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PhD Studentship- Barley starch structure and quality for brewing: Impacts of genotype, environment and crop management.

Microbiology, Brewing & Biotechnology

Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Friday 13 January 2023
Reference:  SCI2126

Supervisor: Professor David Cook (Brewing Science)

Secondary Supervisor: Dr Guillermina Mendiondo (Plant & Crop Sciences). Industry supervisor: Tanya Henderson (AB InBev).

Subject Area:A multi-disciplinary project combining agronomy, elements of plant and crop science and the functional characterisation of barley and malt starch for malting and brewing end usage. Full training/ expert support is available in these key disciplines in both the academic and partner companies.

Research Description

Key malt processing quality parameters, like the starch gelatinization temperature, vary with barley variety and harvest year. More knowledge is required regarding the relative significance of genotype, environment and crop management practices in determining starch properties. This project will be conducted in partnership with AB InBev, the world’s largest brewing company, who manufacture one in four of all beers consumed worldwide. There will be an opportunity to gain valuable industry experience during a placement within a Technical Division of AB InBev.
Barley starch comprises amylopectin, amylose, lipid, and water. The structure of amylose and amylopectin, and the proportion of amylose in granules is under genetic control and is subject to genotypic variation. Stressful environments, have a regulatory effect on the size of the starch granules, the amylose to amylopectin ratio and the amount of lipid within the barley starch. The aim of this project is to examine how starch functional properties are altered when the barley plants are subjected to different water amounts and timing during the growth phases. This is important because while growers, maltsters and brewers require grain yield stability and product uniformity this will be challenging in an era of variable weather patterns. Being able to predict the general physico-chemical nature of the starch in barley because of water stewardship is a step towards “Smart Agriculture” required for barley sustainability.
In Year 1, several lines will be grown across two distinct sites to generate samples for initial characterization, training in the required techniques and to provide an initial snapshot of the significance of genotype. In subsequent years selected varieties will be grown in multiple sites both within the UK and globally under controlled conditions selected to evaluate the separate impacts of environment and crop management practices.
Barley samples will be micromalted and characterized for significant parameters related to starch breakdown during mashing, including: nitrogen content, - and -amylase activities, starch content, amylose to amylopectin ratio. Thermal properties of the starches will be determined using Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and Rapid Visco Analysis (RVA). Malts will be mashed using industry standard protocols and the resulting wort extract and fermentable sugars spectrum determined. Statistical analyses will determine the relative impacts of genotype, site and management practices on starch properties and function. Desirable traits and practices linked to best performance in brewing will be identified.

Award Start Date: 01/10/2023

Duration of Award: 48 months

Terms and Conditions

This research studentship is available to UK (Home) or International applicants and includes full payment of Tuition Fees and a student stipend payable for 4 years (£17,668 in 2022/23 and paid thereafter at RCUK national minimum doctoral stipend rate)

Applicant Qualification Requirements

BSc (Hons) 2i or above, or Msci/MChem (Hons) 2i or above or MSc in an appropriate scientific discipline (examples include Brewing Science, Food Science, Plant and Crop sciences, Agronomy, Plant Genetics/ Breeding/ Crop Improvement, Biotechnology, Biochemistry).

How to Apply

Candidates are welcome to contact Prof. David Cook ( with any queries and for an informal discussion.
This PhD is part of the Doctoral Training Centre BARIToNE (Barley Industrial Training Network), a £3.6 M BBSRC funded six-year Collaborative Training Partnership led by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute and supported by the James Hutton Institute and the Universities of Dundee and Nottingham. It will be based at the University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus.
Please see also our BARIToNE project advert:
Applications MUST be made to the BARIToNE doctoral training centre, to which this PhD is affiliated. For details and to apply, please see:

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