Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Biological Sciences

Start dates

October 2024

Application deadline

1 March 2024

Applications are invited for a fully-funded four year PhD to commence in October 2024. 

This is a SoCoBio DTP industry co-funded PhD based in the School of Biological Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Steven Dodsworth (University of Portsmouth),  Dr John David and Dr Kálmán Könyves (RHS)

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for four years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/4).

The work on this project could involve:

  • Collaborative research, including working in the gardens and laboratories at the Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley (industry partner)
  • State of the art high-throughput DNA sequencing of different daffodil cultivars to identify key genes
  • Genetics to investigate the expression of key genes at different stages of flower development
  • Macroevolutionary analyses to uncover the dynamics of corona evolution and the potential role of hybridization in morphological innovation

Little is known about the developmental mechanism underpinning this key structure. Previous research shows that it has homologies with the stamen whorl, but the genes that define the corona (vs. stamens or tepals) and act as a developmental switch are currently unknown. The corona in Narcissus shows remarkable variation, from the small cups of tazettas and jonquils, through to the familiar trumpets of pseudonarcissi, to bulbocodiums that have enlarged coronas and very reduced tepals. Species such as N. poeticus possess divergent coronas within their clade (a small cup with novel red pigmentation, amongst taxa with yellow trumpets). Further still, two species (N. broussonettii and N. cavanillesii) have independently lost the corona structure altogether.

A combination of developmental genetics and phylogenetics will be used to answer both mechanistic and macroevolutionary questions regarding the development and evolution of the corona. Comparative transcriptomics will be used to investigate the expression of genes at different stages of flower development, and identify candidate genes involved in corona specification. Candidate genes will then be investigated in a broader number of taxa/samples using a qRT-PCR approach. In tandem a high-throughput sequence dataset will be used to infer Narcissus phylogeny and reconstruct corona states.

Many cultivars have been developed that vary in the size/shape/colour of the corona, and more recently the splitting/fusion of corona segments. These aspects of corona morphology are important for both effective pollination and the breeding potential of new daffodil varieties, a significant crop worth many millions to UK industry as both bulbs and cut flowers.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first ecological science degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Interests in botany/horticulture, evolutionary/developmental biology, and high-throughput DNA/RNA sequencing. Relevant skills in taxonomy, microscopy, molecular biology, experience with high-throughput data analysis, R/programming.

How to apply

We encourage you to contact Dr Steven Dodsworth  ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BIOL9000124 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.