PhD Position in Selective Disruption of Nematode Feeding Behaviour to Support Sustainable Agriculture
University of Southampton School of Biological Sciences
United Kingdom

PhD Position in Selective Disruption of Nematode Feeding Behaviour to Support Sustainable Agriculture

School of Biological Sciences

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Friday 23 April 2021
Reference:  1353121BJ

PhD Supervisor: Professor Vincent O’Connor

Co supervisor: Professor Lindy Holden- Dye

                             Dr Phillipa Harlow (Syngenta)

                             Dr Anthony Flemming (Syngenta) 

Interviews will be held in early May

PhD Description:  A 4-year BBSRC/UKRI and industry funded PhD focussed on using feeding behaviour of the free-living C.elegans to translate approaches to act against parasitic nematodes. This work will be funded by an industrial collaboration between the SoCoBio DTP ( and Syngenta. The studentship covers full tuition fees stipend around £15, 285/year, funding for research training and will start October 2021. And will consider UK, EU, and Internationally based students. 

It will be hosted between Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton (Professor Vincent O’Connor; Professor Lindy Holden-Dye) and the Jealott's Hill Research Station, Syngenta Ltd (Dr Philippa Harlow; Dr Anthony Flemming). We will leverage our understanding of the neural circuits and neuromuscular junctions that control the worm’s pharyngeal feeding organ. This is critical to the feeding behaviours that sustain the life cycle of both free living and parasitic nematodes. Several distinct transmitter receptors are essential for feeding. The project will take advantage of molecular signatures that exist within receptor classes that control feeding and  identify selective chemical biology to disrupt receptor function and halt the parasitic life cycle by preventing feeding. The work will detail the role played these receptors. It will use of a novel screening platform, based on model hopping in C.elegans to define chemical classes that selectively disrupt feeding. It will also develop structural studies to better resolve the pharmacophores that impart selective chemical targeting. The project is suited to candidates interested in combining neuroscience, chemical biology, and biochemistry in an integrative approach to tackling nematode parasitism. Overall, this will reduce pest burden on important crops to facilitate the goal of sustainable agriculture.

Applications for a PhD in Biological Sciences should be submitted online at:

Please place Vincent O’Connor in the field for proposed supervisor

General enquiries should be made to Vincent O’Connor ( or Lindy Holden-Dye (  

Any queries on the application process should be made to

Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, and the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified

The University of Southampton and the School of Biological Sciences both hold an Athena Swan Silver Award, 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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