Research Areas

The NRPDTP offers excellent research opportunities in all four of the BBSRC strategic research areas: Agriculture and Food Security, Bioscience for Health, Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy, and Frontier Bioscience.

Agriculture and Food Security

Global demand for food is rising because of population growth, increasing affluence and changing diets. The UN FAO forecasts that global food production will need to increase by over 40% by 2030, and 70% by 2050. Yet water is expected to become scarcer, and there is increasing competition for land, putting added pressure on production. In addition, climate change will reduce the reliability of food supply through altered weather patterns and increased pressure from pests and diseases. So in the future, agriculture will need to produce more food from the same or less land, using less water, energy and other inputs, and reducing waste and adverse environmental impacts including greenhouse gas emissions.

Research to address the issues of Food Security is a major research them on the Norwich Research Park, notably at the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory and the Earlham Institute. Consequently we can offer PhD studentships in a wide range of disciplines that directly address this important topic. Whether you are interested in crop genetics, plant pathology, sustainable food production, environmental impacts, or the use of model plant systems to inform crop improvement, we can offer exciting research projects for motivated young researchers.

Bioscience for Health

We are in a period of unprecedented demographic change, with the proportion of older people in the population increasing such that by 2050, 40% of the UK population will be over 50, and 25% over 65. Whilst lifespan is increasing, ‘healthspan’ is not lengthening at the same rate. Basic bioscience understanding and its effective translation is key to increasing the ability of individuals to lead healthier lives over their lifecourse, reducing pressure on the healthcare system. Basic bioscience is vital to reveal the biological mechanisms underlying normal physiology and homeostatic control during early development and across the lifespan. Hence it is vital to achieve a deep, integrated understanding of the ‘healthy system’ at multiple levels, and of the factors that maintain health and wellness under stress.

The Norwich Research Park is ideally placed to address these challenges as exemplified by the launch of Quadrum Institute Bioscience that uniquely integrates multidisciplinary bioscience and clinical expertise. The Institute engages in fundamental and translational food and health research developing solutions to the worldwide challenges in food-related disease and human health. It will enable the understanding of how to achieve lifelong wellbeing through dietary interventions and will work closely with industry and healthcare and allied sectors to transfer this knowledge into practice.

If you are interested in the role of nutrition in human development and health, in the interplay between the GI tract, nutrition, food properties, and the microbiome, or in the breeding of plants that can offer improved human health and nutrition, then the NRPDTP can offer you opportunities to pursue research in all of these areas.

Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy

Increasing the use of biorenewables is a complex challenge and industrial biotechnology offers novel solutions through the use of plants, bacteria, algae and fungi as non-fossil sources of complex chemicals, of materials, and of renewable energy.  Research in this area applies the tools of modern molecular, cellular and structural biology, as well as systems approaches to help develop sustainable solutions. Research to produce chemicals and materials is a high priority. In this regard an understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of key biosynthetic processes and their regulation in a range of organisms, and environments will make a major contribution to advances in industrial biotechnology.

Scientists on the Norwich Research Park are making major contributions in these critical strategic areas. Research on the production of new antibiotics and other bioactive molecules from microorganisms is an important research theme at both JIC and UEA. Likewise the exploitation of plant metabolism to produce novel products, including novel pharmaceuticals, lipids and carbohydrates is a major focus of JIC research. These studies involve the application of a wide range of biochemical, chemical and genetic approaches. Research in bioenergy is also actively pursued at JIC and UEA, such as in the The Wolfson Fermentation and Bioenergy Laboratory.

The science underpinning industrial biotechnology and bioenergy developments is likely to be a growing field in the coming decades and hence this is an excellent area to consider for those wishing to do a strategically relevant bioscience PhD.

Frontier Bioscience

Strategic research must always be underpinned by knowledge derived from investigation of fundamental topics, and major advances can often arise from a cross-fertilisation between strategic and fundamental studies. Fundamental biosciences research on the Norwich Research Park has an international reputation, with world-leading research in plant and microbial sciences, food science and genomics. Biosciences research at UEA encompasses not only the School of Biology, but also those of Pharmacy, Chemistry, Computing Science and Environmental Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. This stimulating environment offers PhD students working on the Norwich Research Park access to remarkable opportunities to pursue multidisciplinary and collaborative research: hallmarks of a world-class research environment.

Whether you wish to pursue a project in biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, microbiology, plant pathology, computational biology, structural biology, genomics or food science, the NRPDTP can offer you opportunities to work on challenging questions in fundamental bioscience.