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 closed.



Studentships: 8 four-year fully funded PhD studentships will be available soon on this prestigious programme for entry in October 2017. 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 (£14,296 for 2016-2017, to be confirmed for 2017-2018 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: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and successful applicants will be notified promptly.

Interviews: Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place at the University of York on a date to be confirmed. 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)

 Applications are now closed.

SupervisorsProject TitleResearch Area
Dr Daniela Barillà & Dr James Chong Borrowing building blocks from bacteria and eukaryotes: a three-component DNA segregation machinery in archaea Genetics, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Microbiology
Dr Will Brackenbury & Dr Sangeeta Chawla Electrical control of microglial activation Biophysics, Cell Biology/Development, Immunology, Medical/Clinical Science, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience/Neurology, Pharmacology/Toxicology
Professor Neil C Bruce & Dr Frans Maathuis  Mechanisms of palladium uptake and nanoparticle formation by plants Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Botany / Plant Science, Molecular Biology
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
Dr Dawn Coverley & Dr Darren L Goffin  Role of CIZ1 in X chromosome inactivation Cell Biology, Epigenetic regulation of gene expression, X-inactivation, CIZ1, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, Cancer / Oncology, Cell Biology / Development, Genetics, Molecular Biology
Professor Katherine Denby & Dr Jon Pitchford Keeping time on Immunity: the impact of the circadian clock on plant disease resistance Plant Science, Bioinformatics, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Pathology, Data Analysis
Dr Julia Ferrari & Dr Kanchon Dasmahapatra  The aphid microbiome: evolutionary dynamics and mechanisms of ecologically important traits Evolution, Genetics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Zoology / Animal Science
Dr Paul Fogg & Dr Gavin Thomas  The impact of gene transfer agents on bacterial evolution Bioinformatics, Evolution, Genetics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Virology
Dr Ville Friman &  Dr Jason Lynam (Chemistry) & Professor Ian Fairlamb (Chemistry Development of Carbon Monoxide Releasing Molecule (CORM) based plant pathogen biocontrol for Ralstonia solanacearum Agronomy & Soil Science, Ecology & Conservation, Evolution, Microbiology, Synthetic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry
Dr Darren Goffin & Professor Miles Whittington (Hull York Medical School)  Role of DNA methylation in brain function Neuroscience, Pharmacology, Physiology
Professor Sue Hartley & Dr Frans Maathuis  Improved wheat yield with silicon Agricultural Sciences, Biotechnology, Botany / Plant Science, Biochemistry
Dr Thorunn Helgason & Dr Katie Field (University of Leeds Who pays first? Nutrient exchange dynamics in the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis Agronomy and Soil Science, Bioinformatics, Evolution, Genetics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology
Dr Angela Hodge & Professor Katherine Denby & Professor Sue Hartley  Underground power struggles: how does silicon tip the balance between mutualistic and pathogenic root fungi? Agricultural Sciences, Botany / Plant Science, Microbiology, Environmental Chemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics
Dr Dimitris Lagos & Dr Michael Plevin  Making the silencers: what makes microRNA biogenesis unique in human cells and why Cell Biology/Development, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Immunology,
Structural Biology
Dr Frans Maathuis & Dr Harv Isaacs The role of NIPs in plant arsenic tolerance Agricultural Sciences, Biotechnology, Plant Science, Cell Biology
Professor Simon McQueen-Mason & Professor Sue Hartley Using genome wide association studies of rice straw digestibility and silica content to produce more sustainable biofuels Plant science, Plant biotechnology, Industrial biotechnology, Agricultural sciences, Plant genetics
Professor Jeremy Mottram & Professor Paul Kaye Role of amastigote diversity in Leishmania life-cycle transition Parasitology, genetics, bioinformatics, cell biology
Dr Michael Plevin & Dr Pegine Walrad Regulation of gene expression in Leishmania parasites: structure, function and post-transcriptional modification of RNA binding proteins Biochemistry, Biophysics, Structural Biology,
Molecular Biology, Parasitology, Biochemistry
Professor Jennifer Potts & Dr Gavin Thomas & Dr Marjan van der Woude Bacterial modification of carbohydrates; structural and functional analysis of a key virulence strategy Biochemistry, Biophysics, Structural Biology, Microbiology, Antibiotics
Dr Betsy Pownall & Dr Harv Isaacs Analysing the role of FGF signalling in pluripotency and skeletal muscle development Cell Biology/Development, Genetics, Molecular Biology
Dr Nathalie Signoret & Dr Christoph Baumann & Dr Martin Fascione (Chemistry) How do membrane microenvironment and receptor mobility influence signalling cross-talk during stimulation by an antigenic ligand? Cell biology, Immunology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Chemical biology
Professor Jenny Southgate & Dr Dawn Coverley Compartmentalisation of nuclear factors during differentiation Biochemistry, Cancer/Oncology, Cell Biology/Development, Molecular Biology, Pathology
Dr Sean Sweeney & Dr Gareth Evans  Investigating the role of membrane traffic in neuronal survival Cell Biology/Development, Neuroscience/Neurology, Genetics
Dr Daniel Ungar & Dr Paul Genever & Professor Nia Bryant  Development of novel approaches to regulate stem cell differentiation Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Biotechnology, Cell Biology / Development, Molecular Biology
Dr Marjan van der Woude & Dr Christoph Baumann The LPS, the O-antigen and the bacterial pathogen Salmonella Microbiology, Molecular biology, Biophysics, Immunology
Dr Pegine Walrad & Professor Nia Bryant Investigating the molecular machinery that controls autophagy during Leishmania spp. differentiation Parasitology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology/Development, Biochemistry

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 '2017 October, Full 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. 

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 a date to be confirmed.  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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