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Plant Health Undergraduate Studentships

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

Students will undertake these projects (below) in the summer of 2022, getting research experience and generating scientfic outcomes to improve our understanding of how to protect plant health.

We are grateful to Defra, British Society for Plant Pathology, Association of Applied Biologists, SCI Horticulture Group and the David Colegrave Foundation for funding this programme.

-----Projects taking place in summer 2022-----

Fungi from which biopesticides can be developed

Testing naturally occurring pesticides (University of Lincoln)

Above and belowground effects of fungi on herbivore control
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the University of Lincoln
Supervisor: Dr Sandra Varga


 Diseased lettuce leaves

Modelling strategies to counter a new crop disease (University of Warwick)

Coordinated control: understanding the role of crop rotation for effective control of Fusarium wilt (FOL4) in the UK
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the University of Warwick
Supervisor: Dr Stephen Parnell


 A slug approaching a garden plant

Deterring slugs and snails sustainably (Royal Horticultural Society, Woking)

Calcium enrichment as a plant-mediated feeding deterrent to slugs and snails
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the RHS Garden Wisley, near Woking
Supervisor: Dr Hayley Jones


 Flowers of field beans

Controlling a pest of bean crops (Rothamsted Research, Harpenden)

The role of underground chemical signals in plant-rhizobia-pest interactions; getting to the root of the problem
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at Rothamsted Research, Harpenden
Supervisor: Dr Gareth Thomas


 Tomato leaves with powdery mildew

Understanding a fungal pathogen of tomato (Rothamsted Research, Harpenden)

Investigating possible fungicide resistance and spatial distribution of Pseudoidium neolycopersici (tomato powdery mildew) in UK tomato greenhouses
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at Rothamsted Research, Harpenden
Supervisor: Dr Kevin King


 Wheat plant showing stem rust

Diagnosing wheat pathogens (John Innes Centre, Norwich)

Developing new tools for interrogating cereal invaders
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the John Innes Centre, Norwich
Supervisor: Dr Diane Saunders


 An insect vector of a plant disease

Tracking a pathogen through insect and plant hosts (SASA, Edinburgh)

Transmission of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ in its insect and plant hosts: localisation, imaging, and culturing a fastidious bacterium
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at SASA, Edinburgh
Supervisor: Fiona Highet


Yellowed leaves of an infected carrot plant

Investigating viruses of the carrot family (Fera, York)

Understanding the risk to crops of viruses affecting Apiaceae spp. in the UK
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at Fera, York
Supervisor: Dr Ines Vazquez-Iglesias


Diseased oak leaves

Understanding soil microbe - oak interactions (University of Birmingham)

Impacts of elevated CO2 on interactions with root microbes for enhanced oak growth and defence against pathogens
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the University of Birmingham
Supervisor: Dr Rosa Sanchez-Lucas


 Orlando2

DNA barcoding of nematodes (Fera, York)

Delving into the archive: identifying nematode ‘Meloidogyne incognita group’ samples by DNA barcoding and real-time PCR
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at Fera, York
Supervisor: Dr Valeria Orlando


 Cysts caused by potato cyst nematodes

Controlling potato cyst nematodes (James Hutton Institute, Dundee)

Assessing the physiological and genetic basis of “giant” potato cyst nematodes
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee
Supervisor: Professor John Jones


 Detecting stress with hyperspectral sensors

Detecting stress in raspberry plants (James Hutton Institute, Dundee)

Hyperspectral stress sensing in raspberry for early pest and disease detection
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee
Supervisor: Dr Dominic Williams


 Wheat affected by Fusarium head blight

Sustainable control of a wheat disease (University of York)

Fusarium head blight resistance, finding the needle in the haystack
Project Location: This project will be managed in-person at the University of York
Supervisor: Dr Sara Franco Ortega


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:

  • Identifying, assessing and preventing risks
  • Better detection of pests and diseases
  • Management of high-risk pests and diseases
  • Planting for resilience and enhancing tolerance to pests and diseases
  • Strengthening our ‘biosecurity culture’

Please contact plantsci@rsb.org.uk with any questions.