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BSc and MSc projects

BSc and MSc projects

The Pirbright Institute has the following Year-In-Industry placements available, commencing August 2022.  We welcome applications from students who are currently in their second year of a relevant undergraduate science degree.

PLEASE NOTE:  YOU MAY APPLY FOR ONE PROJECT ONLY. 

Placements will be either unfunded but with on-site student housing provided (including all utility bills apart from wi-fi), or offered with a £5,000 scholarship.

If English is not your first language, you will be required to provide evidence of your English ability.  We require an overall IELTS score of 7.0 with no lower than 7.0 in reading and listening, no lower than 6.5 in speaking and no lower than 6.0 in writing. Other English language qualifications may be accepted. Successful candidates will be required to pass our security and occupational health screening before commencing the placement.

To Apply:  To apply for one of our projects email your CV (no more than two sides of A4) and a covering letter, detailing why you would like to be considered for the placement, including the knowledge and skills that you will bring to the Institute, to studentship@pirbright.ac.uk. Please include in your letter the reference number and title of the project that you are applying for (you can apply for one project only).

Closing date to apply:  9am, Monday 7 February 2022

Reference No. Project Title Summary
01/MT

Evaluation of a live attenuated virus vaccine genetically engineered to boost immune responses in piglets

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome viruses (PRRSV) are responsible for huge losses in the global pig industry. PRRSV cause reproductive failure, post-weaning respiratory disease and can lead to secondary infections with bacteria, necessitating antibiotics. The PRRSV exists as two distinct species: PRRSV-1 and PRRSV-2, with both demonstrating a high mutation rate that has resulted in the emergence of highly pathogenic PRRSV-2 strains spreading across Southeast Asia and highly virulent PRRSV-1 strains identified within Europe. Vaccination is an important component of PRRS control and although there are several commercial vaccines available, they do not provide high levels of protection. Full project details

02/PT Utility of ubiquitin and degrons in African swine fever virus subunit vaccines

African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a complex DNA virus that has caused many large outbreaks around the world. ASFV causes a contagious and highly fatal disease that affects domestic and wild pigs. There is no approved vaccine available and disease control relies on the quarantine and culling of infected and exposed animals. Previous studies demonstrated the importance of cellular immunity in protection against ASFV, highlighting the need to improve T-cell mediated immunity induced by vaccines in development.Full project details

03/ET Why does coronavirus only sometimes cause severe disease? The spectrum of outcomes following SARS-CoV-2 exposure is wide and largely determined by the host response. Currently mouse, ferret, hamster and non-human primate models have been developed to study SARS-CoV-2 but these are not natural host species for infection. In contrast, pigs are natural hosts for several host-specific coronaviruses (CoVs). Similarly to SARS-CoV-2, infection can be mild or asymptomatic, but in some instances can lead to severe lung damage and impaired immunity. However, it is not understood why some individuals get mild and other severe disease. Comparison of events in pigs infected with viruses known to cause severe disease with those that do not, will help us to answer this important question and help in the development of better vaccines and treatments for animals and humans. Full project details
04/JE

Isolation of broadly neutralising antibodies from porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome vaccinated pigs to identify conserved epitopes for improved vaccine design

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) is arguably the most economically important disease of pigs globally. The causative agents are rapidly mutating RNA viruses: PRRS virus 1 (PRRSV-1) which is endemic across Europe, and PRRSV-2 which is prevalent across the Americas and Asia. The rapid evolution of PRRS viruses has meant the circulation of a huge diversity of strains, which poses a major challenge to control through vaccination. Live attenuated virus vaccines are available commercially and are widely used. Whilst these vaccines can provide protection against closely related strains, they are far less effective against more divergent strains. Consequently, these vaccines are failing to help control the PRRSV panzootic and there is an urgent requirement to explore alternative approaches to vaccine development.  Full project details

 

05/RP The role of Stomxys biting flies in African swine fever virus transmission

ASFV causes a contagious and typically fatal disease that affects domestic and feral swine. It has caused many large outbreaks around the world in recent years, notably in Eastern Europe and Asia. There is no approved vaccine available and disease control relies on the quarantine and culling of infected and exposed swine. Transmission of ASFV is primarily through direct contact between infected animals and the consumption of infected pork products. Soft ticks are also vectors for ASFV in Sub-Saharan countries and in the Iberian peninsula in the past, but the role of other potential vectors still lacks elucidation. This project aims to investigate the role of biting flies (Stomoxys sp.) in ASFV transmission, which could be relevant in transmission in different areas of the world. Full project details

06/ID

Hormone signalling-induced mosquito immunity and its role in the defence against the arbovirus Rift Valley fever virus

Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a mosquito-transmitted, zoonotic and emerging bunyavirus. RVFV is endemic or epidemic in large parts of Africa, where it affects livestock, wildlife and people exposed to infected animals or animal products. To date, there are no human vaccines and no specific treatments available. Our group studies host and viral factors that are essential for or inhibit RVFV infection of host cells and RVFV spread between hosts. We use a wide range of state-of-the-art virology and molecular biology techniques to characterise these interactions.  Full project details

07/EL Investigating the use of LAMP for diagnostic determination of field isolates of ASFV from current outbreak regions

The Non-Vesicular Reference Laboratory (NVRL) is a World Organisation for the Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratory, whose primary purpose is to provide a national and international diagnostic service to characterise outbreaks and investigate the molecular epidemiology of notifiable exotic viruses that cause significant disease in livestock. In addition to its diagnostic and surveillance role, the NVRL is involved in applied research with a focus on the development and validation of diagnostic methods and techniques. Previously, we have successfully developed loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assays for the detection of African swine fever virus (ASFV). LAMP is a highly sensitive nucleic acid amplification technique, which can deliver accurate results within 10-20 minutes and has been used successfully in the field as a diagnostic test. As multiple primers are required for rapid detection of viral RNA, the primer design and optimisation steps are crucial for assay performance.  Full project details

