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Harnessing disease resistance by association directly in wild sea beet (HALL_E19CASE)

University of East Anglia - Biological Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £14,777 stipend, research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 10th October 2018
Closes: 26th November 2018
Reference: HALL_E19CASE

Location Earlham Institute, Norwich

Start date: 1/10/2019

Closing date: 26/11/2018

No. of positions available: 1

Hours: Full-time

Contract: Temporary

Supervisor Neil Hall

Project description

Pathogens and their hosts co-evolve in an evolutionary arms race, meaning that genetic diversity is maintained in pathogen genes involved in host invasion, as well as in host resistance genes. In an agricultural setting, however, crop breeding restricts the ability of crops to adapt.

All crops were domesticated from wild progenitors and many are affected by the same pathogens. Unravelling host-pathogen interactions in a wild-agricultural host system can therefore drive our understanding of how plant hosts adapt as well as lead to the identification of novel wild resistance gene candidates for breeding programs.

Sugar beet is one of the most recently domesticated crops and it can still be crossed with its wild progenitor, sea beet. Wild sea beet represents a reservoir of genetic diversity and, importantly, is infected by the same rust pathogen, Uromyces beticola, as sugar beet. Identifying the genetic diversity that confers resistance to this pathogen in wild beet can help us to improve yields of cultivated beet through manipulation or breeding.

In this PhD project, you will employ state-of-the-art genome sequencing and analysis technologies and techniques (i.e. population genomics & AgRenSeq) to identify beet rust resistance directly from wild hosts and their offspring. You will identify and then analyse wild resistance genes for signals of natural selection and with our industrial partner, KWS, you will apply biotechnological approaches to candidate genes to engineer better resistance.

The project will be jointly supervised by Mark McMullan and Neil Hall at the Earlham Institute and Brande Wulff at the John Innes Centre on the Norwich Research Park, and conducted in close collaboration with KWS UK. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Mark McMullan (

Person Specification UK 2:1 & English Language (6.5 overall, 6 in each section)

Funding notes

For funding eligibility guidance, please visit our website: Full Studentships cover a stipend (UKRI rate: £14,777pa – 2018/9), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.  

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. 

This Industrial CASE project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition on either the 8th, 9th or 10th January 2019.  

The NRPDTP offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4 year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.  

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

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