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PhD Studentship: Uncovering novel regulators of Fusarium Head Blight and targets for disease control

University of Bath - Biology & Biochemistry

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £14,777 UKRI annual stipend (2018/19 rate) + tuition fees + training support grant
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 18th October 2018
Closes: 3rd December 2018

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) which is a BBSRC-funded PhD training programme in the biosciences, delivered by a consortium comprising the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter, along with the Rothamsted Research Institute. The partnership has a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high quality research and teaching, in collaboration with industry and government. 

Studentships are available for entry in September/October 2019. 

All SWBio DTP projects will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of academic staff and follow a structured 4-year PhD model, combining traditional project-focussed studies with a taught first year which includes directed rotation projects. 


Lead supervisor: Dr Neil Brown, Department of Biology & Biochemistry,
University of Bath, email

Co-supervisors: Prof Sam Sheppard (University of Bath), Prof Kim Hammond-Kosack (Rothamsted Research)


Fungal pathogens destroy our crops and contaminate our food with toxins, threatening global food security. New ways to fight fungal diseases are needed to improve sustainable agriculture. Fusarium Head Blight is the most damaging floral disease of wheat worldwide and a serious health hazard, due to contamination of the grain with harmful toxins.

This project will use an unbiased approach to discover novel Fusarium graminearum genes important for disease and toxin production by combining the bioinformatic power of population studies and genomics with fungal genetics and molecular biology.

Genome-wide studies of >50 natural Fusarium isolates will identify genetic elements associated with differences in virulence and toxin production. A mutagenised fungal population will be created and screened for defects in invasive growth and toxin production, while the associated mutations will be identified by genome resequencing and a suite of computational analyses. Novel genes will be selected through comparisons of the array of natural and induced mutations, which associate with altered virulence and toxin production. Fungal transformation will re-create and complement these mutations, confirming the role of these novel genes in the regulation of disease formation. The putative function of the identified genes will be assigned by comparative bioinformatics and interrogated using fluorescence microscopy and biochemistry.

The student will gain multidisciplinary expertise in bioinformatics, genomics, fungal genetics, molecular biology and bioimaging, providing an excellent foundation for a successful career in microbiology and crop protection, within academic or industrial biosciences.


Studentships provide funding for a stipend at the standard UKRI rate (currently £14,777 per annum, 2018/19 rate), research and training costs and UK/EU tuition fees for 4 years.

UK and EU applicants who have been residing in the UK since September 2016 will be eligible for a full award; a limited number of studentships may be available to EU applicants who do not meet the residency requirement. 


Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. 

Applications should be submitted on the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biosciences by clicking the 'apply' button.

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.  You may apply for more than one project if you wish but you should submit a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

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