Funded PhD Studentship: Developing a Novel Nano-Biopesticide Formulation for Improved Crop Pest Control

Swansea University - Bioscience

*This scholarships is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.*

Swansea University is a UK top 30 institution for research excellence (Research Excellence Framework 2014), and has been named Welsh University of the Year 2017 by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. 

Brief Summary of project:

This project is based in the Biomaterials, Biofouling and Biofilms Engineering Laboratory (B3EL), The Systems and Process Engineering Centre (SPEC), College of Engineering, Swansea University and will develop a new biopesticide and formulations using fungal biocontrol agents and advances in nanotechnology. This is a unique opportunity to work with processing engineering and biologists at Swansea University and industry, to investigate how fungal biocontrol agents can be formulated so that they can adhere to insect cuticle for improved pest control.

This project will develop bioinsecticide formulations which target western flower thrips (WFT), Frankliniella occidentalis and other pests across many crop types, with a new component for their Integrated Pest Management plan. Crop losses caused by pest attacks are a major problem globally. Thrips, weevils, whitefly, aphids, & red spider mite are the main culprits. WFT alone caused crop damage of >£50m to high value protected/unprotected crops in the UK alone and worldwide direct damage is more than £5 billion per annum. Growing chemical pesticide resistance, banning of neo-nicotinoids and organo-phosphates from the EU and lack of viable biopesticide alternatives exacerbates the problem. A few fungal based (=bioinsecticides) products are currently commercially available for some insect pests, but pick-up of the formulated fungal spores by insects, and other pests is low even when spores are present on foliage and flowers and the level of control is poor. This project will develop effective fungal based formulations for control of WFT in strawberry and other pest-crop systems.

The student will optimise production of propagules of entomopathogenic fungi for compatibility with different nanoparticles as carriers to evaluate adhesion to insect exoskeleton and leaf surfaces. Strategies of fungal spore adhesion to insect cuticle will be identified and trialled on different insect species under semi and field condition.

Scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners including SME’s and micro companies, as well as public and third sector organisations. The scholarship provides 3 years of funding with a 6 month period to complete the thesis. The achievement of a postgraduate skills development award, PSDA, is compulsory for each KESS II scholar and is based on a 60 credit award.


Academic requirements:

Candidates should have a 2.1 or above in their undergraduate degree in biology/engineering/applied entomology are encouraged to apply, and relevant MSc degree would be appreciated.

Residency criteria:

Candidates should be eligible for UK/EU Fees.

The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend. The bursary will be limited to a maximum of £14,198 p.a. dependent upon the applicant’s financial circumstances.

There will also be additional funds available for research expenses.

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