Postgraduate Research Opportunities

Postgraduate Research Page Main Image

Postgraduate Research Opportunities in the Department of Life Sciences

A postgraduate research degree is your opportunity to explore a topic in depth, under the supervision of academic experts in your chosen field. With extensive training available and access to excellent facilities, you will have the opportunity to carry out your research in a vibrant, supportive, multidisciplinary environment.

The key to success in a postgraduate research programme is to find a research subject that you are passionate about and identify a supervisory team that have expertise in that area. The first thing that all prospective students should do is directly contact a member of staff that they feel is best aligned with their chosen research area to discuss the application process further.

The projects listed on this page provide a selection of those currently available in the School along with details of the appropriate academic contact, but are by no means comprehensive; you may also wish to visit the School of Life Sciences research pages to find out more about the research going on in the subject area you are interested in, and to identify potential academic supervisors.

Current Studentships

PhD Studentship: HFSP Funded Studentship on the Evolution of Insect Sperm Form and Function

University of Lincoln is offering one fully funded PhD studentship in connection to a three-year Human Frontiers Science Program project entitled “The Evolution of Sperm Cell Shape and Motion”. This project involves three university partners: Dr Carl Soulsbury and Professor Stuart Humphries (University of Lincoln), Professor Rhonda Snook (University of Stockholm), and Professor Lisa Fauci (Tulane University).

This Human Frontiers in Science Programme funded project seeks to understand how insect sperm shapes and motion have evolved, and brings together distinct disciplines in evolutionary ecology, biophysics, and mathematics. This PhD will focus specifically on the evolutionary component and will combine novel data collection of sperm from a range of insect species, combined with phylogenetic data analysis. Working alongside other project members there will be the opportunity to work with microfluidic devices and micro-scale rheology measurements. There will be the opportunity to spend time at collaborator’s institutions both collecting data and learning new skills as part of involvement in this cross-disciplinary project.

The project can explore, but is not limited to, how sperm morphology has evolved, and key drivers of sperm shape change over evolutionary time. The successful candidate will work to expand our knowledge of underrepresented taxa and collaborate with a PDRA on the project characterising female reproductive microenvironments.

The successful applicant will be supported by a supervisory team with considerable expertise and leadership in evolutionary ecology and biophysics. The wider project will provide support and experience to help the student to develop an international research network.

Contact: csoulsbury@lincoln.ac.uk and shumphries@lincoln.ac.uk.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have a first or upper second-class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant area. Applicants with a relevant Master's are particularly welcome. Experience in the following areas will be desirable, but not essential: understanding of R programming language, relevant lab skills, (microdissection, imaging e.g., SEM, micro-CT).

Applicants should possess excellent report writing and English language communication skills and an ability to work to deadlines.

How to Apply

An application of a 2-page CV and 2-page covering letter including a personal statement demonstrating how your experience to date prepares you to undertake PhD-level research should be e-mailed to Dr Carl Soulsbury (csoulsbury@lincoln.ac.uk) and Professor Stuart Humphries (shumphries@lincoln.ac.uk).

Please quote project ID (HFSP1) in the subject line of the email.

Closing Date: 13 June 2022

Interviews: End of June 2022

Those called for interview will be required to prepare a short presentation.

Start Date: 2022/2023 academic year

Funding

This studentship is for a start date in the academic year of 2022/23 and covers the full PhD fees for a maximum of 3 years full-time study. The successful candidate will have a stipend/living allowance of £16,062 per annum, in line with UKRI 2022/23 amounts. Tuition fees are included (for Home fee level). The funding is open to Home students.

Duration: 36 months

Reference: HFSP1

 

PhD Studentships: Royal Society Funded Studentship on Insect Biomechanics

The University of Lincoln is offering one fully funded PhD studentship in connection to a four-year Royal Society funded project on the biomechanics of small jumping insects.

Many insects are spectacular jumpers, and this project delves into the mechanics of how these animals generate their great leaps.

This project will be determining how very small insects (about 50 mg in size, example insects are froghoppers, small crickets, and grasshopper nymphs) control their spin in the air when they jump to targets. We will be combining high-speed videography with animal behaviour to mechanically characterise the jumps, both escape jumps and jumps to targets. The successful student will compare the different ways these different insects generate spin in the air. This will yield examples of how to mechanically control spin. The results are intended to be suitable for use in robotics, with the insects acting as a ‘model system’ for development of small jumping robots.

The PhD studentship will ideally be focused on:

  • high speed filming of insect jumping
  • development and testing of hypotheses on how these insects are controlling spin during these jumps

Applicants will be taught how to handle the animals and, if needed, the mechanics necessary to do the analyses.

