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Studentships 2018

The Pirbright Institute has recently formed partnerships with a number of different universities and companies in the UK to offer a selection of exciting studentships studying viral infections of animals.

These new partnerships offer students an exceptional opportunity to obtain a broad view of infectious disease research in a rich, stimulating and unique research environment. Students will have the opportunity to work with the different partners involved in their project, thereby giving them access to novel ways of tackling the problems of livestock diseases through interdisciplinary, cross-institutional approaches. This will be coupled to core skills training at the student’s host institutions, providing flexible training options and experiences that will support a wide range of career choices.

Applications are therefore invited for these studentships as detailed in the tables below.

Government loans likely to be available for new PhD students from 2018-19

The Government is introducing a loan scheme for new PhD students from the 2018-19 academic year.  Eligibility is based on nationality, residency and age. Students in receipt of Research Council funding are not eligible.

The loan will be for up to £25,000, and spread over the three to four years of the PhD.

Full details can be found on


Ref number Project title Supervisors Abstract


Closing date: 09.03.18

Structural analysis of the cattle antibody repertoire

PhD Studentship: The Pirbright Institute; University of Oxford; Diamond Light Source Ltd

Prof John Hammond, Prof Ray Owens, Prof Dave Stuart

Antibodies are the fundamental humoral component of adaptive immunity and different species have evolved alternative strategies to generate antibody sequence diversity. In contrast to human and mice, germ-line immunoglobulin variable region gene diversity in cattle is highly limited. The antibody repertoire is derived from a single polymorphic VH gene family and is dominated by one of two VL gene families. V region diversification in cattle is generated following VDJ, VJ segment rearrangement and somatic hyper-mutation. A unique feature of the antibody response in cattle is the generation of a subset (10 %) of heavy chains that have a highly extended Complementary Determining Region (CDR) 3 sequences of over sixty residues. This compares to an average of 20 residues for most bovine heavy chains which in itself is longer than in other species such as human and mouse. It has been proposed that these unique structures can recognise epitopes that would remain invisible to human or mouse antibodies. Hence there is high interest in bovine-derived antibodies as potential immune-therapeutics. Understanding the structural basis of bovine antibody assembly and antigen-binding will provide insights not only into the biological mechanism that generates diversity, but also enable future studies in vaccine design and antibody discovery, for both veterinary and medical research.  

For full details and to apply please visit:  University of Oxford DTP - Diamond Studentships  (Please do not apply via The Pirbright Institute)


Closing date: 13.02.18

Understanding drivers, incentives and economic impact of FMD control in Kenya

PhD Studentship: The Pirbright Institute; Royal Veterinary College

Dr Nick LyonsBarbera Haesler

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is considered one of the most economically relevant transboundary animal diseases because of its high transmissibility, impact on production and trade restrictions at local, national and international levels. Control is likely to be linked to an improvement in livelihoods particularly in low and middle-income countries reliant on livestock where FMD is often regularly encountered. However, the economic impact and control incentives for FMD are poorly understood and likely to vary across livestock systems in these settings. 

For full details and to apply please visitRoyal Veterinary College  (Please do not apply via The Pirbright Institute)


Closing date: 19.01.18

Interactions between lumpy skin disease virus and the bovine dermis.

Industrial CASE PhD Studentship: The Pirbright Institute; Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford; Merck Animal Health


Dr Pip Beard, Professor David R Greaves, Dr Alasdair King

The hypothesis of this project is the initial interactions between Lumpy skin disease virus, cattle host, and insect vector are key to determining the outcome of infection. 

Background: Lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV) is the causative agent of lumpy skin disease (LSD), a severe, systemic disease of cattle. LSD is endemic throughout Africa and the Middle East where it causes significant economic loss to farmers, barriers to trade, and contributes to rural poverty. In 2015 LSD entered Europe for the first time. The resultant and continuing epidemic has triggered the slaughter of thousands of cattle, mass vaccination campaigns, animal movement restrictions and export bans.
One of the key knowledge gaps hampering efforts to control LSD is an understanding of how LSDV is transmitted. Insect-borne transmission is believed to be the most likely route of spread. A BBSRC-funded project (BB/R002606/1), supported by Merck Animal Health, is currently underway at the Pirbright Institute to characterise insect-borne LSDV transmission. This PhD studentship is designed to complement this work, and will concentrate on the initial LSDV-host interactions which occur in the skin of the animal.
The student will develop a model of bovine skin and construct a fluorescently tagged LSDV strain in order to investigate these interactions. These tools will be used to study the molecular pathways used by LSDV in different cell types, and to compare the early replication events of virulent and attenuated LSDV strains.

For full details and to apply please visit:  University of Oxford DTP - Industrial CASE studentships  (Please do not apply via The Pirbright Institute)

Ref number Project title Supervisors Abstract


The Pirbright Institute also has the following studentships which should be applied for through our partner organisations.

Further information

The studentship provides for tuition fees and stipend depending on eligibility (see full project details accessible through the tables above).

How to apply

See the 'how to apply' section for further information.

General enquiries can be emailed to

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