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Postgraduate study

PhD student examining root growth in a barley field
Our PhD students are registered at universities throughout the UK

With more than 500 staff and 163 registered PhD students, the James Hutton Institute is one of the biggest research centres in the UK and the first of its type in Europe.

Our thriving Postgraduate School is testament to our commitment to providing the highest standard of training opportunities to UK and international students. Undertaking postgraduate studies at the James Hutton Institute provides students with valuable experience of working in a professional environment.

Studying for a PhD at the James Hutton Institute

Our Postgraduate Student Liaison Team and your PhD supervisors will ensure you receive support and mentoring throughout your studies to enable you to achieve your full potential. Your studies will enable you to enter the employment market with a comprehensive range of scientific, as well as transferable, skills demanded by a highly competitive employment market.

Our annual Student Competition provides a valuable opportunity and learning experience for you to communicate your work to the wider scientific community. The winners of the oral competition represent the Institute at the annual Scottish Main Research Providers Postgraduate Student Competition.

You can view a list of our current PhD students (PDF, 261 KB) as well as a list of students who have recently passed their viva examinations (PDF, 179 KB).


Joint PhD Studentship 2019 Opportunities

Opportunities for PhD projects from the James Hutton Institute's annual competitive joint-studentship programme are now being advertised on

All these PhD projects are funded jointly between the Institute and participating universities and opportunities are offered from all our Science Groups covering many aspects of our work.

At the James Hutton Institute, we value the important contribution students make to the development of our scientific excellence and the expertise, talent and knowledge graduates bring to our research community. The Institute provides a research environment where technical and intellectual competency can flourish.

The support and mentoring PhD students receive throughout their studies from their Institute supervisors and our Postgraduate Student Liaison Team ensure students achieve a high degree of intellectual freedom, whilst equipping students with the comprehensive range of scientific and transferable skills demanded of today's scientists.

Cell and Molecular Sciences PhD Projects

  • The Role of E3 Ligases on the Modulation of Recombination in Cereals – University of Reading
  • A Few Bad Potatoes:  Modelling Economic Aspects of Disease Control in Seed Potatoes – University of Strathclyde
  • Developing a High-Throughput Platform in Barley to Screen for Resistance to Aphids – University of Dundee
  • Plasmodesmal Gating by a Contractile Cellular Machinery – University of St Andrews

Environmental and Biochemical Sciences PhD Projects

  • Developing a Multi-Pollutant Water Quality Model to Evaluate Spatial Targeting of Land Management Interventions to Reduce Water Pollution – University of Reading
  • The Role of Rainfall Dynamics in Influencing River Water Quality – University of Aberdeen
  • How Can Knowledge of Hillslope Soils Help to Prevent Flooding Through Changes in Land Management? – University of Dundee
  • Utilising Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy for the Characterisation of Interdial Sediments – University of St Andrews
  • Novel Constructed Wetland (CWs) Treatment Options for Rural Works – University of Cranfield
  • Behaviour of Clostridium Species in Anaerobic Digestate: Risks and Benefits – University of Nottingham

Ecological Sciences PhD Projects

  • Managing Rare Arable Weeds to Promote Soil Function and Support Maintenance of Barley Yields – Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Long Term Impacts of Peatland Restoration on Hydrological Function – University of Leeds
  • The Microbial Black Box of Soil - Does What's Inside Matter – University of Edinburgh
  • Phytophagus Mite Control in Raspberry:  Integrating Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches – Keele University
  • The Interactions of Plant, Microbial and Physico-Chemical Controls on Carbon and Nutrient Cycling in the Rhizosphere – University of Aberdeen
  • The Ecological Implications of Agricultural Probiotics on the Local Soil Microbiome – University of Sheffield
  • Determining the Effect of Urbanization on the Prevalence of Antimicrobial Resistance in Aquatic Environments – University of Strathclyde
  • Assessing Drought Resilience of Restored Peatlands Using Combined Optical and Microwave Satellite Data – University of Reading

Information and Computational Sciences PhD Projects

  • Balancing Nutritional Food Security and Biodiversity in a Globalized World – University of Edinburgh
  • Novel Computational Method Development for Shotgun Proteomics – University of Dundee
  • Bayesian Network Approaches for Vulnerability Assessment and Management of Diffuse Groundwater Pollution – University of  Aberdeen
  • Transdisciplinary Analysis of the Likelihood of Farming Community Adoption of Different Soil Restoration Strategies, Using a Co-Designed, Integrated Biophysical, Social and Economic Simulation Model – University of Edinburgh

Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences PhD Project

  • Understanding the Temporal and Cognitive-Emotional Context of Human-Nature Interactions – Anglia Ruskin University

Full details of the projects offered can be viewed on Closing date for applications is 4th January 2019.

Please apply using our PhD application form (Word file, 118 KB). Completed applications and enquiries should be sent to


Externally funded PhD Opportunities

No externally funded PhD opportunities are available at this time.

Post Graduate Students

Staff picture: Kirsty Holstead

Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (Aberdeen)

My work expands a number of themes, many of which are interdisciplinary including:

  • Water and flood management including natural flood management
  • Transition to a low carbon society, including the role of grassroots initiatives
  • Natural resource governance
  • Community renewable energy production 
  • Land management and agriculture

In all these areas I use qualitative and mixed methods, with a particular interest in participatory methods. I am a trained and experienced facilitator. 

Past research projects:

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.