The successful applicant will also have funding to attend international conferences and be expected to present their work to the international community

For questions, please contact Professor Gregory Sutton at: gsutton@lincoln.ac.uk

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree or equivalent in zoology, animal biology, engineering, or physics. Applicants with a relevant Master's are particularly welcome. Applicants must be comfortable handling insects.

Applicants should possess excellent report writing and English language communication skills and an ability to work to deadlines.

How to Apply

An application of a 2-page CV and 1-page covering letter including a personal statement demonstrating how your experience to date prepares you to undertake PhD level research.

Please quote project ID in the subject line of the email.

Closing Date: 10 June 2022

Interviews: End of June 2022

Start Date: 2022/2023 academic year (October 2022)

Funding

This studentship is for a start date in the academic year of 2022/23 and covers the full PhD fees for a maximum of 4 years full-time study. The candidate will have a stipend/living allowance of £15,300 per annum. Tuition fees are included (for Home fee level).

Duration: A maximum of 48 months

Reference: 2AK-22-14

Image of a froghopper

 

Royal Society Funded Studentship on Insect Biomechanics

Many insects are spectacular jumpers, and this project delves into the mechanics of how these animals generate their great leaps.

This project will be determining how very small insects (about 50 mg in size; froghoppers, small crickets, and grasshopper nymphs) control their spin in the air when they jump. We will be combining high-speed videography with animal behaviour to characterise jumps. The successful student will compare the different ways these different insects spin. The results are intended to be suitable for use in robotics, with the insects acting as a ‘model system’ for development of small jumping robots. Applicants must be UK citizens. For questions, please contact Professor Gregory Sutton at gsutton@lincoln.ac.uk

Understanding and modelling the nanoparticle protein corona

When nanoparticles get in contact with biological fluids such as blood plasma, plasma proteins interact with the nanoparticles and form a protein corona. Nanoparticle-protein complexes have different properties than naked nanoparticles, affecting the functions of nanomedicines, for example accumulation in unintended tissues/organs. Therefore, engineered nanomaterials need to take into account the binding of plasma proteins, but there are many different types of nanomaterials and many proteins in plasma, so the problem is complex and currently unresolved. Projects in this area will study the protein corona to help designing effective nanomedicines and contribute to understand their pharmacokinetics and nanotoxicity. For further information please contact Enrico Ferrari at eferrari@lincoln.ac.uk or visit our blogsite.

Nanoparticle image

Birds Nest Image

Exploring the functional properties of bird nests in an evolutionary framework

Bird nests vary in their structure and composition and this has been shown to relate to the degree of thermal insulation offered by the walls, to the way that rainwater is absorbed, and to the structural properties of the structure. Whilst data are available for a relatively wide range of UK bird species, there remain a lot of species where variability in nest composition has yet to be explored. The lab-based project will build on existing studies to document the thermal, hydrological and structural properties of nests from previously unstudied birds of individual families. Data will feed into a broader study of the ecological drivers for the evolution of nest structure and composition in European passerines. For more information, please contact Charles Deeming at cdeeming@lincoln.ac.uk. This project has an October start date.

Measuring the costs of floral UV pattern production

The flowers of many plants possess UV-absorbing zones that are invisible to humans but visible to insects. Due to their position, two different roles have been ascribed to these UV absorbing pigments. First, they aid in pollination as they increase flower attractiveness and pollination efficiency. And second, they offer protection to pollen against the detrimental mutagenic effects of UV radiation, therefore having large implications for plant reproductive success. This project will investigate whether UV pigmentation is costly to produce by growing plants in soils differing in nutrient content and measuring floral UV absorption area and plant performance. For further information please contact Sandra Varga at svarga@lincoln.ac.uk or Carl Soulsbury at csoulsbury@lincoln.ac.uk or visit our blogsite

UV Floral pattern Image

Nanoparticle Immobilised image

Nanoparticle-immobilised enzymes

Enzymes have widespread use in industry (e.g., food, manufacturing, pharmaceutical) and may be also used in environmental projects, for example in bioremediation. However, enzymes operate within a narrow window of conditions. There is evidence that immobilised enzymes are more stable than loose enzymes in a broader range of conditions, so immobilisation may be an enabling solution for industry and enzymatic bioremediation. Also, immobilisation on nanoparticles may present advantages, such as good diffusion in complex matrices or porous media (for example soils). Projects in this area will deal with the synthesis and characterisation of enzyme-nanoparticle complexes for industrial and environmental biotechnology. For further information please contact Enrico Ferrari at eferrari@lincoln.ac.uk or visit our blogsite.