 

08/JA

Assessing the drive efficacy of components in a Cas9-dependent gene drive system in Anopheles stephensi

Our lab is interested in developing Cas9-dependent gene drive systems which could lead to suppression of local mosquito vector populations. One example of such a system is the daisy drive1 with a cargo which disrupts a recessive female fertility gene2. The success of the system, however, depends heavily on the ability to express Cas9 at precise location and time in the germline of a developing mosquito. A previously developed drive in An. stephensi has shown high fitness cost and high resistant allele formation, both deleterious to the system, due to unintended expression of Cas93. This project will therefore aim to assess the ability of transgenic mosquitoes generated in the lab to cause inheritance bias of the drive element in the germline and the fitness cost conferred by the process. If more time is available after all the lines are assessed, a cage trial will be set up using the most effective transgenic lines to study drive dynamics in a cage population.  Full project details

09/AY

Development of a novel opsonisation assay to investigate the role of non-neutralising antibodies in FMDV immunity

Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is a highly contagious disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs and maintenance of a country’s FMD free status is critical for the free trade of animals and animal products. Research has shown that the antibodies which develop following vaccination of animals play a major role in providing protection against FMDV.  Antibodies can be categorised as either neutralising or non-neutralising. Neutralising antibodies confer protection by directly preventing viruses from infecting new host cells. In contrast, non-neutralising antibodies provide protection via various ‘effector functions’ mediated by the constant fragment crystallizable (Fc) portion of the antibody. Opsonisation is a process whereby the formation of immune complexes between pathogens and antibodies enhances the ability of phagocytic cells to take up and destroy pathogens. Understanding the role of antibodies in Fc-mediated opsonisation in the immune response to FMDV can highlight important parameters to consider during FMDV vaccine design strategies.  Full project details
10/YZ

Improvement of HVT vector platform by knockout of the non-essential HVT genes using CRISPR/Cas9 system

Herpesvirus of Turkey (HVT) has been successfully used as a vaccine to protect chickens against Marek’s disease for decades. HVT is also one of the most successful and widely used viral vectors for generation of recombinant vaccines that deliver protective antigens of other avian pathogens. To overcome the interference between individual recombinant HVT vaccines, we have developed multivalent HVT-vectored vaccines capable of inducing simultaneous protection against multiple avian pathogens. However, the animal experiments using the triple-insert HVT-vectored vaccines we developed showed reduced replication efficiency in chickens, indicating that the insertion of foreign genes affects HVT replication in vivo. It also suggested that the HVT may not be able to express more than 3 cassettes without compromising on replication thus limiting the induction of immunity. The aim of this project is to explore the hypothesis that knocking out the non-essential genes in the HVT vector can enhance replication enabling recombinant HVT-based vaccines to induce stronger immune responses.  Full project details

11/CW DNA sequencing of historic and novel viral samples held within the NVRL The primary purpose of the Non-Vesicular Reference Laboratory (NVRL) is to provide both a national and international diagnostic service and to characterise outbreaks of livestock diseases caused by Bluetongue virus (BTV), African horse sickness virus, African swine fever virus, Peste des Petits Ruminants virus, and Capripox viruses. The NVRL is a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratory for the diseases caused by these viruses and therefore provides a critical resource for developing countries to prevent and control exotic diseases of livestock.  Full project details

The Pirbright Institute conducts a large proportion of its science studies under high containment conditions.  It is a condition of employment that no person working at The Pirbright Institute may keep any animals which are susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease or reside at premises where such animals are kept. "Susceptible animals" include cows, sheep, goats, deer, llamas, and all other cloven-hoofed animals. The quarantine period for all Restricted Areas is 72 hours - during this 72 hour period, it is not permitted to have close contact with susceptible animals. In high containment areas the Institute implements a number of procedures in order to comply with strict biosafety legislation. Access procedures for these areas requires all personnel to undertake a full change of clothes, including the removal of all jewellery and piercings, and completing two full body and hair washes when leaving high containment. 

For further information on how we use data supplied to us, please see our Privacy Notice.

Scientists at the Institute may offer projects for students undertaking relevant taught MSc courses. The minimum time that we can consider for such research projects is 3 months although 6-12 months is preferential.  Placements are unfunded although we can offer accommodation in our Institute housing at a significantly reduced rate.

UK Masters Loans:

Masters degree loans are now available across the UK. For full details please visit:  FindaMasters.com 

If you require further information, please contact Dr Lynda Moore, Head of Academic Affairs & Training (studentship@pirbright.ac.uk)


The Pirbright Institute conducts a large proportion of its science studies under high containment conditions.  It is a condition of employment that no person working at The Pirbright Institute may keep any animals which are susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease or reside at premises where such animals are kept. "Susceptible animals" include cows, sheep, goats, deer, llamas, and all other cloven-hoofed animals. The quarantine period for all Restricted Areas is 72 hours - during this 72 hour period, it is not permitted to have close contact with susceptible animals. In high containment areas the Institute implements a number of procedures in order to comply with strict biosafety legislation. Access procedures for these areas requires all personnel to undertake a full change of clothes, including the removal of all jewellery and piercings, and completing two full body and hair washes when leaving high containment.

For further information on how we use data supplied to us, please see our Privacy Notice.

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