* APPLY VIA: https://research.reading.ac.uk/foodbiosystems/apply-for-a-phd/ * * DO NOT APPLY DIRECTLY TO QUEEN'S FOR THIS PHD PROJECT * Farm productions systems face multiple challenges as animal products need to be produced with less environmental impact without affecting animal welfare. Currently, 12% of total UK ammonia (NH3) emissions come from N. Ireland and 91% of those in 2015 came from agriculture. At the same time, protein is poorly utilized as 55-95% of the ingested N is excreted via urine or faeces. One strategy to improve feed efficiency and decrease emissions is the use of condensed tannins (CT) in animal diets. Those are phenolic compounds which bind to proteins and reduce their ruminal degradation and NH3. CT are able to shift the N excretion from urine to faeces. The excreted urea can be hydrolysed and is susceptible to NH3 volatilisation while faecal N outputs are considered to be an environmentally friendly N form. Willow (Salix sp.) is a tree fodder containing CT and although it has great potential in animal nutrition, data on UK willows are scarce. The aim of the proposed project is to evaluate the nutritive value of willow and assess its potential to reduce ammonia emissions and improve N use efficiency.
This PhD work will address key knowledge gaps in the use of novel feeds and this will be achieved via the following studies:
1) In vitro assessment of the effect of condensed tannins in willow, on the digestive process in the rumen; via the in vitro gas production technique and analysis for total gas production/composition, fermentation end products (VFA/ammonia) and N disappearance that will take place at Queen’s University Belfast.
2) Optimization of the ensiling process of willow; via a lab scale study using two selected willow varieties with the most potent ammonia inhibitory properties. Ensiling process will take place at Queen’s University Belfast and the most efficient ensiling method will be decided for the animal trials at a later stage that will
take place at Agri-Food and Biosciences.
3) Assessment of the effect of inclusion the willow silage in the diet of dairy cattle on feed intake, milk production, nutrient digestibility, energy and N utilisation efficiencies and enteric methane and ammonia emissions; via an animal trial that will take place at Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute.
4) Reveal how rumen microbes influence metabolic pathways related to N use efficiency and milk quality using this novel tanniniferous feed; via metagenomics and metabolomics and fatty acid analyses that will take place at Queen’s University Belfast and University of Reading, respectively.
Training opportunities: Training will be provided via all partners and will cover cross-disciplinary transferable
skills to enhance student’s future career prospects. At Queen’s University Belfast the student will be trained on analytical methods for feed biochemical profile, in vitro gas production techniques, metataxonomic and metagenomic sample processing, sequencing and downstream analysis. At the University of Reading, the student will be trained for gas chromatography techniques to analyse fatty acid profile of milk and rumen fluid; and NMR-based metabolomics including chemometrics. At AFBI (during a 6-month placement), the student will be trained on data and sample collection in animal metabolism trials and operation of calorimetric chambers. QUB offer a Careers Development Programme where a student can participate in a range of interactive workshops covering communicating postgraduate research skills to employers, effective academic applications, preparing for job interviews and a research student can drop in at the Graduate School with a draft CV or application and get advice on how best to present relevant skills and experience.
Student profile: This project would be suitable for candidates who have an upper second class degree in a related science (e.g. animal science, veterinary, food science, biology), and a keen interest in animal nutrition/physiology, dairy science, laboratory analyses, -omics technologies and/or bioinformatics. Good skills on reviewing literature, attention to detail, time-management, organisation, teamwork and independent learning, are also required. An MSc in relevant science would be advantageous, but not essential.
This project is part of the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), it will be funded subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants. Due to restrictions on the funding, this studentship is only open to UK students and EU students who have lived in the UK for the past three years. This project is a CASE studentship with Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute will additionally provide £1,400 of research fees per annum. The student will spend a total period of approximately 6 months in Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute to undertake the research work for study 3 in this project. Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute will fund student’s accommodation costs (£1,080 for 6-month stay
at the institute’s accommodation). The in-kind contribution of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute towards research and staff costs for the animal trial is also valued at £60,000. The FoodBioSystems DTP is a collaboration between the University of Reading, Cranfield University, Queen’s
University Belfast, Aberystwyth University, Surrey University and Brunel University London. Our vision is to develop the next generation of highly skilled UK Agri-Food bioscientists with expertise spanning the entire food value chain. We have over 60 Associate and Affiliate partners. To find out more about us and the training programme we offer all our postgraduate researchers please visit
COVID-19 UPDATE: The University is open and ready to take new postgraduate research students, though we are having to take precautions in the laboratory environments, involving social distancing and the mandatory use of Personal Protective Equipment (mainly gloves and masks) and strong hygiene measures to ensure safety. Please refer to Our Campus Commitment for further information: http://www.qub.ac.uk/our-campus-commitment/
The School of Biological Sciences provides PhD and MPhil (research degree) programmes in subjects ranging from basic biochemistry, molecular genetics and cancer research, to agricultural science, marine ecology and the economic evaluation of ecosystem services and food retailing. If you have a topic or research question in mind, please use the Find a Supervisor link (see Apply tab) to identify the most appropriate member of staff to support your idea. If not, don't worry, we regularly advertise funded projects and there is no harm in browsing our academic staff profiles for inspiration and then contacting whoever seems best: we are very open to applications from suitably qualified people interested in scientific research. In every case, a PhD or MPhil course provides the means of being part of a cutting edge scientific research team and contributing to genuine new discoveries or the development of new methods for practical use. If you cannot study full time, we offer pro-rata part time research degree programmes as well.
