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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.

Studentship Funding Eligibility:

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

Ref Number Closing Date PhD Studentship Supervisors Project Details
2021/11/EB/IB 12.07.21 09.00am

Investigation of canonical and non-canonical transcription during coronavirus replication

Dr Erica Bickerton (The Pirbright Institute), Prof Ian Brierley (University of Cambridge), Dr Sarah KeepDr Graham Freimanis (The Pirbright Institute) Dr Andrew Firth (University of Cambridge)

Coronavirus structural and accessory genes are transcribed via discontinuous transcription during negative strand synthesis; a process unique to the Nidovirales. Complementary transcription regulatory sequences (TRS) are in the leader (L) and body (B) of the genome, upstream of each gene. The TRS-B used by each coronavirus is thought to be conserved throughout the genome however our recent research on Gammacoronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) has identified several new sgmRNAs produced from non-canonical TRS-Bs [1,2], which result in the translation of three previously unrecognised accessory proteins, 4b, 4c and 7 [3].

We hypothesise that non-canonical transcription is a method to increase the coding capacity of the coronavirus genome and products of non-canonical transcription play important roles during coronavirus infection and disease progression. To test this hypothesis, we will study coronaviruses of several genera, that all cause respiratory disease in the natural host, to identify common mechanisms of transcription:

1: Determine the sequence of canonically and non-canonically transcribed sgmRNAs produced during coronavirus infection and identify the sites of the TRS-L and TRS-B recombination.

2: Determine the viral proteins produced during infection through ribosomal profiling. This will indicate whether any non-canonically transcribed sgmRNAs identified in objective 1 are translated, therefore potentially identifying additional previously unrecognised viral proteins.

3: Investigate the regulatory mechanisms within the coronavirus genome that impact the process of non-canonical transcription.  Full details and how to apply

N/A Open - one week's notice will be given before closing  Multimodal bioimaging of viral replication organelles and inclusion bodies Dr Dalan BaileyDr Toby TuthillProf Pippa HawesDr James Gilchrist, Dr Daniel Clare, Dr Liz Fry, Prof Dave Stuart (The Pirbright Institute, University of Oxford STRUBI, Diamond Light Source) This project will compare two important viral pathogens of livestock using a multi-layered approach combining state-of-the-art bioimaging to generate ultrastructural insights into how inclusion bodies (IBs) and replication organelles (ROs) – sites of cellular reorganisation used for RNA virus replication - form and function. The model organism for studying IBs is bovine respiratory syncytial virus (bRSV), a globally ubiquitous pathogen of cattle and a significant burden to agriculture. Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), another significant pathogen in global agriculture, will be used to study the formation and composition of membranous ROs and how these sites of viral genome replication co-localise with assembly of new virus particles in the infected cell. FMDV causes a highly infectious disease in multiple livestock and wildlife species resulting in economic burden and food insecurity in many low- and middle-income countries.  Applications to be made via the University of Oxford - 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 £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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