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Studentships 2021

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.


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 PhD Topic Background/Description
2021/01/SB 25.01.21 The role of TGFβ on modulation of immune responses in Marek's disease Dr Shahriar Behboudi (The Pirbright Institute, Dr Natalie Riddell (University of Surrey), Dr Nitin Kamble (The Pirbright Institute)

Regulatory T cells suppress many different immune cells and thus they are involved in immune modulation to inhibit inflammatory responses. Some pathogens activate expansion of regulatory T cells to escape immune control, however the mechanism involved in the induction and expansion of regulatory T cells by pathogens is not understood. Marek’s disease virus causes a lymphoproliferative disease in chickens and causes transformation of lymphocytes. Our group has shown that infection with Marek’s disease virus induces expansion of novel regulatory T cells in the infected chickens, and this may explain immunosuppression observed in these birds (Gurung et al. PLoS Pathogen 2017). We have also recently shown that Marek’s disease virus activates metabolic changes in the infected cells (Boodhoo et al. Journal of Virology 2019 and Boodhoo et al. Journal of Virology January 2020, Boodhoo et al. Journal of Virology September 2020). The studentship will investigate the mechanism involved in induction and activation of regulatory T cells by the virus and determine the role of metabolites produced by the infected cells in induction of regulatory T cells.  Full details and how to apply

N/A 21.01.21 Assessing the functionality of avian BST2 as a viral restriction factor Dr Holly Shelton (The Pirbright Institute), Prof Adrian Smith (Department of Zoology, University of Oxford), Dr Khalid Zakaria (The Pirbright Institute), Dr Mark Fife (Aviagen) Cellular restriction factors act as a first line of defense for hosts against invading viruses. Restriction factors target critical steps of the viral replication cycle to prevent infection and/ or dissemination. A well characterised human restriction factor is the cellular protein bone marrow stromal antigen 2 (BST2) (also known as Tetherin or cluster of differentiation 317 (CD317)), which is known to restrict a panel of enveloped viruses by literally tethering budding virions at the plasma membrane to the cell surface preventing virion release. The non-specific interaction of BST2 with the virion membrane enables this restriction factor to inhibit a diverse set of enveloped viral families. Recently avian orthologs of BST2 have been identified in turkeys and chickens, these have a low sequence identity to the mammalian BST2 proteins but do retain the type 2 integral membrane topology thought to be important for the mechanism of viral restriction. In other bird species deletions in the genetic loci where BST2 should be located suggests a complete loss of this restriction factor from the genome. The BST2 ortholog in the chicken genome (cBST2) has been shown to restrict the avian retrovirus, Avian sarcoma leukosis virus (ASLV) in avian cells at the late phase of the replication cycle suggestive of inhibition at the release stage. In addition, over expression of the cBST2 in human cells restricted the replication of HIV virus like particles suggesting that the cBST functions in a similar manner to human BST2 with regards to restriction of retroviruses.  For full details and to apply please visit:  Please do not apply via The Pirbright Institute.
N/A 21.01.21 SOMAmer technology to diagnose coronavirus infection: veterinary and zoonotic implications Dr Erica Bickerton (The Pirbright Institute), Prof William James (Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford), Mr Atherton Mutombwera (Hutano Diagnostics Ltd Coronaviruses have an ability to cross species barriers, causing pandemics of devastating proportions. Genetic evidence suggests that the newly emergent Betacoronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), originated in bats. Other members of the Betacoronavirus genus include SARS-CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV, which also emerged from bats via intermediate hosts to cause major outbreaks in the human population in recent years. Human coronavirus (HCoV)-OC43, a cause of the common cold in humans, is closely related to bovine CoV, and is also thought to have emerged as a result of cross-species transmission. Swine acute diarrhoea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV) emerged in 2017 and re-emerged in 2019, causing the deaths of many thousands of piglets in China. Alphacoronaviruses SADS-CoV and porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDV) have close phylogenetic relations with viruses found in bats and other mammals, and are related to the endemic human coronaviruses 229E and NL63. The avian Gammacoronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) causes a severe and recurrent problem of infectious bronchitis in domestic fowl. It is increasingly realized that protecting animal and human health in the face of these agents requires a joined-up approach (the “One Health Agenda”) and new technologies. For full details and to apply please visit:  Please do not apply via The Pirbright Institute.

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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