New fully-funded Lady Smyth MRes Studentship Opportunity

Are you passionate about ending world hunger, tackling global warming and finding ways to sustainably grow crops on our planet? Well, the Bristol Centre for Agricultural Innovation (BCAI) is offering an opportunity for you to discover solutions to the big issues that humanity faces, through studying plant and agricultural science.

The new flagship Lady Smyth Studentship scheme from the BCAI has just launched offering two fully-funded Master of Research studentships at the University of Bristol. This award provides students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on ground-breaking plant science research and covers the full cost of fees, stipend, expenses, and a supplement to support the dissemination of the research. Some of the potential projects that can be tackled are listed below, but for full details and further information about the scheme visit:

How can farming methods help to mitigate climate change?

Dr Gary Barker

This project is concerned with the increasing temperatures worldwide, inefficient usage of land and the increasing demand for food due to the steadily growing population. It seeks to understand how farming systems can lead to a solution. To do so, it aims to engage with stakeholders and create discussions and case studies. The project pairs societal responses together with science to give a broader picture of the issues humanity faces today.

Function and development of super-hydrophilic slippery plant surfaces

Dr Ulrike Bauer

Understanding the mechanics behind the secretion of fluid on the trapping surface of some carnivorous plants may encourage the invention of more resilient plant crops with the help of high-tech equipment. The project uses morphometrics, time-lapse video and micro-imaging to give an insight on the surface development inside the hollow pitcher bud. This project will introduce you to a wide range of skills in the imaging and 3D reconstruction tech.

Clove production, Crop diversity and Biodiversity

Professor Tim Caro

Understanding what role different ecological matrices have on the health and productivity of clove trees based on observations from the biodiversity and interviews from clove-producers. The results from this project are crucial to dealing with food cost of land conversion and introduction of endemic island species.

Light control of leaf senescence

Professor Kerry Franklin

Leaf senescence controls the aging in plants and reduces the shelf life of postharvest plant crops. Phytochrome Interacting Factors (PIF) play huge role in this process. This project focuses on the manipulation and control of these transcription factors with the purpose of reducing food waste.

Identifying DNA sequences in crops with the potential to reduce soil erosion

Professor Claire Grierson

The goal of this project is to find a way to sustainable agriculture by avoiding soil erosion from crop plants. The selection of plants that are able to hold roots and soil together is important in achieving this. Through applying genetics and proteomics, genes that promote soil erosion can be identified.

The gene regulatory logic of plant stem cell function

Dr Jill Harrison

The objective of the research is to examine the basic requirements needed for plant stem cells to perform different functions in Arabidopsis. This is approached through looking into the interactions between different parts of the gene regulatory networks for stem cell function in a moss model.

Map the gap – making palm oil more sustainable by mapping yield gaps across tropical landscapes

Dr Thomas Jucker

Oil palm has the highest productivity out of all vegetable fats; however, it comes with a tremendous environmental cost. This project aims to identify ways to harvest oil palm more sustainably by using remote sense technologies to map different conditions under which oil palm grows best, giving more space for rainforests to be restored.

Re-engineering peroxisome movement in plants

Dr Imogen Sparks

New approaches to sustainably increase the food supply are needed to support the steadily growing population. Organelle movement is important in determining plant biomass and is linked to responding to pathogens. This project focuses on the mechanisms of organelle movement, specifically peroxisomes. Experiments will try to identify how changes in movement can affect cell size.

What is BCAI?

The Bristol Centre for Agricultural Innovation (BCAI) aims to support agricultural sciences within the University of Bristol through innovation, application and research. The centre is funded by the Lady Emily Smyth Trust, established in university in 2003. To preserve the legacy of Lady Emily Smyth, the BCAI has become the pioneer of agricultural research. To learn more visit:

Written by Antonia Yovcheva (Earth Sciences)

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