Plant Health Summer Studentships

Work alongside our team of plant health specialists as you undertake your own 6–10 week research project tailored to your interests

Plant Health research

Projects tailored to you

There are multiple studentships awarded every year and each one can be tailored to your interests. As part of your application let us know what you want to focus on and, if you’re successful, we'll work with you to apply for funding from external sources.

Our past students and research subjects

2021  Hazel Irving, Askham Bryan College:Hazel Irving
Hazel worked with senior plant pathologists Dr Liz Beal and Dr Matthew Cromey, and Dr Jon Banks
from Bartlett Tree Experts, on cultural and green chemical control of curcurbit powdery mildew, funded by British Mycological Society.

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to carry out a practical experiment and learn how to carry out identifications under the microscope and through DNA extraction. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to have this opportunity and really hope the work I’ve produced is helpful.”

2021 – Melissa Saphra, University of Warwick:Student Melissa Saphra sampling and identifying plant parasitic nematodes
Melissa worked with plant health scientists Dr Magdalena Boshoff and Dr Fryni Drizou on sampling and identifying plant parasitic nematodes, funded by the British Society of Plant Pathology.

Melissa said: “I have explored a fascinating area of science, and have gained a brand new breadth of knowledge. The plant health team were supportive and encouraging throughout my studentship, and I feel really inspired by my time at Wisley.”

2020 – Emma Hallett, University of York:Powdery mildew on Delphinium
In her third year of studying biology Emma completed a literature review since lab work was not possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The review was supervised by Dr Liz Beal and considered environmental factors that favour powdery mildew outbreaks. 

Emma said: “The opportunity to write a literature review about powdery mildew provided me with a great insight into the field of plant pathology and advanced my research skills. The support from a leading plant pathology expert was invaluable and has affirmed my interest in this field.”

Colleen Sellwood2019 – Colleen Sellwood, Newcastle University:
A third year biology student, Colleen spent 7 weeks working alongisde Entomologist Dr Stephanie Bird researching box tree moth oviposition.

Colleen said: “I was based mostly at the field research facility where I reared moths from larvae for experiments and monitored box tree moth infestation on box tree plots. The results from this project will help us work out ways to reduce infestation and protect box tree plants in the future.”

Julie Lin2019 – Julie Lin, Imperial College, London:
Worked for 10 weeks working alongside Dr Hayley Jones investigating the life cycle of  the agapanthus gall midge.

Julie said: “The placement was incredibly insightful and rewarding. I received much needed guidance from the RHS research staff and am so grateful for the opportunity to experience life as a research scientist. I learned the principles of experimental design and project management and presented my research findings at a BSPP conference.”

Louise Ager2019 – Louise Ager, University of York:
Worked at RHS Garden Wisley for 8 weeks alongside Plant Health Scientist, Dr Fryni Drizou and Plant Pathologist, Dr Liz Beal. Her project investigated Phytophthora spp. infections at RHS Garden Hyde Hall.

Louise said: “My project aimed to determine how extensive Hyde Hall’s Phytophthora problem is, which species are present and to compare three detection methods. I sampled soil, plants and water and performed baiting bioassays using Rhododendron leaf discs and apples, cultured isolates onto agar, and carried out morphological identification of sporangia. I also used molecular methods for species identification which included DNA extraction from cultures and soil, barcoding PCR, and Sanger sequencing.”

Claire Hurst2019 – Claire Hurst, University of East Anglia:
Worked RHS Garden Wisley for 8 weeks alongside  Dr Jassy Drakulic and Dr Matthew Cromey. For her project she used field surveys and molecular methods to investigate dispersal of box blight and classify isolates of Calonectria, the fungi that cause the disease.

Claire said: “The studentship really boosted my confidence in working in the lab independently and introduced me to what a research-based career would entail. Previously I wasn’t aware of the impact of plant pathology research, now I have been inspired to consider a career in it.”

Other subjects have included:

  • Investigating endophytic Trichoderma for bio-control of honey fungus
  • Developing molecular methods for honey fungus species identification
  • Identifying gastropod feeding preferences
  • Analysis of soil fauna diversity following slug control

Applying for a Studentship

To apply for a Studentship, you must be an undergraduate student in the second year of study in a three-year degree, or in the second or third year of study in a four-year degree.

RHS Plant Health summer studentshipsApplications for 2022 are now closed

Placement opportunities are subject to funding availability. For more information about Plant Health summer Studentships, please email Dr Jassy Drakulic.

Read more about Plant Health summer Studentships 2022 (1.1MB pdf)

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