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Studentships 2019

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.

Applications are therefore invited for these studentships as detailed below.

UK PhD Loans:

Doctoral loans are now available.  A doctoral loan allows you to borrow up to £25,000 to study a UK PhD in any subject in 2018-19.  Students in receipt of Research Council funding are not eligible.  For full details please visit:

Residential Guidelines for Research Council Studentships:

For further information on residence eligibility for studentship funding please refer to Residential Guidelines for Research Council Studentships


Ref number Project title Supervisors Abstract

2019-18 YY/FG

PhD Studentship: Host factors determining latency and reactivation of MDV-1 virus

Closing date: 29.03.19

Dr Yongxiu Yao (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Finn Grey (The Roslin Institute), Prof Venugopal Nair OBE (The Pirbright Institute)

Herpesviruses are large dsDNA viruses that cause widespread, lifelong latent infections in different hosts, through multiple virus-host interactions to create a delicate balance between the virus and the host. CRISPR/Cas9-based gene editing is emerging as a powerful tool to investigate the precise determinants of latency in a number of herpesvirus infections. Marek’s disease virus (MDV-1) is a lymphotropic α-herpesvirus associated with latent infections and malignant CD4+ T-cell lymphomas in chicken. The rapid onset of tumours in Marek’s disease (MD) makes it an ideal virus-induced lymphoma model in its natural host. MDV-1 has a two-phase life cycle, consisting of a lytic and a latent phase, the latter closely associated with the oncogenesis of the virus, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms of cell transformation remain unclear. Several viral genes such as Meq, vTR, vIL-8 and MDV1-miR-M4-5p, have been directly implicated in the oncogenic process. Full details and how to apply

2019-17 ID/KM

PhD Studentship:  Rift Valley fever virus genome variability and evolution as a means of predicting outbreaks and emergence

Closing date: 03.04.19

Dr Isabelle Dietrich (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Kevin Maringer (University of Surrey), Dr Simon Gubbins (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Dan Horton (University of Surrey)

A PhD studentship co-funded by the Pirbright Institute and the University of Surrey is available to highly motivated students with a keen interest in emerging vector-borne diseases and molecular virology. This exciting project will investigate the spatial-temporal evolution of Rift Valley fever virus in its mosquito vector and the effect of such evolution on viral fitness and pathogenicity.  

Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a mosquito-transmitted pathogen endemic in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It predominantly infects livestock, where it causes abortions, fevers and deaths. Human infections also frequently occur which are sometimes fatal. Gaining a detailed understanding of how RVFV genomes evolve in the field will allow us to better predict outbreaks and their severity. In this project we will thus investigate the ability of RVFV to evolve in mosquito hosts and identify immunological drivers of this evolution in different mosquito tissues over the course of an infection. We will further assess the fitness and pathogenicity of viral genomes arising in mosquitoes and mammalian cells. We will use the obtained experimental data to model the potential emergence and spread of RVFV viral variants.  Full details and how to apply

2019-19 KD/JH

PhD Studentship: Bluetongue virus exploits transkingdom interactions between virus-bacteria-insect and ruminant host to enhance infection

Closing date: 05.04.19

Dr Karin Darpel (The Pirbright Institute), Prof Jayne Hope (The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh), Dr Marc Guimera Busquets, (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Lyndsay Cooke (The Pirbright Institute) Increasing evidence demonstrates that certain viruses can exploit bacteria or bacterial products to enhance their infectivity, replication and transmission. An exciting PhD project at the Pirbright Institute/University of Edinburgh is available to a highly motivated student with a keen interest in virology, immunology and cell-biology to investigate if transkingdom interactions between bacteria and viruses play a vital role during the infection and transmission cycle of vector-borne viruses.Full details and how to apply
2019/15 CS/MB

PhD Studentship: What Drives Outbreaks of Midge-borne Viruses in the UK?

Closing date: 05.04.19

Dr Christopher Sanders (The Pirbright Institute), Prof Matthew Baylis (University of Liverpool), Dr Simon Carpenter (The Pirbright Institute)

In recent years, viruses transmitted by biting midges have become increasingly important to livestock farming in the UK. Thousands of these tiny flies are present on farms across the UK and incursions of bluetongue virus and Schmallenberg virus have a significant economic impact on animal production. We have previously identified a wide range of factors such as temperature and co-infection with microorganisms (including Cardinium and Wolbachia, insect-specific viruses and nematodes) in addition to genetic factors that may regulate infection in the midge host. The field and laboratory studies of this PhD will assist in understanding how these factors inter-relate in determining susceptibility to infection with arboviruses, which is poorly understood across vector-borne disease research.Full details and how to apply

2019-13 CN/CB

PhD Studentship:  Spatiotemporal pathogen-host interactions during African swine fever virus infection

Closing date: 12.04.19

Dr Chris Netherton (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Camilla Benfield (RVC), Raquel Portugal (The Pirbright Institute), Prof Pippa Hawes (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Axel Karger (FLI), Prof Thomas Mettenleiter (FLI)

African swine fever virus causes a severe disease of domestic pigs that is spreading at an alarming rate throughout Europe and China. Little is known about the interactions between ASFV and host proteins during infection including that of the cellular receptor used for ASFV entry. The Pirbright Institute has set up stimulated emission depletion (STED) super resolution microscopy as a tool to study African swine fever virus replication and propose to combine this with the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut’s expertise in proteomics to gain a detailed understanding of the virus-host interactions of key viral proteins. Full details and how to apply


PhD Studentship: New bioinformatics and statistical methods for the analysis and visualisation of FMDV sequences

Closing date: 12.04.19

Dr Paolo Ribeca (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Joaquin Prada (University of Surrey), Dr Dan Horton (University of Surrey), Yasaman Kalantar-Motamedi (The Pirbright Institute)

This project presents a unique and truly exciting opportunity to work in an exemplary inter-disciplinary team to develop new analytical methods for viral research, while making them accessible to scientists with little computational background.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a scourge of hooved livestock, with major economic impact particularly on low income countries in Asia and Africa. Informed decisions about controlling FMD outbreaks can only be made by exploiting the relation between the strain responsible for the outbreak and known viral strains. The FMD World Reference Laboratory at The Pirbright Institute (TPI) has sequenced an extensive catalogue of representative viruses, sampling infected animals and vaccine strains across a broad geographic and temporal range. However, given the complex population structure and molecular biology of FMDV, sophisticated data analysis methods are necessary to extract and provide reliable information on new viral strains.Full details and how to apply

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

Partner Organisation/s Project Title Applications

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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