Frequently Asked Questions

We know there's a lot to work out when applying for a PhD, so we've put together some answers to help with questions you may have about the EDESIA PhD programme.

You can also take a look at our general PhD How to Apply Page for tips and guidance.


The EDESIA: Plants, Food and Health programme is a multidisciplinary programme delivered across the Norwich Research Park – that is University of East Anglia, Quadram Institute Bioscience, John Innes Centre and the Earlham Institute. It is funded by the Wellcome Trust. Put simply, the idea behind it is that we know that a diet rich in plants is better for health and is associated with reduced mortality, but often we don’t know why. The EDESIA programme aims to use the broad expertise of our research park to answer this question, this being especially important to an ageing population such as ours.

EDESIA is a rotation-based programme, so students undertake 3 short research rotations across their first year (and we encourage these to be held in different institutes) before deciding on their substantive PhD project which they then complete across the next 3 years. Following thesis submission there will be the opportunity to undertake a work placement to broaden skills and experience for career development. The expectation is that this will be a salaried post for up to 9 months – it can be work in a research lab, or an industrial setting, but equally it can be in any workplace that you would like to experience.

You can apply for all postgraduate research programmes on our website. Do read all the information and apply for the EDESIA programme.

There is a minimum English language requirement and all details can be found on our website.

The EDESIA programme isn’t about whether a vegan diet is good or not, it is about increasing consumption of plant foods in the diet, with or without animal products. Whilst we know that this also has environmental benefits, this isn’t part of the programme per se either.

We aim to recruit students we think will be research excellent, and who want to engage with the multidisciplinary nature of the programme. We want students to come in with an open mind and take advantage of the rotation nature of the first year, then decide on their full PhD project from then.

It might be! Some of our rotations and PhDs start with plant biology, then use this to answer questions about nutritional and health benefits of modified plant foods – that’s perfect. However, EDESIA is not about plant health itself, crop improvement alone or soil health – it is about human health.

Yes, we recruit 5 students per year, with funding for up to two of these to be international students. We very much welcome applications from all international students.

This cross-disciplinary programme is open to candidates with an undergraduate degree in any scientific subject of relevance to the scope of the programme. It should give you the foundation to undertake research in an area pertinent to the EDESIA programme. We don’t focus on traditional metrics, so don’t worry about the university you attended or the absolute mark or class you achieved. If you don’t have at least an Upper Second Class degree (or equivalent), we would expect you to be able to demonstrate that you have relevant background, experience or attainment which shows us that you have the potential to succeed in the EDESIA programme.

A Master’s degree is not essential and we have recruited students without this qualification in both of the first two cohorts. If you do have a Master’s degree, then of course this can show us more about you and we want to know about it. A Master’s degree can also demonstrate relevant background and experience particularly if you don’t have an Upper Second Class degree (or equivalent).

Your work experience will largely depend on opportunity. If you do have work experience, then do tell us about it, but if you haven’t had the opportunity to gain such experience, then do still apply.

The research statement (up to 1500 words) should include your own research experience, what research you would like to pursue and how this fits in with your future research and career aspirations and how these fit with the EDESIA programme and its aims. You should also include areas of research within the programme that would be of interest to you were you appointed. You can see examples of potential supervisors on the website, though remember this is not an exhaustive list.

The personal statement (up to 500 words) should be about the experience that brought you to the application and why you are applying for this particular scheme. How does your overall background lend itself to the EDESIA programme and why do you want to do a PhD?