BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology 

Departments of Biology and Chemistry

8 four-year fully funded PhD studentships 

This prestigious BBSRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) brings together the very best molecular, chemical and cellular bioscience research across the White Rose Consortium of Universities (Leeds, Sheffield and York), which maps on to the research themes of the BBSRC. Students will benefit from a regional PhD training programme that has interdisciplinary collaboration at its core. The aim is to enable students to develop a range of research skills in biological and biochemical areas as well as equip them with core mathematical, data analysis and generic professional skills that are necessary for bioscience research in the coming decades. At York, the White Rose Partnership brings together researchers from the Departments of Biology and Chemistry spanning different research centres (BPSI, CII, CNAPJBU, YCCS, YESI, and  YSBL).

Our 4-year fully funded PhD programme in Mechanistic Biology offers projects aligned with the BBSRC strategic priorities in Food Security, Bioenergy and Industrial Technology and World Class Bioscience. 

Applications are now under consideration.

Interviews will be held on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 February 2018



Studentships: 8 four-year fully funded PhD studentships will be available soon on this prestigious programme for entry in October 2018. To be considered you need to select a suitable project from the list available and submit an application through the University of York online system. Please check the How to apply tab before submitting your application. 

Value: The studentships are fully funded by BBSRC and cover: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,533 for 2017-2018, to be confirmed for 2018-2019 but typically increases annually in line with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding can be found at the following website: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/studentship-eligibility-pdf/

Entry requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.  The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. Please check the How to apply tab for further details.

Shortlisting: Applicants will be notified if they have been selected for interview in the week commencing on Monday 29 January 2018.

Interviews: Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place at the University of York on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 February 2018. Candidates will be asked to give a 10 minute presentation prior to their interview by an academic panel.

Queries: If you have any queries about a specific project, please contact the appropriate project supervisors.  Their emails can be found on our academic staff list. If you have any queries related to the application process please contact our Biology Admissions Office biol-pg-admissions@york.ac.uk

Available projects

Biology Projects (PhD in Mechanistic Biology)

Closing date for applications: Sunday 7 January 2018

SupervisorsProject TitleResearch Area
Dr Christoph Baumann & Dr Deborah O'Connell (Physics) & Dr Marjan van der Woude How does low-temperature plasma damage the bacterial outer membrane? Biochemistry, Biophysics, Microbiology, Plasma Physics
Dr Gonzalo Blanco & Dr Betsy Pownall The role of the stress kinase MLTK7 in muscle disease Genetics, Cell Biology / Development, Pathology, Neuroscience / Neurology
Dr Will Brackenbury & Dr Sangeeta Chawla Role of microglial ion channels in neuroprotection

Biophysics; Cell Biology/Development; Immunology; Medical/Clinical Science; Molecular Biology; Neuroscience/Neurology; Pharmacology/Toxicology

Dr Sangeeta Chawla & Dr Sean Sweeney Interplay between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and transcriptional regulation in the control of circadian rhythms Neuroscience, Genetics, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry
Professor Seth Davis, Professor Katherine Denby & Dr Marina Knight (Mathematics) Dissecting quantitative variation in the plant circadian clock Botany / Plant Science, Genetics, Evolution, Molecular Biology, Applied Mathematics, Bioinformatics, Statistics
Professor Katherine Denby & Dr Jon Pitchford How does the circadian clock regulate disease resistance? Plant science, bioinformatics, genetics, molecular biology, pathology
Dr Gareth Evans & Dr Paul Pryor Kinase regulation of COPII transport in neuronal differentiation Neuroscience, Biochemistry, Cell Biology / Development, Molecular Biology
Dr Julia Ferrari & Dr Sue Hartley Sustainable approaches to crop protection: silicon supplementation and its effects on symbiont-mediated multi-trophic interactions Agricultural Sciences, Ecology & Conservation, Evolution, Genetics, Microbiology, Zoology/Animal Science
Dr Ville Friman &  Dr Jamie Wood
Evolutionary responses of microbiomes during therapeutic interventions Evolution, Microbiology, Medical Science, Ecology, Virology, Parasitology, Statistics, Applied Mathematics, Bioinformatics, Data Analysis
Dr Paul Genever & Dr Chris MacDonald Engineering extracellular vesicles derived from human mesenchymal stem cells Cell Biology/Development, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Data Analysis, Bioinformatics
Dr Andrea Harper & Professor Ian Bancroft The genetic basis of nitrogen use efficiency in bread wheat Botany/Plant Science; Agricultural sciences; Genetics; Biochemistry; Molecular Biology
Dr Thorunn Helgason & Professor Katherine Denby
Dynamics of soil microbiome during drought Plant science, bioinformatics, genetics, molecular biology, microbiology, agricultural science, ecology, agronomy and soil science.
Dr James Hewitson & Dr Marjan van der Woude How do parasitic worms act as islands of antibiotic resistance? Microbiology, Parasitology, Molecular Biology, Immunology
Dr Angela Hodge & Professor Sue Hartley Drought, plant symbionts and silicon – improving crop water relations under future climate change scenarios Agricultural Sciences; Botany / Plant Science; Ecology & Conservation; Microbiology
Dr Harv Isaacs & Dr Betsy Pownall Analysing the role of FGF signalling in pluripotency and skeletal muscle development Cell Biology/Development; Genetics; Molecular Biology
Dr Dimitris Lagos & Dr Dawn Coverley

