Funded PhD Studentship: Optimising Transient Carbohydrate Partitioning in Wheat to Improve Climate Resilience

Harper Adams University
May 17, 2024
Offerd Salary:£19,237
Working address:N/A
Contract Type:Fixed Term
Working Time:Full time
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Funded PhD Studentship: Optimising Transient Carbohydrate Partitioning in

Wheat to Improve Climate Resilience

Agriculture & Environment Location: Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB

Salary: As per advert Post Type: Full Time Contract Type: Fixed Term - 36 Months Closing Date: 23.59 hours BST on Friday 17 May 2024 Reference: RD-PHD-24-AWL-R1-MH

Title: Optimising Transient Carbohydrate Partitioning in Wheat to Improve Climate Resilience

Primary Supervisor - Dr. Alexander Watson-Lazowski (Harper Adams University)

Additional Supervisors - Dr. Simon Griffiths (John Innes Centre), Dr. Andrew Beacham (Harper Adams University) and Prof. Peter Kettlewell (Harper Adams University)

Start Date: 1st October 2024

Project Description

Elucidating the diversity and flexibility of plant metabolism is a key avenue of research in the pursuit of malleable traits to enhance plant productivity (Paul, 2021). The transient storage of carbohydrates is a key aspect of plant metabolism, facilitating metabolic processes when photosynthesis is unavailable. Grass species are notable as distinct variation in transient storage carbohydrate partitioning is present within the family (Watson- Lazowski et. al. , 2022), with species transiently accumulating a variable combination of sucrose, fructose and starch. Currently, the extent to which this variation is associated with beneficial characteristics is unclear. However, due to the integral nature of carbohydrates in all aspects of plant functioning, it is likely there are key associations with agronomic traits. Thus, identifying optimal transient carbohydrate partitioning, associated to either a specific carbohydrate or environmental factor, could represent an important avenue of crop improvement.

This PhD project will use wheat (a globally important crop species within the grass family) and a range of techniques (biochemical, bioinformatic and physiological) to investigate key aspects of transient carbohydrate partitioning;

1. Investigate intraspecies variation in transient carbohydrate partitioning across climatic conditions

You will use biochemical assays to measure the transient carbohydrate pools of wheat accessions (with known differences in transient carbohydrate partitioning) grown at a range of growth conditions. This will look to elucidate the extent to which transient fructose accumulation is conserved across wheat accessions.

2. Identify genetic regions which underpin variable transient carbohydrate partitioning in wheat

You will use a bioinformatic approach (Nested Association Mapping (NAM)) to produce novel insights into the underpinning genetics controlling transient fructose accumulation in wheat. This work will be carried out in collaboration with Dr. Simon Griffiths at the John Innes Centre, where robust protocols for harnessing genetic diversity for wheat breeding have been established (Cheng et. al. , 2023).

3. Investigate whether variable transient carbohydrate partitioning is associated with abiotic stress tolerance

You will run abiotic stress experiments to assess whether any conserved beneficial traits are apparent when transient fructose is accumulated in wheat leaves. A range of growth and physiological measurements will be utilised to shed light on the extent to which transient carbohydrate partitioning can be used to increase climate resilience in wheat.

Successful candidates will receive a yearly stipend (paid monthly) set at the UKRI rate - for 2024/5 this will be £19,237. Harper Adams University is unfortunately unable to offer a fee waiver for international students applying and evidence of funding will be required for International Fee paying students to show they can cover the difference between the UK and international fees for the full four years - for the 2024/5 academic year this amount is £10,890. However, scholarships maybe be available at the time of appointment to cover the difference between UK and International fees for the duration of the programme.

Suitable applicants will have a background in plant science, a specific interest in plant metabolism, and embrace the opportunity to gain experience in a range of scientific techniques. In return, you will be provided with guidance and supervision from experts in the relevant disciplines, based at both Harper Adams University and the John Innes Centre, to guide you through your PhD studies. Applicants must hold a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent bachelor's degree in an appropriate subject /high grade point average bachelor's degree for international applicants or a 2.2 alongside a suitable Master's Degree. Potential for research based on alternative qualifications/experience as judged acceptable by the university, will be considered on a case by case basis.

Please direct any queries related to the PhD project to Dr Alexander Watson- Lazowski ([email protected])


Cheng et. al. (2023). Harnessing landrace diversity empowers wheat breeding for climate resilience. bioRxiv , 2023-10.

Paul (2021). Improving photosynthetic metabolism for crop yields: what is going to work? Frontiers in Plant Science , 12, 743862.

Watson-Lazowski et. al. (2022). Loss of PROTEIN TARGETING TO STARCH 2 has variable effects on starch synthesis across organs and species . Journal of Experimental Botany, 73(18), 6367-6379.

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Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects. Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

Harper Adams University is internationally recognised for the quality of its research, as evidenced by the Research Excellence Framework 2022. In order to maintain and uphold the high standards of our research, we continue to undertake initiatives to ensure that integrity, ethics and excellence are at the core of our research activities and fully embedded in our research culture.


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