Does male shape correlate with male:female interactions in the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)?

The smooth newt expresses considerable sexual dimorphism during the mating season with males developing dorsal crests that seems to be a factor in mate selection. However, defining what a female finds attractive has relied on linear measures and basic descriptions of shape and may not capture the potentially complex features of a male that are attractive to a female. This study would have two parts – the first is to define variation in male newt shape using geometric morphometrics and then to use behavioural choice experiments to determine whether females are selecting males on the basis of simple or complex measures of shape of real males or images. In addition, related experiments will explore how olfactory cues are important in mate choice. For more information, please contact Charles Deeming at cdeeming@lincoln.ac.uk or Anna Wilkinson at awilkinson@lincoln.ac.uk. This project has a February start date.

Smooth Newt image

Butterfly Image

Temporal patterns of butterfly diversity at Saltfleetby National Nature Reserve, Lincolnshire

Climate change will impact on the distribution of many animal species but often there is a lack of data that allows a clear demonstration of the long-term effects of environmental change. Although butterflies are a popular and well-surveyed group, improving our understanding of how their populations are being affected by environmental change will depend on access to data sets collected over the long-term. At the Saltfleetby National Nature Reserve (Lincolnshire coast), butterfly abundance and diversity was surveyed from 1977 to 2019. These data (860 walked transects) collated by Natural England, are available for analysis and consist of over for this one nature reserve collected over 42 years. This level of detailed data allows for a range of questions to be asked of the factors that affect butterfly abundance and diversity at this site. For more information, please contact Charles Deeming at cdeeming@lincoln.ac.uk.

Innovative plasmonic assays for easy and sensitive detection of analytes

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for point-of-care diagnostic tests such as those based on lateral flow devices. Projects in this area will develop both laboratory-based and portable tests that harness the peculiar optical properties of gold nanoparticles to detect analytes reliably, rapidly and cheaply. Example of analytes of interest for which plasmonic assays will be developed are endotoxin, other biomolecules of microbial origin, food and environmental pollutants. Endotoxin sensitive detection is a particularly pressing problem, as it is necessary to remove all traces of endotoxin from pharmaceutical products, due to its potentially fatal toxicity. For further information please contact Enrico Ferrari at eferrari@lincoln.ac.uk or visit our blogsite.

Analytes Image

Fungi in forest Image

The impact of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) on fungi-bacteria below ground interactions

Bacteria and fungi are present in all types of soils, making up the two major groups of microorganisms in soils and their interactions range from mutualistic to parasitism.  Despite their abundance, how fungi and bacteria communicate in the soil is still relatively poorly understood. Increasing evidence show that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) play an important role in antagonistic interactions between fungi and bacteria in soils. This project will investigate microbial volatiles emitted by soil bacteria and fungi and measure the response of the presence of one organism on the other. For further information please contact Sandra Varga at svarga@lincoln.ac.uk or José Gonzalez-Rodriguez at jgonzalezrodriguez@lincoln.ac.uk or visit our blogsite

Sugar content in grasses: implications for horses

Grasses are a main source of nutrition for many mammals including horses which can develop metabolic conditions meaning sugar intake should be limited. Several factors are known to affect the sugar content of grasses including weather, light intensity, or their interaction with endophytic and mycorrhizal fungi. This project will identify the endophytic and mycorrhizal fungi found with specific grass samples looking for patterns of association with abiotic factors, and link these to sugar content and plant secondary metabolites. For further information please contact Sandra Varga at svarga@lincoln.ac.uk or Alex Aitken at AAitken@lincoln.ac.uk or visit our blogsite.

Horse eating image

Image of doves

 

Host-parasite community dynamics

Multiple projects are available to add to and analyse datasets of host-parasite associations in passerine birds in Lincoln, passerine birds in Africa, or Columbiforme birds in the UK and Africa. These can include projects on coinfection, impacts of infection, morphological characterisation of molecular lineages, drivers of infection prevalence, among others (see our blogsite for more ideas and previous publications); additional bench fees may be required, depending on the project. Please contact Jenny Dunn JDunn@lincoln.ac.uk for more information.

 

Avian health and disease epidemiology in Lincoln Swans

Projects are available to investigate the epidemiology of parasite infection and immune status, focussing on blood metrics from individual mute swans sampled on multiple occasions. Projects can be extended to include ecological and behavioural data collection in relation to health and parasite infection. For further information please contact Jenny Dunn at JDunn@lincoln.ac.uk or visit our blogsite. Additional bench fees may be required, depending on the project.

 

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College of Science, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool Campus, Lincoln, LN6 7TS

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