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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

RCUK Residential Guidelines for Research Council Studentships

For further information on residential eligibility guidelines please refer to RCUK residential guidelines for Research Council studentships


Ref number Project title Supervisors Abstract

PhD Studentship:

Investigating antigenic determinants inducing stronger and broader cross-protective immunity among H5 avian influenza viruses 

Closing date:  22.06.18

Prof Munir Iqbal

Dr Nicola Lewis

Avian influenza viruses (AIV) of H5 subtype pose a significant threat to global poultry production and to human health by zoonotic transmission. Currently, a range of antigenic H5Nx variants (H5N1, H5N2, H5 N3, H5N6, H5N8 and H5 N9) are prevalent in nature and causing disease outbreaks in poultry. Vaccination of poultry is key to disease control in endemic countries, and vaccination of humans could be a major component in the response to a pandemic situation.

Vaccine effectiveness is continually challenged by the emergence of antigenically variant H5Nx viruses. There is limited knowledge of the underlying mechanisms which drive virus immune escape and vaccine failure. This project will utilise a combination of molecular virology, immunology, vaccinology, bioinformatics and modelling to undertake systematic analysis to identify molecular factors that compromise vaccine effectiveness. The aim is to develop approaches that enhance efficacy and potency of poultry vaccines against H5 AIV. Full details.

Oxford - JH/RO

PhD Studentship:

Structural analysis of the cattle antibody repertoire

Closing date: Ongoing

Applications via University of Oxford

  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. Full details
Oxford - TT/LF

PhD Studentship:

Super-resolution and electron microscopy to understand the virus-host interactions required for replication of foot-and-mouth disease virus

Closing date:  Ongoing

Applications via University of Oxford

  Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is a single-stranded positive-sense RNA virus in the picornavirus family. Picornaviruses have small genomes and rely on host cell factors to replicate. FMDV subverts cellular lipid trafficking pathways to generate distinctive membrane structures, called replication organelles that serve as platforms for viral replication. FMDV encodes a number of proteins essential for its replication, such as the RNA polymerase 3Dpol, which are likely to interact with each other and with a number of unidentified cellular proteins to form a replication complex where new copies of the viral genome can be generated. The cellular components required for formation of either the membraneous replication organelles or the replication complex remains unknown.  Recent research by the Tuthill group and their collaborators have identified a number of candidate host-cell proteins that are required for viral replication. This new information, along with super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and electron microscopy facilities at Pirbright and Diamond combines to produce a timely opportunity to understand FMDV replication in more detail than ever possible before. This project will combine virology and microscopy at Pirbright with cutting edge multi-modal imaging approaches at Diamond in order to identify and characterize the cellular factors required for viral replication. Full details.
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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