PhD Studentship – Understanding fruit development in the cultivated cherry

Cherries are again becoming one of Britain’s most popular summer fruits. British growers are celebrating their biggest annual harvest in three decades. Improved growing methods, including the grafting of new varieties to dwarfing rootstocks and the use of plastic polytunnels to protect trees from harsher environmental changes, have resulted in a longer growing season and a more than five-fold increase in yields since 2000. This project aims to use new breeding technologies to develop cherry tree varieties suitable for future commercial exploitation. The overall aims of this project are:

1. Use of tissue-specific gene expression studies (RNA seq followed by bioinformatics analysis) to gather information about key genes involved in the development of the embryo in cherry.

2. Optimise the regeneration of cherry in media culture, to facilitate effective genetic transformation.

3. Develop CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology for use in cherry.

As part of this project, you will gain skills in molecular biology, biochemistry, tissue culture and horticulture. You will work in a supportive group composed of molecular biologists, genomics specialists and micro-propagation experts. This work will be carried out at NIAB EMR, East Malling, Kent [ ] under the supervision of Dr Andrew Simkin and Dr Richard Harrison in the Department of Genetics, Genomics and Breeding. NIAB EMR is part of the NIAB group, the largest independent crop research organisation in the UK.

This PhD is fully funded for three years by Berry Gardens. Beginning in October 2018, the successful candidate should have (or expect to have) an Honours Degree (or equivalent) at 2.1 or above in Plant Biology, Molecular Biology or Genetics. Interested candidates should review the attached publication list prior to interview.

Knowledge: Plant Physiology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology would be desirable.

Send your applications (CV, cover letter, personal statement and two references) to, citing the project reference. Enquires to Applications will be considered as they arrive until the post is filled.

Publication list:
1, Hu et al (2014). Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of the causative agent of Valsa canker of apple tree Valsa mali var. mali. Curr Microbiol. 68(6):769-76.

2, Stevens and Pijut (2014). Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation and plant regeneration of the hardwood tree species Fraxinus profunda. Plant Cell Rep. 33(6):861-70.

3, Nishitani et al (2016). Efficient Genome Editing in Apple Using a CRISPR/Cas9 system. Scientific Reports. 6:31481.

4, Fan et al (2015). Efficient CRISPR/Cas9-mediated Targeted Mutagenesis in Populus in the First Generation. Scientific Reports. 5:12217.

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