Aerial shot of the queen's lawn at Dangoor Plaza

Available Studentships

Leverhulme funded PhD position on Plant-Pollinator Holobionts

Supervisor: Dr Richard Gill, Dept. of Life Sciences, Silwood Park, Imperial College London (ICL)

Co-supervisors & collaborators: Prof. Ian Barnes (NHM London), Dr Gavin Broad (NHM London), Dr Alan Buddie (CABI), Dr Peter Graystock (ICL)

Project Title: Fungal disease risks under landscape homogenisation: tracking fungal transmission across plant-pollinator networks using contemporary and historic museum specimens

Project Description: Mapping how microbial pathogens are vectored through ecological networks is important to understand how direct and indirect species interactions contribute to transmission dynamics. In the case of plant-pollinator networks, however, we understand little about how flowers act as pathogen transmission hubs and how pollinators act as pathogen vectors through complex networks. Furthermore, we know little about how fungal pathogens are transmitted through networks despite fungi posing significant risks to plant crop, wildflower, and insect pollinator brood health.

How landscape context can increase fungal transmission across modules of plant-pollinator networks is an important outstanding question. For example, landscape homogenisation now epitomises widespread habitat change driven primarily by agricultural intensification. This can lead to functional homogenisation across plant and pollinator communities, increasing the likelihood of pollinators sharing plant hosts and vice versa that may not have occurred historically (Fig. 1). This project will first ask whether transmission of fungal species previously restricted within specific pollinator taxonomic clades has become more prevalent across more distant evolutionary related clades. For instance, could fungal pathogens normally restricted to transmission between beetle pollinators hypothetically spill-over to bee clades? Second, could such an increased ‘reach’ of fungal pathogens across the pollinator community increase transmission risk to wildflowers and important flowering food crops?

This PhD will assess how fungal species are associated with plants and pollinators in contemporary networks when sampled across a landscape homogenisation gradient (varying levels of agricultural intensification). Then, through targeted sampling of museum specimens, we will determine historic fungal species prevalence in populations before major land-use transitions in agricultural intensification occurred (i.e., early 1900s). Evolutionary relationships between hosts will be considered to develop a more predictive framework and lay the foundation for exploring how fungal species that have evolved to increase transmission under increasingly functionally homogenised communities.

The student will be able to learn a variety of skills, including employing modern DNA sequencing approaches and ancient DNA-techniques, handling big data, script writing and developing bioinformatic pipelines, conduct fieldwork sampling and surveys of plant-pollinator networks, and working with museum collections. The student would join the Leverhulme Centre for the Holobiont (, a multi-institutional research centre devoted to understanding interactions between microbes and their multicellular hosts.

The student would join the Leverhulme Centre for the Holobiont (, a multi-institutional research centre devoted to understanding interactions between multicellular hosts and their microbial symbionts.

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be sent to Dr Richard Gill (

How to apply:

Please email Dr Richard Gill ( and include in your application:

  • - Statement of purpose (max. 2 pages A4, Arial/Calibri font size 11)
  • - CV
  • - Please arrange for two academic reference letters to be sent directly to Dr Gill.

Full applications made before 30th April 2024 will be considered at any time.

Funding and eligibility:

A fully funded 4 years Leverhulme Studentship, including tuition fees and a standard research council stipend (£19,668). The fees and stipend cover UK home applicants and standard research council eligibility criteria apply:

The successful applicant must hold or be expected to complete a Masters (MRes or MSc) or a four-year MSci with a grade of at least 2:1 level (or equivalent experience) in a relevant subject area, e.g., ecology, evolution, genetics, or microbiology.

Funded PhD studentship in XFEL Science at Imperial College London

Start date: 1 October 2024 or sooner

Duration: 4 years

Level of support: Home Studentship, fees and stipend

Supervisor: Prof Jasper van Thor, Molecular Biophysics, Imperial College London

Co-Supervisor: Prof Jon Marangos, Physics Department, Imperial College London

Location/Departments: Joined Life Science and Physics.


Project Description

A fully funded 4-year PhD position is available in the group of Professor Jasper van Thor at Imperial College London. The PhD is supported by the STFC UK Hub for the physical sciences on XFELs (HPSX) and Imperial College. The project will involve all aspects of executing and analysing ultrafast X-ray crystallography experiments at X-ray Fee Electron Lasers (XFELs). The project involves developing methods and experiments in order to increase the time resolution towards few-femtosecond and attosecond resolution. The PhD project will include experimental components involving sample environment, optics, diagnostics, beamline instrumentation and detector data processing, as well as computational aspects involving crystallographic data analysis and modelling. The project will be co-supervised by Professor Jon Marangos in the physics department. A part of the project will include work in the physics department on the configuration and use of a laser driven plasma hard X-ray source ‘The Imperial College Laboratory for Ultrafast X-ray Diffraction (LUXD)’. The new LUXD facility will allow pump-probe femtosecond chemical crystallography. Informal questions can be asked by email to JvT (email or JPM (email

Requirements and eligibility

You will have either a physics, chemistry or biochemistry undergraduate degree with a 2:1 result or better. Additionally, a Masters degree with Merit or better in a relevant physics or chemistry topic will be preferred. Only students classified as Home (UK) for fees purposes are eligible to apply.

How to apply:

The 4-year PhD studentship is jointly funded by STFC XFEL Physical Sciences Hub and Imperial College London Life Science Department. Applications should be sent to Jasper van Thor by email ( and should include a CV and a cover letter with a personal statement. The CV should contain names and contact details for three references and details for courses taken and marks obtained.

Follow the linked pages below to find further funded PhD opportunities.