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Plant Health Undergraduate Studentships

Undergraduates - would you like to experience the exciting world of plant science research, tackle a key science challenge, and be paid for it?

We've worked with plant scientists to create ten excellent projects that address major plant health challenges identified by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Students can now apply to work on these projects for 10 weeks this summer. Successful students will receive £250 per week.

Eligibility requirements are given below.

We are grateful to Defra, British Society for Plant Pathology, Crop Protection Association, SCI Horticulture Group and David Colegrave Foundation for funding this programme.

Why apply for a studentship?

These placements are a great way to:

  • Find out what it’s like to contribute to a real research project
  • Get research experience that will look great on your CV
  • Meet and work with scientists who can answer your career questions

As well as being paid, successful applicants will receive a year’s free student affiliate membership of the Royal Society of Biology.

Who can apply?

The scheme is open to undergraduate students registered at a UK institution for the majority of their science degree. Students will normally take up the award during the summer vacation in the middle years (i.e. 2/3, 2/4 or 3/4) of their degree but final year undergraduates intending to continue to Masters or PhD may also be considered. Students in the first year of their course are not eligible for this award. Mature students are eligible to apply.

The Royal Society of Biology is committed to ensuring equal opportunities in the life sciences, and supports diversity throughout the pipeline; at school and in higher education, in the workplace and training.

How to apply

To find out more and apply for these studentships, use the links in the project titles below. You will need to create a free mySociety account. When applying, you will be asked to upload a CV and personal statement explaining why you are interested in the project, and what skills you could contribute.

Guidance for a creating a CV can be found here. Additionally you could ask your university careers service for further advice.

You may apply for more than one studentship project, but to have the best chance of success, we strongly encourage you to tailor your application to each project.

Applications must be received by 23:59 on 13th May 2021.

Please contact with any questions.

Other conditions

On completion of their project, students will be required to submit a poster about their project, a short statement outlining what they have gained from the experience, and complete a short feedback questionnaire.

A selection of these posters may be included in relevant Royal Society of Biology, RSB Plant Science Group and Member Organisation publications.

------Projects available------


Publish a taxonomic re-description of an important plant pest following study of specimens from the Fera collection

Project location: This project will be managed in-person, at Fera Science Ltd, Sand Hutton, near York
Supervisor: Dr Tom Prior
Sponsor: Defra


Setting up target-based screening in plant-pathology: disrupting the "conductors" of plant-nematode parasitism

Project location: This project will be managed in-person, at the University of Cambridge
Supervisor: Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker
Sponsor: Defra


Developing next generation diagnostics to prevent establishment of fungal pathogens in UK fruit crops

Project location: This project will be managed remotely
Supervisor: Dr Andrew Armitage (Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich)
Sponsor: British Society for Plant Pathology


The barberry conundrum: counterbalancing biodiversity and managing crop pathogens

Project location: This project will be managed in-person, at John Innes Centre, Norwich
Supervisor: Dr Diane Saunders
Sponsor: British Society for Plant Pathology


Why does a pathogen fail to cause disease on plants other than its natural host?

Project location: This project will be managed remotely
Supervisor: Thomas Welch (University of Birmingham)
Sponsor: British Society for Plant Pathology


Modelling the return of wheat stem rust to the UK

Project location: This project will be managed remotely
Supervisor: Daniel Bebber (University of Exeter)
Sponsor: Defra


Understanding the potential for transmission of Lso to crops by alternative psyllid vectors

Project Location: This project will be managed in-person, at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, Edinburgh
Supervisor: Fiona Highet MBE
Sponsor: Crop Protection Association


An analysis of Phytophthora diversity in plant nurseries and peat-free growing media

Project Location: This project will be managed in-person, at Forest Research, Edinburgh
Supervisor: Dr Sarah Green
Sponsor: SCI Horticulture Group


Development of a bioluminescent and biofluorescent assay to study the efficiency of bacterial seed sterilisation methods

Project Location: This project will be managed in-person, at University of Oxford
Supervisor: Dr Lauren Chappell
Sponsor: David Colegrave Foundation


Development of in planta phage therapy against Ralstonia solanacearum plant pathogenic bacterium

Project Location: This project will be managed in-person, at University of York
Supervisor: Dr Ville-Petri Friman
Sponsor: Defra

About Plant Health Undergraduate Studentships

Plant Health Undergraduate Studentships aim to:

  • Address skills and capacity challenges in plant health science by providing attractive opportunities for research experience to suitable undergraduates, offering them the opportunity to undertake supervised research with leading research groups.
  • Facilitate training of undergraduates in research practice.
  • Encourage research proposals and generate research outcomes in areas relevant to Defra’s plant health priorities.
  • Build networks of research groups, emerging scientists and employers with a focus on plant health.

Plant Health Undergraduate Studentships projects address at least one of the following priorities identified by Defra related to plant health:

Detection or control | Data & modelling | Globalisation of trade and risks to plant health | Host plants / Earth observations | High-risk pests or pathogens | Knowledge exchange | Oak health | Transboundary plant pests