4-Year PhD Studentship on Virus-Bean-APHID Interactions
As part of a new research project entitled Modelling and manipulation of plant-aphid interactions: A new avenue for sustainable disease management of an important crop in Africa, we are offering a four year PhD studentship. The project is funded by the Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID) programme*. We aim to recruit an outstanding candidate from sub-Saharan Africa as an opportunity to augment the Capacity Building impact of the project and to add to the strength of our research effort.
The student will be registered as a postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge (UK) but in the course of his/her studies it is expected that the students may spend periods of time at the collaborating laboratories (BecA, Nairobi, Kenya; CIAT, Kampala, Uganda, or Rothamsted Research, UK) to carry out research, to receive training, or both. The project provides enormous scope for research training for a PhD student in an unusually wide range of disciplines including mathematical modelling, bioinformatics, molecular biology, next-generation sequencing, plant transformation, plant pathology and crop science. However, the PhD project and the exact mix of techniques will depend in large part on the previous training of the student and his/her research interests and longer-term career aims.
Possible start dates for the studentship: April 1, 2013 or October 1, 2013.
Deadline for applications- December 4, 2012 via http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/students/gradadmissions/prospec/
Beans are a vital crop in eastern and central Africa. Not only do they act as a natural fertilizer by enriching the soil with fixed-nitrogen, they are also an essential part of the regional diet because they are rich in protein and micronutrients such as iron. But aphid-transmitted viruses pose a serious risk to beans and other major crops, resulting in large losses.
Two of the main viruses are bean common mosaic virus and bean common mosaic necrotic virus. While there are some varieties of beans that are resistant to the former virus (because they carry the so-called I-gene) the latter virus – which is endemic to Africa - causes plants with this resistance to die. Over the next four years researchers from across the UK, Kenya, and Uganda will explore ways of controlling bean virus diseases by altering the feeding patterns and behaviour of aphids.
Previous work by researchers from the University of Cambridge shows that virus infection alters the biochemistry of plants to make them smell and taste different to insects, including aphids, which results in the insect spreading the virus further. The international team will survey bean growing areas in three distinct ecological zones within Uganda to look at how virus infection shapes the distribution of aphids under natural conditions. In addition the team will use a combination of molecular analysis, mathematical models and further field observations to identify how to select and deploy plants that could act as decoys for aphids by attracting them away from beans and other crops.
*SCPRID is a joint initiative of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, UK), together with the Department for International Development (DFID, UK), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (USA), the Department of Biotechnology of India's Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
Collaborating institutions and principal scientists
Biosciences East and Central Africa (BecA) at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya (Dr. Jagger Harvey and Dr. Appolinaire Djikeng)
Eastern and Central Africa Bean Research Network (ECABREN) coordinated by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Kampala, Uganda (Dr. Mathew Abang and Dr. Robin Buruchara)
University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences (Dr. John Carr, Professor Chris Gilligan, and Professor Sir David Baulcombe)
Rothamsted Research, Chemical Ecology (Dr. Toby Bruce and Professor John Pickett)
Qualification requirements The minimum qualification required to register for a postgraduate degree at Cambridge is a B.Sc. 2.1 Honours (UK system) or equivalent qualification.
English Language Ability In some cases candidates may be required to take an IELTS (preferred) or TOEFL test. For IELTS the minimum requirements are: overall band score of 7.0, with not less than 7.0 in speaking, listening and writing, and 6.5 in reading.
Initial registration conditions The successful candidate will be registered in the first instance for the M.Phil. degree. Full registration as a PhD candidate (back-dated to the project start) is dependent upon a successful outcome of the first year qualifying process, which consists of the writing of a first year research report and its defence in viva voce examination administered by the Graduate Education Committee of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge. Submission of the PhD thesis must take place within 48 months of the studentship start date.
Value of studentship The studentship will pay Cambridge University fees (overseas rate) and a stipend based on the allowance for BBSRC-funded UK students.