Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership

  • Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), provides opportunities to carry out a PhD at Oxford Brookes University taking advantage of resources and facilities at the University of Oxford. For further details, contact Andrew Jones a.jones@brookes.ac.uk.

    Using spider venoms to develop novel, safer, insecticides for crop protection

    Industrial CASE Studentship 2022-23

    If you wish to apply for this Project please read the How To Apply section

    The deadline for applications is 7 January 2022.

    Project details

    For protecting crops, neonicotinoids have become the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. However, their use has been restricted in the European Union amidst fears that they are having adverse effects on pollinators such as the honey bee, Apis mellifera. This has resulted in the use of an older class of pesticides, pyrethroids, to which pests have become resistant. There is thus the need to develop novel and safer pest control agents that have higher selectivity for pests over beneficial species and which allow more effective resistance management strategies.

    Venoms in natural predators of insects, such as those of spiders, contain a wealth of peptides with the potential to be developed into novel, environmentally safe biopesticides. The successful candidate will study the actions of venom components on ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs), such as GABA receptors, of the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae (a major pest of crops) and of the honey bee, Apis mellifera (an important pollinator of crops). LGICs are the targets of many effective insecticides and the aim is to determine features specific to aphid LGICs that can be exploited for the future development of insecticides that are highly selective towards pest species whilst sparing beneficial insects. The student will benefit from expertise at Oxford Brookes University, the University of Oxford and Venomtech Ltd, which is the UK’s only commercial venom laboratory that have developed world leading techniques in venomous animal husbandry, venom extraction and biotechnological use of venom. The project will, therefore, provide opportunities for training in skills from several diverse disciplines including molecular biology, pharmacology, electrophysiology, neuronal cultures, peptide purification, modelling of protein structure and ligand-binding dynamics.

    This project is funded for four years by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council UKRI-BBSRC. UKRI-BBSRC eligibility criteria apply. Successful students will receive a stipend of no less than the standard UKRI stipend rate, currently set at £15,609 per year.

    You will have a primary academic supervisor at Oxford Brookes University and undertake research in collaboration with an industrial or non-academic partner organisation. You will undertake a placement (12 weeks minimum) with the industrial partner organisation to gain experience of work in a non-academic professional environment.

    This project is supported through the Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) studentship programme. The student recruited to this project will join a cohort of students enrolled in the DTP’s interdisciplinary training programme and will participate in the training and networking opportunities available through the DTP. For further details, please visit www.biodtp.ox.ac.uk. The DTP and its associated partner organisations aim to create a community that is innovative, inclusive and collaborative, in which everyone feels valued, respected, and supported, and we encourage applications from a diverse range of qualified applicants.

    Entry requirements

    Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor’s Degree 2:1 or better (or overseas equivalent) in a Life Sciences degree, which includes the study of Molecular Biology.

    UKRI-BBSRC eligibility criteria apply.

    How to apply

    Applicants should first contact Dr Andrew Jones at a.jones@brookes.ac.uk, the primary academic supervisor, to discuss whether their research interests are a suitable fit for the project, before applying.

    When you are ready to apply, please read all the instructions carefully before starting your application. Please provide all documentation to hlsapplications@brookes.ac.uk which can also be contacted with any questions concerning your application.

    Oxford Brookes University as a member of the Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership is following the Pilot assessment procedure: MPLS doctoral training courses | University of Oxford.

    Application Documentation Required

    1. Oxford Brookes Studentship Application Form

    2. CV

    You will need to upload a standardised CV using the online form that requests certain information that you will likely have included on a CV.

    Please note, that although the link states that it is for University of Oxford applications, this standardised CV is also being used by Oxford Brookes University.

    Once you have completed the form, you will have 15 minutes to download your CV as a PDF document. We request that you anonymise your CV in relation to your name and gender pronouns. This PDF document is in the same format for all applicants and you should not modify the document from that standard format, or submit your CV in a different format.

    3. Anonymised standard statement of purpose (maximum of 1000 words)

    This should describe in English how your background and research interests relate to the programme, following the template below. The statement should focus primarily on academic, research or employment-related achievements and interests rather than personal achievements and interests. If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

    • Briefly explain your motivation for undertaking doctoral study, including at least one specific example of how you have prepared yourself for doctoral study that illustrates your commitment and motivation.
    • Summarise your previous achievements and experience, including information on any research you have conducted, relevant employment or work experience (if any), and any activities or experience that illustrate your communication skills, team skills or personal strengths.
    • Please explain your motivation for applying to undertake this project and why you are a suitable candidate for the project.

    Your statement of purpose will be assessed for:

    • your reasons for applying
    • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
    • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
    • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
    • understanding of problems in the area and ability to construct and defend an argument.

    It will be normal for your ideas and goals to change in some ways as you participate in the programme.

    4. Letters of reference

    Candidates should ask three referees to send their anonymised references to hlsapplications@brookes.ac.uk on or before the application deadline.

    5. Transcripts

    Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

    6. English Language Certificate

    If appropriate.

    7. Contextual Statement

    Applicants may submit a contextual statement where relevant. This section of the application is optional and should be limited to no more than 4,000 characters long.

    You may wish to provide this, particularly if any of these apply. You:

    • are in the first generation of your family to go to university
    • have been in care for at least three months
    • have been a young carer
    • are from a low-income background
    • you have received a means-tested scholarship
    • you have needed to work to support yourself during your academic studies because of your socioeconomic circumstances
    • are a refugee
    • are neurodivergent
    • have or have had one or more disabilities or chronic illnesses that have affected you in education or at work
    • wish to disclose other circumstances that have substantially affected you in education or at work.

    We recognise that socio-economic data may not fully capture an individual student’s personal circumstances, so if any of the criteria listed above apply, we encourage you to submit a statement providing additional detail on your personal circumstances. This will not be made available to assessors during the initial phase of academic shortlisting, but may be used in association with socio-economic data to contextualise short-listing and decision-making processes.