PhD Studentship – Harnessing Natural Plant Defense Pathways To Control The Diamondback Moth – UK

University of Southampton
Study in:UK
Deadline: 05 January 2018

PhD Studentship – Harnessing Natural Plant Defense Pathways To Control The Diamondback Moth

Biological Sciences Research

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:   Friday 05 January 2018
Reference:  939517BJ

PhD Supervisor: Herman Wijnenco supervisor: Haruko Okamoto

Application Deadline: 5 January 2018

PhD Description:

Plutella xylostella (diamondback moth, DBM) is a major pest for Brassica crops that causes £3.5 billion in damage each year. Given issues such as resistance to and environmental impact of insecticides, sustainable approaches to DBM management are urgently needed. The proposed research aims to expose vulnerabilities of DBM in its rhythmic and coordinated interactions with host plants and its inherent attraction to non-host plants expressing toxic metabolites. The outcome of this research might be exploited in new intervention strategies

This project is focussed on improving DBM pest management by employing two strategies: (1) Investigate how herbivory is controlled by environmentally entrained daily rhythms in plant metabolism and DBM behaviour to identify both plant and DBM determinants of crop damage and (2) Identify host defense genes from wild rocket, Barbarea vulgaris, that may be useful in harnessing resistance to DBM.


The model plant Arabidopsis thaliana will be used to study how daily timekeeping affects DBM damage. The impact of daily timekeeping on herbivory and oviposition will be studied by changing the circadian phase relationship between hosts and pests as well as making use of environmental and genetic manipulations of rhythmicity and plant defence pathways. Relevant molecular rhythms will be measured by real-time PCR analysis.

Barbarea vulgaris is a potential ‘dead-end trap’ crop for DBM as some of its varieties entice egg laying but prevent further development. Candidate genes responsible for this resistance in Barbarea will be further evaluated in transgenic experiments with Arabidopsis.

This multidisciplinary project offers training opportunities in behavioural, molecular, and genetic experiments in both insects and plants as well as data analysis techniques and oral and written presentation and communication skills.

For more information see

Funding Notes:

The project is funded for 3.5 years and welcomes applicants from the UK and EU who have or expect to obtain at least an upper second class degree in Biological Sciences or allied subjects. Funding will cover fees and a stipend at current research council rates of £ 14,553 per annum.

Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK/EU applicants

Information on how to apply:

Applications should be submitted online at:

Please place Herman Wijnen’s name in the field for proposed supervisor.

General enquiries should be made to Herman Wijnen at and/or Haruko Okamoto at . Any queries on the application process should be made to

The University of Southampton and Biological Sciences both hold an Athena Swan Silver & Bronze Award, respectively, demonstrating their commitment to provide equal opportunities and to advance the representation of women in STEM/M subjects: science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.   Due consideration will be given to applicants who have taken a career break.  University benefits include onsite childcare facilities, state-of-the-art on-campus sports, arts and culture facilities, a full programme of events and a range of staff discounts.

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