, SRUC and NIAB). 


Interested? Learn More

Developing DNA-metabarcoding technologies for the nationwide surveillance of pest and beneficial insects

T100% tuition fees at UK/EU rate plus an annual stipend of £14,553 (subject to Research Council UK increase for 2018/19 entry). Successful non-EU international students will be required to make up the difference between the UK/EU fees and international fees. 


Background

This project will integrate advances in DNA-metabarcoding with ecological network analysis for the rapid nationwide surveillance and future forecasting of insect pests and beneficials. It will develop and evaluate Next-Generation Sequencing tools for network construction using historic Rothamsted Insect Survey suction-trap samples and the Fera yellow water-pan trap network (YWT).


Project Description

Metabarcoding and metatranscriptomics analyses on DNA purified from soil will be used to investigate the effects of crop rotation and management practices (organic amendment, tillage and liming) on the diversity and function of biological communities. 


 

Overview

The student will primarily be based in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University (under the primary supervision of Dr. Evans, co-supervised by Dr. Kitson) but will be expected to spend short periods of time (4 weeks per year) at Rothamsted Research to process RIS samples and gain training in taxonomic identification and DNA-extraction methods (co-supervised by Dr. Morales-Hojas). He/she will spend between 3-4 months per year at Fera receiving training in laboratory automation and Next Generation Sequencing protocols for DNA-metabarcoding YWT, RIS and other target-insect samples (co-supervised by Dr. Collins and Prof. Boonham). Bioinformatics and ecological network analysis training will be given at Newcastle University, but in close collaboration with supervisors at Rothamsted and the University of Hull (Dr. Lunt).


Interested? Learn More

Predicting crop disease from molecular assessment of the distribution and quantification of soil-borne plant pathogens

This project includes a £14.5k stipend at UKRC rate, full Payment of fees at Home/EU rate Band 1 or 2, and £6.5k annual direct costs for the project.


Background

The project compliments an ongoing 5-year AHDB-funded research partnership on the importance of soil biology in the overall management of soil health and the optimisation of soil biological function to support crop and grassland productivity and minimise the risks of soil-borne disease. The work will extend efforts to develop and demonstrate robust DNA-based diagnostics for routine monitoring of soil borne pathogens and identification of the best management practices to minimise disease risk. Intractable soil-borne pathogens represent a varying constraint to arable and horticultural production. The distribution and numbers of plant pathogenic fungi and nematodes in soils change in response to the rotation cycle and management practices such as organic amendment, tillage and liming.


Project Description

Sustainable soil health is a strategic aim for government and industry. This project will validate molecular tools for monitoring the effects of soil management on soil-borne pathogens in relation to the risks of crop disease and reduced yield.

 


Overview

The student will receive specific training in plant pathology (especially mycology and nematology), management and assessment of field trials, DNA extraction and purification, quantitative real-time PCR analysis, modelling and statistical analysis of data. The student will be based at Fera with access to laboratory facilities for plant pathology and molecular biology. Access to long term soil management field sites will be available through Newcastle University, ADAS, SRUC and NIAB.


Interested? Learn More


Fera Science Park Drone 2 

IAFRI PhDs focus on three core research themes:


  • Functional foods
  • Diagnostics and decisions systems for agriculture
  • Risk management tools for the agri-food industry


Our studentship opportunities can be found here