Preface content

Postgraduate studentships

The Pirbright Institute has 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 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.

Watch this short film to find out more about PhD studentships at The Pribright Institute:

Visit the Postgraduate Benefits page to watch our Student Spotlight interviews in full and gain insight from current PhD students.

Studentship Funding Eligibility:

For further information on funding eligibility please refer to UKRI Full Eligibility Criteria (Annex One)

Current opportunities

Ref Number Closing Date PhD Studentship Supervisors Project Details
2022/01/SG/KG 21.01.22 Evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of one-health vaccination strategies Dr Simon Gubbins (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Kyriaki Giorgakoudi (City, University of London), Dr Georgina Limon-Vega (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Christian Reynolds (City, University of London)

Zoonotic viruses, which can be transmitted from animals to humans, pose a particular challenge for disease control. It is possible to use One Health approaches to controlling human infections by controlling such viruses in animal or human populations. However, it is not clear which control strategies will be the most effective to reduce transmission or be most cost effective. In addition, One Health approaches can be challenging if a virus does not cause any clinical signs in the animal population.

This project will focus on vaccination strategies for two important zoonotic viruses: Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV). RVFV causes abortions in livestock and potentially severe disease in humans, while CCHFV causes no signs of disease in livestock but case fatality in humans can reach 40%. RVFV can be found in Africa and CCHFV can be found in Africa, Asia, eastern Europe and the Middle East. No treatment is currently available for either disease, while prevention or control is difficult. Recently, however, vaccine candidates have been developed for these viruses that could be used in both animals and humans. This raises the possibility of a One Health approach to their control, but the effectiveness of such strategies has yet to be evaluated. Identifying the most cost-effective vaccination strategies will support policy makers in affected countries in designing and delivering appropriate vaccination programmes.

The project will provide the student with training in mathematical modelling, epidemiology and health economics applied to real-world problems.  Full details and how to apply

2022/07/SB 30.01.22 Dissecting the immunosuppressive effects of Marek's disease virus Dr Shahriar Behboudi (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Natalie Riddell (University of Surrey), Dr Ajit Patil (The Pirbright Institute)

Oncogenic viruses have evolved various mechanisms to escape immune control and promote tumour development. One such mechanism is the activation of pathways leading to metabolic changes that can influence physiological and immunological activities in the infected individuals; in some viral infections this manifests itself as the production of Prostaglandins which manipulate immunological responses against both viruses and tumours.

Our group has shown that Marek’s disease virus, an avian oncogenic virus, induces the expansion of novel regulatory T cells in infected chickens, and this may explain the immunosuppression observed in these birds (Gurung et al. PLoS Pathogen 2017). We have also shown that Marek’s disease virus activates metabolic changes (Boodhoo et al. Journal of Virology 2019, Boodhoo et al. Journal of Virology January 2020, Boodhoo et al. Journal of Virology September 2020), including the production of Prostaglandins. Marek’s disease virus expresses over 80 different viral proteins in the infected cells. Based on this information, the PhD candidate will use in vitro systems to identify the gene(s) of Marek’s disease virus which activate regulatory T cells via induction of Prostaglandins. Full details and how to apply

2022/05/HM/NL 20.02.22

Coronavirus regulation of cellular antiviral responses and cross species transmission

Dr Helena Maier (The Pirbright Institute), Prof Nicolas Locker (University of Surrey), Dr Erica Bickerton (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Hannah Burgess (University of Surrey)

Coronaviruses (CoV) can cross the species barrier to generate highly pathogenic viruses. Recently, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 emerged following jumps from bats, via an intermediate host into humans, while SADS-CoV jumped from bats into pigs. Despite this, there is little understanding of species transmission barriers and how CoV adapt to infect new hosts. It is likely that barriers exist at several levels from ecological to molecular.

We hypothesise that changes in viral regulation of host cell interferon and stress responses play a role in CoV cross species transmission. The type I Interferon (IFN) response is one of the first lines of cellular defence against invading pathogens and is a significant barrier to virus replication. Furthermore, the Integrated Stress Response helps cells respond to the accumulation of viral RNA and proteins by inducing a global reduction of protein synthesis and activating a stress-resolving transcriptional programme.  Full details and how to apply

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

Partner Organisation/s Project Title Applications

How to apply:

See 'how to apply' page for details.

General enquiries can be emailed to

Studentships provide for tuition fees and stipend depending on eligibility (see project advert for details).


UK Posgraduate Doctoral Loans:

A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan (of up to £27,265) can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course, such as a PhD.  Students in receipt of Research Council funding are not eligible.  Details can be found here.


Trim content

® The Pirbright Institute 2022 | A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 559784. The Institute is also a registered charity.