New John Innes Foundation PhD Fellowships will tackle globally important issues

28 September 2020

The Earlham Institute is delighted to announce the launch of two John Innes Foundation International PhD Fellowships in data-driven plant science.

The two projects, which are open to applicants anywhere in the world, will address fundamental research questions and contribute to national and global efforts to conserve biodiversity, discover novel natural products and to breed new crops.

The John Innes Foundation is a charity dedicated to advancing the acquisition and application of knowledge about plants and microbes for societal, environmental and commercial benefit. They will co-fund two four-year PhD posts at the Earlham Institute, focusing on data-driven plant science.

The projects address urgent scientific questions around food security and plant health. The first will seek to understand the genetic traits that improve wheat crop yields in challenging environments. The second maps out the pathways some plants use to produce naturally-occurring metabolites that can attract pollinators, ward off pests and even be used to develop medicines.

Peter Innes, Chair of the John Innes Foundation, said: “Plant science is fundamental to combating many of today's greatest and most threatening challenges. The John Innes Foundation has been helping to fund plant research for more than a hundred years and is committed to doing still more in the future. 

“By helping to fund these important appointments at the Earlham Institute, our hope is that the use of cutting edge data technology can offer the opportunity for real and speedy advances in our understanding of, and in our use of, the planet's precious natural resources.”

As well as supporting cutting-edge research projects, the PhD Fellowships aim to address the skills gap seen in the limited pool of scientists with the necessary understanding of data-science and plant biology. The Earlham Institute will offer unique training and support at the interface of computational and molecular plant biology as a fundamental part of the studentships.

Professor Neil Hall, Director of the Earlham Institute, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to the John Innes Foundation for supporting these opportunities. The projects will address some fundamental questions by marrying together traditional plant science with the latest computational techniques.

“The number of scientists skilled in data science and plant biology is extremely limited and we know this skills gap is a global problem. These PhD Fellowships will contribute to an emerging field of science that has the potential to make significant breakthroughs on some of the biggest issues facing society today.”

To find out more and apply for the John Innes Foundation PhD Fellowships visit

To find out more about the John Innes Foundation, visit

JIF crop

Notes to editors.

John Innes Foundation International PhD Fellowship in Data-Driven Plant Science



Mining Meadows: Exploring the metabolic diversity of UK plants

This project aims to identify the biosynthetic pathways of plant metabolites with therapeutic properties found in UK species of Asteraceae, to test their bioactivity, and to explore methods for biomanufacturing. It will be linked to the 'Darwin Tree of Life' initiative, which aims to sequence the genomes of all eukaryotic species in Britain. 


Developing heat and drought resilient wheat

This project aims to use a huge genomic and phenotypic dataset and computational biology approaches to identify markers, networks and genes in wheat associated with increased yield stability under conditions of heat and drought. Genes and markers identified will immediately feed into international breeding programs.

Notes to editors


For more information, please contact:

Peter Bickerton

Scientific Communications and Outreach Manager, Earlham Institute (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450 994

About Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research Institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £5.43m in 2017/18 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.