To help orientation, the School is organised into three research theme clusters:
- Ecosystem Biology and Sustainability
- Microbes and Pathogen Biology
- Food Safety and Nutrition
Ecosystem Biology and Sustainability:
In this cluster, you could research biodiversity and ecosystem services for environments ranging from tropical forests to deep oceans, using field techniques and skills such as wildlife tracking, taxonomy, geostatistics, molecular and genetic ecology, foodweb-analysis, microcosm and mesocosm experiments and mathematical/computational methods. Alternatively, you could study the behaviour and temperament of wild, agricultural or domestic animals and their implications for welfare and ability to respond to environmental change. Potential research projects include phylogenetic analysis of rare and newly discovered species, examination of ecological interactions in tropical systems, agricultural soils, or marine communities, using state-of-the-art genetic analysis, surveys using drones or satellite tagging, or experiments in tanks and field plots, including careful and ethical examinations of animal behaviour. Projects range from theoretical analysis of stability in ecosystems, through discovery of new species and mechanisms of interaction, or responses to climate change, to the assessment of EU agri-environment schemes, development of new methods for commercial fisheries management and economic evaluations of conservation measures. Projects very often have an international dimension and include collaboration with other researchers worldwide.
Microbes and Pathogen Biology:
This cluster covers a diverse array of research interests united by an emphasis on molecular approaches applied to both fundamental and applied questions over the range from molecular to ecological systems. These interests include biochemistry, food safety, microbiology and parasite control with applications in human and animal health, nutrition, plant and soil sciences, and agricultural development. We have a long-standing reputation in parasite biology and in applied microbiology (for example in clearing land of contamination) as well as strong contributions to fundamental methods in understanding cancer, developing veterinary vaccines and molecular detectors for toxins and diseases. The common thread is our strong molecular approach using and developing cutting edge genomic, transcriptomic/proteomic methods. Research students in this cluster enjoy a range of strong international links across Europe, Asia, North and South America.
Food Safety and Nutrition:
Research opportunities offered by this cluster span the entire food chain "from farm to fork" with a strong emphasis on food safety and nutrition, public health and food security. In this cluster you would conduct research under the supervision of leading scientists based in the Institute for Global Food Security and benefit from integration with business experts, helping you gain leadership positions nationally and internationally.
Information on the research interests and activities of academics in Biological Sciences can be accessed via the School website and the Find a Supervisor facility (see Apply tab).
Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes alongside sterling integration with business experts helps our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.
Employment after the Course
Graduates have gone on to be professional research scientists, consultants, or hold technical and junior executive positions in commerce and government.
Dr Keith Farnsworth
Chair of School Postgraduate Research Committee
School of Biological Sciences
For a PhD you will have a principal and second supervisor who advise your independent studies and will be supported by a wider team from the academic staff - who they are, of course, depends on your project. For further details on any aspect of postgraduate research degrees within the School of Biological Sciences, contact: email@example.com.
A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field. Undertaking a research degree can enhance a student’s written and oral communication skills and a PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic post.
Assessment processes for the Research Degree differ from taught degrees. Students will be expected to present drafts of their work at regular intervals to their supervisor who will provide written and oral feedback; a formal assessment process takes place annually.
This Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.
The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.
Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.
The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.
For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.
Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).
International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.
For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see: www.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs.
If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering Academic English and Pre-sessional courses online only from June to September 2020.
|Northern Ireland (NI)||£4,407|
|England, Scotland or Wales (GB)||£4,407|
|Other (non-UK) EU||£4,407|
Biological Sciences costs
Students may incur additional costs for small items of clothing and/or equipment necessary for lab or field work
Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.
Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.2.Doctoral Training Centres at Queen's
Queen's has eight outstanding competitive Doctoral Training Centres, with each one providing funding for a number of PhD positions and most importantly a hub for carrying out world class research in key disciplines.3.PhD loans
The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students, £10,000 for students in Scotland and up to £5,500 for Northern Ireland students.4.International Scholarships
Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.
The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.
If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.
To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.
You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.
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For more information please read our Equality and Diversity Policy.
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