PhD Title: The epidemiology of plant health surveillance: towards improved detection of new and emerging plant diseases

University of Salford

The studentship is supported by the University of Salford and by Defra.

Supervisors: Dr Stephen Parnell (Salford), Dr Richard Armitage (Salford) and Dr Willem Roelofs (Defra)

It will run for 3.5 years and it includes:

  • A fee waiver
  • A stipend of £15,824 p.a. for three and a half years 

Candidates must have settled status in the UK and meet the Residency Requirements of EPSRC – see below.

Final date for applications: 27th November 2016

Interviews will be held on: 19th December 2016

Description: An exciting PhD studentship opportunity has arisen out of ongoing research between the University of Salford and the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

There has been a sharp rise in the number of invading pathogens in recent times, associated with changes in climate and global trade and travel. These diseases threaten enormous damage to public health, environment and food security. Focusing largely on plant pathogens, in this project the successful applicant will develop methods to better understand patterns of epidemic spread using skills in epidemiological modelling, and will use this to investigate strategies for improved surveillance. High profile examples of plant pests and pathogens in the UK include Ash Dieback, which was discovered for the first time in Britain in 2012, and more recently the Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasp.

Effective surveillance strategies are urgently needed for a range of purposes, including: to better understand the distribution of current pests and diseases, to monitor progression of invaders, to assess the efficiency of control programs, to establish pest-free areas and to detect new invaders at an early stage.  There is thus a call for improved surveillance strategies for plant pests and diseases.  The project is a collaboration with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate and will also provide the successful applicant with the opportunity to work on real case studies and have an impact on policy in the UK. The student will be based in the Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre at the University of Salford and will also benefit from close interaction with the external project supervisor at Defra, including a minimum 3-month period spent working at Defra premises. 

The collaboration

The University of Salford is widely regarded as one of the UK's leading enterprise universities, due to its links with industry, commerce and the community. With 20 new full-time academic appointments in the last three years, in the areas of biodiversity, wildlife, geography, molecular biology and science communication (including five personal Chairs), the School of Environment & Life Science has recently made significant investments to bolster and expand its research profile and impact. Within the School, the Ecosystems & Environment Research Centre (EERC, comprises a group of over 30 academics and 45 doctoral students who together address some of the major environmental challenges of the 21st Century: biodiversity resource management, climate and environmental change and spread of infectious diseases. A collegiate culture of multidisciplinary collaboration contributes to the scientific understanding of the biological, physical and social dimensions of environmental change and the resultant impacts on humans and animals. 

The successful applicant will join an expanding group of epidemiological modellers investigating the spread and control of plant disease epidemics in the UK and internationally, led by Dr Stephen Parnell. The group led by Dr Stephen Parnell receives funding from the UK and internationally including a range of projects within the EU and US. Dr Parnell has worked closely with Defra for a number of years including epidemiological modelling work to inform Defra responses to recent tree health threats, including the initial Defra Ash Dieback management plan UK forest disease epidemics as well as long term project on P. ramourm. This exciting project offers the opportunity to work closely with Defra to help inform better early detection surveillance for new and emerging plant health threats.


The preferred candidates must have a good understanding of population biology or epidemiology. Experience of plant health or crop protection would be advantageous as well as an interest in issues around science policy and regulation. Candidates should have a background in quantitative methods and are encouraged to identify any relevant quantitative experience (e.g. mathematical or statistical modelling, use of programming languages) in their application. Candidates would ideally have a Masters degree in a relevant subject and have some experience of collaborative work with a company or public organisation. 

Candidates are asked to provide a personal statement describing their background, skills, academic interests and their motivation for doing a PhD in no more than 2 sides of A4. This should include evidence of being able to work independently to a high standard, collaborate with others, and excellent writing skills.

Funding: This studentship is only available to students with settled status in the UK, as classified by EPSRC eligibility.

Eligibility: Residence requirements

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the grant.
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals)

Enquiries: Informal enquiries may be made to Dr Stephen Parnell by e-mail

Applicants should send a curriculum vitae and a covering letter explaining their interest to

Show all PhDs for this organisation …
  Share by Email   Print this job   More sharing options
Advert information

Type / Role:



Northern England