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PhD opportunity in the group

A NERC-funded PhD opportunity to work in the group, looking at the origins of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. The student will work in the field with collaborators in Jordan and in the herbarium at Kew Gardens, looking at the ecology and productivity characteristics of wild cereals and pulses. Applications close on 9th January. Contact Colin if you would like to discuss this project: c.p.osborne@sheffield.ac.uk


Postdoc opportunity

Postdoc to work with me for 12 months on how C4 photosynthesis influences plant drought tolerance. Comparative growth experiment, ecophysiology, energy storage. Closing date 4th Dec.


email Colin c.p.osborne@sheffield.ac.uk if you want to chat about the position.

A new global picture of domestication

Here – a behind-the-scenes blog post that Ruben wrote about our recent paper on domesticated animals and plants. Can artificial selection produce phenotypes absent from wild species? Are domesticated species exceptional compared with wild species? And are particular evolutionary groups more likely than others to have been domesticated?

Coping with the Cold

Here – the behind-the-scenes story about Teera’s recent paper on plant cold adaptation. How it came about, what we think it all means.

Congrats Dr Jardine!

emmaAnd a belated congratulations to Emma, who passed her PhD viva and has now moved on to work with Andy Hector and Lindsay Turnbull at the University of Oxford.

Check out Emma’s blog here. It’s good stuff.

The first farmers

Colin wrote a piece in The Conversation about our recent paper on seed size selection by early farmers. link

the conversation


Julia, Angie, Beth and Jason all graduated with their PhDs last week. Congratulations!


The Conversation

Angie is spending a busy few weeks revising a paper, analysing her experimental data, and moonlighting as science editor at The Conversation. Since articles published there can be reproduced under the Creative Commons licence, we’ll be reposting some recent pieces by lab members in the coming days.

PhD opportunity

Leverhulme Centre for Advanced Biological Modelling

University of Sheffield


Intermediate complexity models of plant metabolism and growth


Colin Osborne (Dept. of Animal and Plant Sciences), Nick Monk (School of Mathematics and Statistics), Richard Clayton (Dept. of Computer Science)

Project Outline

Improving crop photosynthesis is a major international research priority, which aims to deliver transformative improvements in yields. However, the translation of greater carbon-fixation into improved yield depends crucially on whole-plant processes of carbon export, allocation and utilization. Although the molecular basis and interactions of these processes are well characterized, we currently have no way of quantifying when and how strongly each controls growth. Flux balance models simulate the relevant metabolic processes but are applied at the tissue scale, while crop production models simulate whole-plant growth and yield but lack the necessary molecular mechanisms. The PhD project will bridge this important knowledge gap by developing an entirely new class of intermediate complexity models (ICMs) to investigate metabolic processes and interactions at the whole plant scale. The modelling challenge for the student will be to identify the metabolic components with the greatest influence on whole-plant physiology. A two-pronged approach will initially be used, first testing a priori hypotheses about the key metabolic pools, fluxes and feedbacks that influence growth, and secondly through sensitivity analysis of the flux balance models using emulators. Our goal is to devise ICMs providing novel mechanistic insights into the plant-scale limitations and controls on crop production, as modified by genotype and environment.

The Centre for Advanced Biological Modeling (CABM) will harness cutting edge mathematical and computing skills to address major problems in biology. Biology at the University of Sheffield is defined by its strength in combining approaches across time-scales from ecological to evolutionary, and has been the subject of significant recent investment. Exploiting this breadth of research excellence, the CABM will extend cutting edge research in basic biology at Sheffield by harnessing the latest mathematical and computational techniques. Its legacy will be a cohort of research scientists at the cutting edge of biological modeling with the skills to tackle major societal problems.

We welcome applications from students with backgrounds and training in physics, maths or computer science or those with advanced numerical skills from a biology background (e.g. through masters-level training). Students may be UK or international. The PhD is fully funded for fees and bursary, and will start in September 2015.

Further Details

For further details and questions about the project, email Colin at c.p.osborne@sheffield.ac.uk. Applications should be made via the university postgraduate system http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/research/apply, and will be considered as they arrive. The deadline for applications is 13th Feb 2015.


In the field

Colin has been in the field with Mark Rees and Glynis Jones, scoping out potential sites in Turkey for future work. We’ve been working with Turkish colleagues Ferit Kocacinar and Hakan Ozkan in places where wheat, barley, lentil and chickpea all grow wild, right in the heart of the Fertile Crescent close to the River Euphrates.