Veterinary Microbiology: Characterisation of avian host responses to Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease viruses: variable susceptibility of anseriform and galliform poultry

A fully funded PhD opportunity has become available at the University of Surrey.

Application deadline
Funding information

This studentship is fully funded and the fund covers the University of Surrey registration fee, doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£14,777p.a. for 2018/19) and the bench fee. Due to funding constraints only UK/EU application can be considered. This is a full time PhD project, which is planned for a period of three years. Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.


High and low pathogenicity avian influenza, along with Newcastle disease are notifiable diseases of poultry.  The causative agents, avian influenza virus (AIV) and Newcastle disease virus (NDV), have a wide range of susceptible avian hosts. AIVs originate in the wild bird reservoir as low-pathogenicity (LP) viruses, and include wild waterfowl such as ducks (anseriform), which display few or no clinical signs of infection. Terrestrial poultry, such as chickens and turkeys (galliform), are highly susceptible to many AIVs with highly-pathogenic variants causing severe disease and high mortality. Similarly, highly virulent (velogenic) strains of NDV can cause high morbidity and mortality in chickens, yet infections in ducks are often asymptomatic.  These differences are likely due to species-specific differences in the host innate immune response to infection.

The role of avian host immune responses directs the outcomes of notifiable avian viral infection, comparative studies will focus on anseriform (duck) and galliform (chickens and turkeys) birds. It is anticipated that the student will focus on avian immunological methods and molecular based technologies for innate, humoral and cellular adaptive immune responses, including mutation and evolution as a result of immunological pressures. There are in vitro, ex vivo, in ovo and in vivo poultry models to be explored as part of a larger collaborative study with several institutions involved.

The project will be carried out in collaboration with the APHA and the successful candidate will be mainly working at their Weybridge labs.


The project will be under the supervision of Prof. Falko Steinbach (University of Surrey) and Dr. Sharon Brookes (Animal and Plant Health Agency-Weybridge).

Related links

Eligibility criteria

Essential requirements

  • A BSc (Hons) degree in a relevant biological subject
  • Strong interest or connection to Virology  
  • Team working
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Dedication and passion in advancing science in the area of host-pathogen interaction and evolution.

Desirable requirements

  • A masters degree (or equivalent training) in virology/microbiology or immunology.

If English is not your first language please check the University of Surrey website for language and other requirements that have to be met prior to application. 

How to apply

Applications should be made online by 6th May 2018 via the Veterinary Medince and Science PhD course page.

Please state the project title and supervisor clearly on all applications – preferably as part of the project title.

When following the online application procedure, please also make sure to include a CV and a statement explaining how your experience and ambition relate to this studentship.

Contact details

For any application queries please contact: Dr Sharon Brookes, , 01932 357 499.

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