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Studentships 2020

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.

Residential Guidelines for Research Council Studentships:

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

Ref Number/Closing Date PhD Project title Supervisors Abstract

Closing date: 24.01.20

University of Oxford BBSRC Industrial Case Studentship: African swine fever virus multigene family interferon inhibitory proteins: Functions and application to vaccine development

Dr Ana Reis, Dr Linda Dixon, Prof Teresa Lambe, Dr Elisenda Viaplana

African swine fever (ASF) is one of the most devastating swine diseases and has no available vaccine. Development of gene-deleted live attenuated vaccines is recognised to be the fastest route to vaccine development. This project will advance this approach through understanding the role of ASFV genes that inhibit host responses and deleting these from the genome to construct safe and effective ASFV vaccines. For full details and to apply please visit:  Applications must be made via the University of Oxford.


Closing date: 31.01.20

PhD Studentship:  Understanding virus-host interactions by analysing diversity in viral and cell populations

Dr Toby TuthillProf David L Robertson

Dr Caroline WrightDr Srikeerthana Kuchi, Dr Quan Gu, Dr Ana da Silva Filipe

Many RNA viruses introduce errors in their viral genome during replication. Such viruses therefore exist as genetically variable populations which facilitates rapid evolution and successful infection. Viruses in the picornavirus family are amongst the simplest mammalian viruses, consisting of a single molecule of RNA enclosed in a non-enveloped protein capsid and therefore provide good models to understand viral population diversity. Despite their simplicity they are also responsible for significant diseases of humans (e.g. polio, common cold) and livestock (foot-and-mouth disease). Viral population diversity can be examined by deep sequencing and several existing studies have established that diversity is required for pathogenic phenotype in vivo. Our preliminary data indicates a requirement for viral population diversity in order for foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) to overcome the interferon system in primary cell cultures.  Full project details


Closing date: 31.01.20

PhD Studentship: Modulation of gene regulation in Aedes aegypti upon infection by Wolbachia

Dr Jaroslaw Krzywinski, Prof Steven SinkinsProf Luke Alphey

The mosquito Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of arboviruses that pose a growing threat to global human health. Wolbachia are common endosymbionts of arthropods that can manipulate host reproduction through patterns of sterility known as cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), which can result in invasion of insect populations. Some Wolbachia strains also block replication of arboviruses when introduced into Ae. aegypti; in combination with Wolbachia invasiveness, this offers a promising novel approach to controlling mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue.  In addition, CI has been exploited in field releases of Wolbachia-infected males to nearly eliminate wild Aedes populations.  Full project details


Closing date: 31.01.20

PhD Studentship: Identifying pro-viral cellular proteins in chicken cells that can be exploited to better control avian endemic viruses

Dr Andrew Broadbent, Dr Finn GreyDr Helena Maier

Virus infections are a major threat to the productivity of the poultry industry, and there is considerable investment into better controlling them. Engineering chickens that are resistant to infection is one such strategy that is gaining traction due to the development of cutting edge CRISPR/cas9 systems that allow host genes essential for virus replication to be knocked out or modified, such that the virus cannot make use of them. Full project details


Closing date: 07.02.20

Recombinant pseudorabies virus as a multivalent vectored vaccine platform for emerging and endemic porcine diseases

Prof Simon Graham, Prof Dirk Werling, Prof Thomas Mettenleiter, Dr Jane Edwards

Pseudorabies virus (PrV), the causative agent of the Aujeszky’s disease, is responsible for substantial losses to the expanding pig industry in Southeast Asia. Control and eradication of SuHV-1 in many western countries was aided by the development of highly efficacious live attenuated vaccines, including genetically modified strains capable of differentiating infected from vaccinated animals. Southeast Asian pig producers are also significantly impacted by other viral pathogens, including porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome viruses (PRRSV). Pigs in these countries are also at risk from ‘spillover’ infection with the zoonotic Nipah virus (NiV), which devastated the Malaysian pig industry with long lasting effects. Compared to single disease vaccines, the use of bi/multi-valent vaccines in the livestock industry is more desirable, particularly in resource poor contexts. We hypothesis that live attenuated PrV may be genetically engineered to express antigens from NiV and/or PRRSV and this recombinant virus could serve as a potent bi/multi-valent vaccine.Full project details

The Pirbright Institute also 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 £25,700) 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.

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