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PhD Opportunities

Growing new commercial crops on the Island of Ireland to diversify farming and add value

School of Biological Sciences | PHD

Applications are now CLOSED
Funding
Funded
Reference Number
SBIO-2020-1183
Application Deadline
18 February 2022
Start Date
1 October 2022

Overview

This three-year PhD will optimise the cultivation of novel commercial crops, not previously been grown on the Island of Ireland. It will evaluate the impact of crop varieties and their management on the yield of bioactive compounds.

This proposed PhD project intends to optimise the cultivation of novel commercial crops, many of which have not previously been grown on the island of Ireland, by evaluating the impact of varieties and crop management regimes on the yield of bioactive compounds. It represents a new collaboration between QUB and AFBI, who will also work in partnership with a recent QUB spin-out company called Aramune Technologies Limited (ATL). The information acquired during the project will assist ATL to: 1) increase production of their primary product called AramuneTM, and 2) acquire new raw materials for their second-generation of products. We anticipate that the successful completion of the project will benefit local arable farmers and animal feed producers. The main objectives of the project are to:

• Select a sub-set of up to 5 varieties from two proprietary plant families most suited for growth in NI.

• Perform a survey of current agronomical practices used to grow the two crop types to determine most appropriate treatments in agronomy field trials.

• Perform variety x agronomy field trials to evaluate the performance of pre-selected species and varieties from plant families in different soils in NI under different management regimes.

• Trials will be conducted in up to 3 locations across NI for 2 growing seasons. Up to 5 varieties for both crops will be tested in trials where N and agro-chemicals will be evaluated for their impact on crop performance and yield of bioactive compounds.

• Evaluate where the aforementioned crops fit within different farming systems/crop-rotations.

• Formulate advice/guidance for farmers to assist them with their growing of the crops.

• Extract and evaluate the yield of proprietary/patented bioactive compounds in each crop grown and determine the optimal harvesting periods, plant parts.

• Confirm the bioactivity of extracts from each crop/plant part.

• Evaluate alternative practical uses of the ‘waste’ materials produced following the extraction of the bioactive from the plant.

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php

Skills/experience required: We are seeking a candidate with strong interests in agronomy, plant biology, arable farming, or the production of bioactive compounds in plants. We particularly welcome candidates who envisage taking up a career in this area of the bio-economy. Candidate with hands-on experience of plant/crop sewing (field or glass house) would be extremely welcome.

Funding Information

Note: This project is in competition for DfE funding with a number of other projects. A selection process will determine the strongest candidates across the range of projects, who may then be offered funding for their chosen project.

Candidates must hold the equivalent of a UK 2.1 Bachelor's degree or qualifications considered to be equivalent by the University.

Candidates must also be normally resident in the UK for the three year period prior to 1 October 2022. For non-EU nationals, the main purpose of residence must not have been to receive full-time education. Non-UK or Irish nationals must also have pre-settled or settled status (EU nationals) or settled status (non-EU nationals).

Full eligibility criteria: https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/economy/Postgraduate-studentships-terms-and-conditions.pdf

Project Summary
Supervisor


    Mode of Study

    Full-time: 3 years


    Funding Body
    DfE
    Apply now Register your interest

    Biological Sciences overview

    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.

    Biological Sciences Highlights
    Industry Links
    • The School has a wide range of strong, international links with governments, academia and industry, into which postgraduate research students are integrated.
    World Class Facilities
    • Research students will have access to laboratory space as required (in our state-of-the-art research laboratories) and where relevant, also a range of field study sites and equipment (e.g. remote sensing drone equipment). They also have access to local and campus-wide high performance computing facilities and the full strength of our world-class library. Many students also benefit from the strong collaboration network maintained by our academic staff, which could result in working in the laboratories of partner organisations in industry and government as well as in the University, under specific arrangements.
    • Students studying in the Food Safety and Nutrition programme will gain excellent practical experience of advanced technology and bioanalytical techniques for food safety analysis and monitoring, including:

      1. GC, HPLC and UPLC separation platforms;
      2. ICP, IR, qToF and QqQ mass spectrometers;
      3. Microbiological research facilities;
      4. Antibody production and biomolecule binder development;
      5. Cell culture suite and bioanalytical assay detection systems;
      6. NMR, NIR and Raman spectrometers;
      7. Proteomic and metabolomic profiling tools RT-PCR;
      8. Transcriptomic profiling;
      9. Next-generation sequencing;
      10. Multiplex biosensor platforms and LFD development.
    Internationally Renowned Experts
    • Queen's ranking for Food Science research was first in the UK in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021.

      In the Complete University Guide 2021, Queen's was joint first in the UK for Research Intensity in Biological Sciences.
    Key Facts

    • Most of the critical problems facing humanity - disease, climate change and food security - require biological understanding to solve them.

    Course content

    Research Information

    PhD Supervisors
    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).

    Career Prospects

    Introduction
    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. Career prospects in the biological sciences are exceptionally good. To some extent it depends on the specific topic, of course, but laboratory-based and especially quantitative skills and the proven innovation of a PhD or MPhil are highly sought after. Degrees are very much in demand, both in commercial science and public sector research and development (e.g. drug discovery and development, crop and animal improvements and welfare, sustainable agriculture and resource use, human nutrition and health, animal health, ecological management, food safety and technology, scientific communications, regulation, and many more fields).

    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.

    People teaching you

    Dr Gareth Arnott
    Postgraduate Research Director
    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: biosciences-pg@qub.ac.uk. Research degrees are overseen by the School of Biological Sciences Director of Postgraduate Research, who currently is Dr Gareth Arnott.

    Learning Outcomes

    A postgraduate research degree involves the undertaking of independent research under the guidance of a professional academic supervisory team, typically using the laboratory facilities on offer in one or more of the teams' labs. The student will be expected to develop their own ideas and learn the methods needed to test them empirically and theoretically. This usually involves learning and practising both laboratory (and or field) skills as well as developing a strong theoretical background in the relevant subject.

    As well as practical work, all the activities of independent academic scholarship, such as literature searching and critical appraisal, written and verbal communications and academic networking will be developed during a research degree. Independence and innovation will be strongly encouraged, but the student will be supported by regular supervisory guidance and a wide range of courses will also be on offer, both in subject specific skills and generic skills, especially supported by the Graduate School (https://www.qub.ac.uk/graduate-school/).

    Students are encouraged to interact with one another and with members of academic staff and postdoctoral scientists to build confidence and informal learning, through a range of ‘research culture’ activities, including peer groups where students get together to discuss topical research papers, or methods, or just chat about their interests.

    Course structure

    Research degrees vary in length, but typically for a PhD they are three or four years long (full-time) and double that for part-time studies. They follow an annual cycle of progress with formal panel-based appraisals of the progress, the outcome of which is typically practical and academic advice about how to overcome problems encountered and how to move to the next stage. During each year, students are expected to supplement their studies with some tailored courses, ranging from highly specific (e.g. learning to use a piece of apparatus or technique) to generic (e.g. developing oral presentation or leadership skills). Every stage is supported by the supervisory team, augmented by an independent panel of progress monitors as well as the full support of the Graduate School.

    Assessment

    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.

    Feedback

    Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.

    Facilities

    Full-time research students will have access to a shared office space and access to a desk with personal computer and internet access.

    Entrance requirements

    Graduate
    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.

    International Students

    For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

    English Language Requirements

    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.

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,596
    Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,596
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,596
    EU Other 3 £22,700
    International £22,700

    1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

    2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

    3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

    All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Biological Sciences costs

    Students may incur additional costs for small items of clothing and/or equipment necessary for lab or field work

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    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.

    Bench fees

    Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.

    How do I fund my study?

    1.PhD Opportunities

    Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

    2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

    We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

    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.

    4.International Scholarships

    Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

    Funding and Scholarships

    The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

    How to Apply

    Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

    Find a supervisor

    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.