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PhD Studentship: Pseudomonas Biocontrol of Kiwifruit Canker: Elucidating Novel Mechanisms of Bioactivity

University of East Anglia - John Innes Centre / Biological Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: Not Specified
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th March 2023
Closes: 17th April 2023
Reference: MALONE_J23CASE

The bacterial disease kiwifruit canker (Psa) is a significant threat to the global kiwifruit industry. While treatments for Psa currently exist, these chemical approaches can cause environmental damage and are at risk from resistant Psa pathovars. There is consequently an urgent need for effective, sustainable treatments for Psa. During a successful previous collaboration between our labs at JIC; an internationally recognised centre of excellence for microbiology and plant science, and the major kiwifruit grower Zespri, we identified several naturally occurring, bioactive bacterial strains that strongly suppress Psa infections in greenhouse-grown kiwifruit. Subsequent work to identify the mechanism of bioactivity in each strain identified multiple previously uncharacterised biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs), whose disruption abolishes Psa suppression in the lab.

This PhD project will undertake the in-depth characterisation of the bioactive BGCs and their resulting natural products to address the mode of action of our bioactive bacteria. The student will use natural-product biochemistry and bioassay-guided fractionation to isolate and structurally characterise the natural products of each bioactive BGC. They will examine their biosynthetic origin using a combination of genetics and targeted metabolomics, and will conduct biocontrol assays to determine the importance of their natural products in planta.

This project will support the ongoing field trial and bioactives registration work in New Zealand and define the structure-activity relationship of several new natural products, which is an essential step in their future commercial development. The student will receive training in advanced molecular biology and bacterial genetic manipulation, alongside cutting-edge organic chemistry techniques including LC-MS-based metabolomics, bioassay-guided fractionation and structural elucidation using 2D NMR. They will also receive extensive training in plant infection and biocontrol assays, alongside industry-facing, transferable soft-skills with applicability to many employment areas. This industry-linked project will include a 3 month placement working alongside our commercial partners, Zespri, in New Zealand.

The Norwich Research Park (NRP) Biosciences Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) is offering fully-funded studentships for October 2023 entry.

The programme offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme.

You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers.

All NRPDTP CASE students undertake a three to 18-month placement with the non-academic partner during their study. The placement offers experience designed to enhance professional development.

Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team.

Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed either on 16th or 17th May 2023. 

Please note that all international awards have been made for our programme for 2023 so we will not be accepting applications from international candidates, as defined by UKRI’s guidance on International Eligibility criteria for UKRI funded studentships - View Website*

Visit our website for further information on eligibility and how to apply: https://biodtp.norwichresearchpark.ac.uk/

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

PRIMARY SUPERVISOR: Dr Jacob Malone

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