Can longer and wider cells help feed the world? (UAUY_J18DTP1)

John Innes Centre
October 06 2017
Life Sciences, Biology
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

Crop production must increase to meet the demands of a global population estimated to exceed nine billion by 2050. To achieve this goal, it is estimated that at least a 50% increase in crop production is required, however current rates of yield increase are insufficient. It is therefore critical and urgent that we identify ways to increase crop yields.

We are studying three genes in wheat that affect the weight of individual grains. Our results show that these genes affect either the width or the length of the grain by 3-4%. This might not sound like much but it translates into 500 extra loaves of bread in every hectare sown with wheat! Recently, we showed that one of these genes affects cell expansion, leading to longer cells which in turn makes longer and heavier grain (Brinton et al 2017 New Phytologist). Preliminary results from the other genes suggest they affect cell division and thus make wider (and heavier) grains. We hypothesize that combining genes that control these distinct biological mechanisms (cell expansion and division) will enhance crop yields. In other words: Can longer and wider cells increase yield and help feed the world?

The aim of this PhD project will be to investigate the effects of increased cell division and expansion on ovary/grain size in wheat. We will aim to determine the combined effects of cell expansion and division on final grain size and yield using microscopy, image analysis and development studies. We will also identify candidate genes controlling ovary and early grain development based on co-expression networks and next-generation sequencing data.

The student will learn to combine molecular biology, genetics, genomics and image analysis to understand the underlying biology of crop plants and its relevance for agriculture.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP). Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed as part of the studentship competition. Candidates will be interviewed on either the 9th, 10th or 11th January 2018.

The Norwich Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4 year research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three month professional internship (PIPS) during their study. The internship offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply.

For further information and to apply, please visit our website:

Funding notes

Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,553pa - 2017/8), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements. Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess

Similar jobs

Similar jobs