School of Biological Sciences

Scholarships and funding

Supporting your study

We offer many funding opportunities to support both undergraduate and postgraduate students, including a broad range of University of Essex scholarships, studentships within the School, and studentships from EnvEast. 


Search our Scholarship Finder to see the funding you can apply for. Our range of scholarships and bursaries to support talented students ensure we remain accessible to all with the potential to succeed, regardless of financial circumstances.

University of Essex Doctoral Scholarships

Our University of Essex Doctoral Scholarships support talented PhD students pushing boundaries in their field of study.

There are 24 awards in total to be granted across our Science and Health, Social Science and Humanities faculties for 2018-19.If you have an excellent academic background and the potential for future achievement then you could be eligible.

PhD studentships

PhD studentships are offered by the School of Biological Sciences, EnvEast (NERC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership) and the EU (Horizon 2020). Details of our current opportunities are listed below. For further information, please contact the Graduate Administrator, Emma Revill (

Current studentships

MSD Studentship: Stock structure and responses to fishing and environmental change in the European flat Oyster 

European Oysters (Ostrea edulis) are an important species once found in expansive beds throughout the UK and the North sea. Due to exploitation and multiple environmental stressors it has declined by over 90% from its former range. The species is still held in high regard in coastal communities and has remaining strongholds in several traditional oyster fishing areas.

This Masters by Research will investigate the demography of the native oyster population in an Essex Marine Conservation Zone. Demographic data will be used to build population models that can help predict how this important species will respond to perturbations such as habitat availability, ocean warming and fishing activity. 

Supervisor: Dr Tom Cameron

Deadline: 16 November 2018

PhD studentship: Epigenetic changes in Plant Acclimation

Plants, including all our crop plants, live in a dynamic environment with external conditions varying over the day and season and these signals influence how a plant grows and how productive it is. Light intensity is one of the most variable environmental factors that can change on time scales of seconds to hours.  Passing clouds and overlapping leaves in a canopy result in plants experiencing sun and shade flecks over the majority of the diurnal period.

It is well known that plants will acclimate to the light environment experienced during growth, however to date the majority of studies in these areas have focused on ‘high’ or ‘low’ light.  Recently we have demonstrated a completely different acclimation strategy in Arabidopsis subjected to fluctuating light compared with square wave light regimes (see Vialet-Chabrand, et al., 2016, Matthews et al., 2018). We now wish to explore the influence of epigenetics on this acclimation and the benefit that this may have for priming plants for the predicted changes in climate, to improve productivity and crop yield.

This studentship will explore the role of epigenetics in plant acclimation to dynamic light using a range of physiological, molecular and bioinformatic tools.

Please apply for this PhD studentship by sending a CV and cover letter (including contact details of two academic references) outlining your application to Professor Tracy Lawson.

Supervisor: Professor Tracy Lawson

Deadline: 25 January 2019

PhD studentships - ARIES Doctoral Training Partnership

The ARIES (“Advanced Research and Innovation in the Environmental Sciences”) DTP trains postgraduate research students (PGRs) with excellent potential from across society, equipping them with the necessary skills to become 21st Century Scientists: leaders in the science and sustainable business of the natural environment.  ARIES brings together expertise from five universities and over forty research-users.

To apply for one of the studentships listed below, please email a CV (including contact details of two academic referees) and a cover letter explaining your motivation and suitability for the PhD to Emma Revill by the studentship deadline.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact members of the relevant supervisory team.

Current ARIES studentships

Fresh Blue Carbon: The control of freshwater carbon emissions by pelagic food webs

Freshwater ecosystems are recognised “hotspots” of biogeochemical activity and play an important role in global carbon cycling. Recently, the view that carbon emissions from freshwaters – due to variation in Net Ecosystem Productivity (NEP) are dominated by what happens in benthic habitats has been challenged. Carbon flux from pelagic habitats could be as or more important.

Unlike a focus on NEP which could benefit from increased phytoplankton, the main management objective in reservoirs is to produce cost effective drinking water – which is challenged by high algal biomass. There is therefore an urgent need to understand the multiple interacting drivers of freshwater carbon flux, year round, in the context of multiple models of management – whether for NEP, drinking water or recreational use of wetlands in highly populated areas of the UK.


Dr Tom Cameron ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Corinne Whitby ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Professor Mark Trimmer ( – Queen Mary University, London

Closing date - Tuesday 8 January 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 26 or Wednesday 27 February 2019.

Delivering Effective Marine Protected Areas – Backing the Blue Belt through Governance Structures

Environmental sustainability is an important current issue. Marine conservation is key to sustaining our natural and environmental resources. The conservation of marine species such as porpoises and flame shells, or marine features such as seagrass and chalk reefs, often takes place through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs, Lown et al 2018). Some MPAs perform quite well in preserving and sustaining resources, but others perform much worse. Why is that? 

Evaluations of MPAs highlight the lack of clear governance structures as contributing to low compliance and effective conservation outcomes (Buglass et al. 2018, Campbell et al. 2012). Many MPAs are supported through voluntary or commercial groups working with statutory regulators, but without formal institutional structures. Others are regulated by rigorous institutions. This studentship will assess MPA governance structures to determine how and whether they condition MPA conservation performance.


Dr Tom Cameron ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Gina Yannitell Reinhardt ( Department of Government, University of Essex

Dr Michelle Taylor ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

This is a joint NERC & ESRC CASE PhD project 

CASE Supervisor: Dr Christopher Sweeting ( – Senior Evidence Specialist – Her Majesty’s government – Marine Management Organisation

Closing date - Tuesday 8 January 2019.

Fate, transformation and effect of microplastics on microbial communities in the environment

Microplastics can enter ecosystems, where they affect microorganisms and their processes. Microbial-driven nitrogen (N) cycling is fundamental in the environment, yet little is known how microplastics affect these key microorganisms. Microplastics also occur in waste biosludges, with potential impacts to N-removal. Furthermore, the majority of biosludges are used as fertilisers, where there is risk to agricultural soils.

Currently, there is virtually nothing known about the fate, transformation and effects of microplastics on microbial communities in the environment, especially where N-cycling is important. 


Dr Corinne Whitby ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Philippe Laissue ( – School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Professor Richard Thompson ( – University of Plymouth

Dr Andrew Mayes ( - University of East Anglia

Dr Lucinda Gilfoyle ( - Anglian Water

Closing date - Tuesday 8 January 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 26 or Wednesday 27 February 2019.

Environmental Perception in Motile Diatoms

Estuaries are important marine habitats exhibiting high levels of biodiversity. Diatoms are single-celled marine algae that are major primary producers in estuarine environments, where their success is underpinned by their ability to glide, moving through the sediment in response to changes in light or nutrients. Although this process is central to diatom ecophysiology, little is known about the underlying signalling processes that allow diatoms to sense and respond to key environmental cues.

This project will examine how diatoms sense light, nutrients and other stimuli and translate these stimuli into motile responses. The overarching aim is to examine the mechanisms through which motile responses are determined by diatom physiology and therefore underpin their ecological success. 

Gliding motility in diatoms is regulated by calcium signalling and we have recently developed techniques to measure cytosolic calcium in the model diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum using genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors. Development of these exciting technologies and their application to other diatom species will be an important aspect of the project.


Dr Glen Wheeler ( - Marine Biological Association

Professor Graham Underwood ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Katherine Helliwell ( - Marine Biological Association

Professor Colin Brownlee ( - Marine Biological Association

Closing date - Tuesday 8 January 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 26 or Wednesday 27 February 2019.

Effects of oil spill dispersants on marine oil snow formation, fate and impact

Oil spills are one of the most challenging threats to the marine environment that can have long-term impacts on fisheries, the economy and society.

Dispersants are commonly applied as a remediation strategy to disperse oil into the water column and produce small oil droplets that are more readily degraded by indigenous oil-degrading bacteria. Whilst dispersants are one of the many tools to prevent coastal contamination, there are concerns they may contribute to the formation of marine oil snow (MOS).  MOS has been speculated to be a transport vector for oil into the deep sea. This PhD will investigate whether dispersants inhibit or enhance the formation of MOS over a range of relevant conditions.


Dr Boyd A McKew ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Terry J McGenity ( - School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Rob Holland ( - Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL)

Closing date - Tuesday 8 January 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 26 or Wednesday 27 February 2019.

Shellfish responses to global environmental change – implications for aquaculture and marine conservation

Coastal habitats provide important socioeconomic resources, yet they are experiencing unprecedented pressures. Overharvesting, pollution and introduction of invasive species resulted in a major decline of the native oyster that required a shift to the introduced Pacific oyster in commercial aquaculture. Current conservation programmes including ENORI, aim to restore self-sustaining populations of native oysters to increase ecosystem services, sustainable fisheries and biodiversity.

In-situ mariculture of either of the two oyster species, and restoration of the native oyster, critically depends on successful spawning, settlement and/or collection of juvenile oysters. Thresholds of water temperature drive the variation in the timing of these events but this is unpredictable due to increasing temperature variation.

This project will address the sustainable expansion of oyster production and native oyster restoration through the application of remote sensing for shellfish spawning, behaviour and survival. You will direct the project’s research emphasis and develop scientific hypotheses to assess the ecophysiological diversity of oysters. You will start investigating native and introduced oysters and quantify:

  1. The inter-population variation in metabolic and behavioural responses to temperature.
  2. The release of reproductive cells in the field and during laboratory incubations.
  3. The inter-individual variation in oyster larvae and their settlement success under different temperatures and habitat types.


Dr Michael Steinke ( – School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Tom Cameron ( – School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr John Woods ( – Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Mr Paul Harding ( – Colchester Oyster Fishery

Closing date - Tuesday 8 January 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on Tuesday 26 or Wednesday 27 February 2019.

What's the importance of research at universities?

Academic freedom, together with creative and critical thought, is at the core of research in universities! Postgraduate students are encouraged to follow exciting lines of enquiry and publish their research findings. Published work becomes the cornerstone of scientific endeavour, and can have major impacts on society. In the School of Biological Sciences, for example, research has advanced our fundamental understanding of: mechanisms of cancer, limits of life, stress-resistance in crops, processes behind climate change, and the structure of haemoglobin that has led to the development of blood substitutes.

Why should you do your research at Essex?

At the University of Essex, you can perform exciting research with excellent supervision that strikes the balance between guidance and encouraging independence. You belong to intellectually stimulating research groups, and, importantly, will find a friendly, supportive environment within departments and across the university. Essex provides outstanding financial support for training, field work, participating in conferences, and opportunities to interact with future employers.

Find Out More
Stick with us

If you're one of our graduates, studied abroad here or have a spouse or partner studying here as a full-time international student paying overseas fees, we'll give you a loyalty discount of up to 33% on the tuition fee for your first year of postgraduate study at Essex.

Find out more