Understanding long non-­‐coding RNA function

Cell Biology/Development, Molecular, Biology, Biochemistry, Cancer/Oncology, Genetics.
Professor Mark Leake & Professor Anthony Wilkinson (Chemistry) Dissecting molecular complexity in single living cells using state-of-the-art super-resolution microscopy and biophysical chemistry, one molecule at a time Super-resolution, Single-molecule, Fluorescence microscopy, Molecular interactions, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Structural Biology, Nanoscale
Dr Frans Maathuis & Dr Harv Isaacs Molecular mechanisms to reduce arsenic in crops Agricultural Sciences; Biotechnology; Plant Science; Cell Biology
Dr Luke Mackinder & Professor Mark Leake Super resolution imaging of the eukaryotic carbon fixing organelle Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Plant Science, Optical Physics, Structural Biology, Cell Biology
Professor James Moir, Professor Ian Fairlamb (Chemistry) & Dr Jason Lynam (Chemistry)

Targeting bacterial respiration to tackle antibiotic resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Biochemistry, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Pharmacology / Toxicology, Synthetic Chemistry
Professor Jeremy Mottram & Professor Paul Kaye

Role of amastigote diversity in Leishmania life-cycle transition

Parasitology, genetics, bioinformatics, cell biology
Dr Betsy Pownall & Dr Gonzalo Blanco
Dissecting a role for ZAK-beta in skeletal muscle development using genetics and embryology in zebrafish and Xenopus Cell Biology/Development; Genetics; Molecular Biology
Dr Paul Pryor & Dr Christoph Baumann Advancing our understanding of fundamental cellular processes by investigating membrane contact sites Biochemistry, Cell Biology/Development, Molecular Biology
Dr Kelly Redeker & Dr Will Brackenbury & Dr Sean T Sweeney Reactive oxygenated species in the cellular environment: quantifying and modelling impacts to reactive oxygen species.  Analytical Chemistry, Cell Biology / Development, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience / Neurology 
Professor Jenny Southgate & Dr Dawn Coverley Compartmentalisation of nuclear factors during differentiation Biochemistry, Cancer/Oncology, Cell Biology/Development, Molecular Biology
Dr Sean Sweeney & Dr Gareth Evans  Characterising a novel candidate gene regulating ageing related atrophy in neurons Neuroscience, genetics, biochemistry, cell biology
Dr Gavin Thomas & Professor Anthony Wilkinson (Chemistry) Elucidating of the mechanism of action of TRAP transporters involved in bacterial pathogenesis Membrane transport, Pathogenesis, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Structural Biology
Dr Marjan van der Woude & Dr Ville-Petri Friman
Understanding the evolution of bacterial epigenetic adaptation in Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli Microbiology, Evolution, Molecular Biology, Genetics

Chemistry projects (PhD in Biological Chemistry)

In addition, the Department of Chemistry is offering projects in Biological Chemistry. Applications to these projects must follow a different route (PhD in Biological Chemistry). Instructions on how to apply are in each project description. For further information on the application process please email chemgrad@york.ac.uk

How to apply

Before you apply

Applications are made via "Select" (our University's Online Application Service). Your application can be completed in stages as our online system allows you to save your progress and come back later to finish it. We do not require you to provide a sample of written work.

Academic requirements

Students applying for this research programme should normally have obtained an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent).


The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding can be found at the following website:http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/studentship-eligibility-pdf/

Selecting a project

Please try to identify a research project that suits you.  This is to ensure a proper match between your research interests and your prospective supervisors. You can select up to 3 projects, however we would encourage informal discussions with different project supervisors to help you to rank projects in order of preference. Contact details for academic staff can be found on each project description.


To submit your application, please click on the 'APPLY NOW' button inside the project description. This will take you to the University's Online Application Service. Please select '2018 October, Full Time' or '2018 October Part Time' as your start date and then click on the 'Start application' button. It is very important that you write the title of the project you are applying to, and the names of the project supervisors. If you decide to apply for more than one project (maximum three), please number them in order of preference. The deadline for applications has now passed.

After you apply

Once your application has been received, it will be assessed by the appropriate project supervisors. You might be asked to take part in a telephone or skype interview to discuss your suitability for the project. The strongest applications will then be forwarded to the White Rose Admissions Committee for shortlisting. If your application is shortlisted, you will be invited for a formal interview where you will be required to make a 10 minute presentation to the panel. The interviews will take place in the Department of Biology on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 February 2018.  Video interviews can be arranged for international applicants. You will be notified as soon as possible after the interview dates whether your application has been successful, placed on a reserve list, or unsuccessful. If you are successful, you will be required to confirm your intention to accept the studentship within 10 days.

If you have any queries related to the application process please contact our Biology Admissions Office biol-pg-admissions@york.ac.uk

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