Fluid flow and transport in plants (BLYTHM_U18SF)

University of East Anglia
September 07 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Fluid motion is vital to the function of healthy plants. For example, transpiration causes water to be drawn upwards from root to leaf through the conducting elements of the xylem, and pressure-driven flow carries the products of photosynthesis through the phloem. Flow in the xylem has traditionally been modelled using Poiseuille's law for motion in a straight capillary tube of circular cross-section. In reality the geometry is highly complex. Xylem conduits are composed of tracheid cells and vessels cells. Tracheids taper at their ends and water moves between them via pits which resist flow and lower the overall conductance. Vessels are stacked end-on-end and water moves between them via perforation plates, which offer less resistance than pits. The breakdown into tracheids and vessels varies from species to species (coniferous trees lack tracheids entirely). The cell walls themselves have a complicated structure and exhibit wall thickenings which may be helical in nature.

In this PhD project, we will focus on the problem of water flow through the xylem to account for realistic cell and wall geometry. We will make progress via a synthesis of applied mathematical methods, both analytical and numerical. Important and interesting issues to be addressed include quantifying xylem flow conductance in the presence of realistic geometry, the efficiency of nutrient transport, and the possible link between hydraulic flow and signal transmission, a current topic of debate among plant biologists.

The supervisor, Dr Blyth, has close links the John Innes Centre for plant science (JIC), which is also situated on the Norwich Research Park with UEA. Substantial interaction with plant biologists and physicists actively working on both theory and experiment at JIC is expected throughout the duration of the project.

Funding notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at http://www.uea.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research-degrees/fees-and-funding.

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess