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PhD Studentship: Adaptations of Plant Leaves for Avoiding, Dissipating or Exploiting Impact Energy

University of Bristol

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bristol
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: fees/stipend/research/travel expenses
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 22nd June 2018
Closes: 26th September 2018

The project:

One effect of climate change is an increased frequency of extreme weather events. Hail, wind and heavy rain can cause considerable damage to plants, with devastating effects on agriculture, horticulture and forestry. However, not all plants (and growth stages) are affected equally. This project investigates physiological, structural and biomechanical adaptations of leaves and petioles that enhance their ability to withstand high wind forces and rain or hail impacts. In addition, it examines the structural adaptations that enable a carnivorous pitcher plant to exploit the impacts of rain drops for the capture of insect prey. Understanding these adaptations will not only help to inform crop breeders of traits to select for in order to produce more resilient crop plants, but also provide inspiration for architects and engineers aiming to construct buildings that are better equipped to withstand earthquakes or increasingly frequent ‘superstorms’.

The project combines experimental methods (manipulations of plant material properties, simulating rain, hail or wind impacts, quantification of damage levels, high-speed video analysis and laser Doppler vibrometry) with state-of-the-art imaging techniques (micro- and nano-CT, SEM and TEM) and methods from engineering and materials science (FEA modelling, material testing procedures). The student will receive comprehensive training and support from the interdisciplinary supervisory team. This will include training in the relevant methods, imaging technologies and modelling as well as support with experimental design, data analysis, data presentation and paper writing.

For a more detailed project description see:

How to apply:

Please make an online application for this project at Please select <programme title> on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of the studentship in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.

Candidate requirements:


  • strong interest in biomechanics and biomaterials, and their effect on the interaction between plants and their physical environment
  • high levels of motivation and willingness to learn and apply interdisciplinary techniques from experimental biology through imaging and FEA modelling
  • solid understanding of maths and physics
  • 2:1 or better


  • background in mechanical engineering or materials science
  • experience with FEA modelling and statistical procedures

Funding: Royal Society studentship (4 years full-time)


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