£2.4m legacy gift to fund PhDs in plant sciences

Applications are now open for four fully funded PhD studentships in plant sciences thanks to a generous legacy gift of £2.4m to the University of Aberdeen Development Trust from former students of the University.

The newly established Anthony and Margaret Johnston Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Plant Sciences will initially support studentships in Biodiversity and Evolution, Interactions and Global Change.

Closing on Monday 13 June, it is anticipated that the studentships will start in early October.

Anthony and Margaret Johnston graduated from the University in 1943 and maintained a lifelong relationship with the University through the Alumni Relations team.

Mr Johnston, a passionate mycologist and botanist, had an eminent international career in plant pathology, plant disease and plant protection working for the UN and as Director of the Commonwealth Mycology Institute.

Mrs Johnston sadly died in 2005 and her husband passed away in 2019 aged 98.

Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment Professor David Burslem said: “The University of Aberdeen is the only UK higher education institution to offer degrees in Plant and Soil Science and the School of Biological Sciences has a world-leading reputation for pure and applied research across the biological sciences, with a broad cross-cutting theme of understanding the fundamental biological consequences of global environmental change.

“Our research and education in plant and soil science, ranging from fundamental explorations of global biodiversity to sustainable food production, has recently been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, the highest honour for UK further and higher education.

“The newly established Anthony and Margaret Johnston Centre for Doctoral Training in Plant Sciences, made possible by a generous legacy gift from our alumni, will support successive cohorts of doctoral students to undertake training and research related to our core themes of Biodiversity and Evolution, Interactions and Global Change.

“We are delighted to have these four fully funded studentships on offer that will give students the opportunity to be part of large and multi-disciplinary groups of award-winning staff who are active in plant and soil research.”

Professor Graeme Paton, Head of the School of Biological Sciences, said: “We are extremely grateful to Anthony and Margaret Johnston who have supported the University since they met in Aberdeen as students. Their support includes the establishment of scholarships for postgraduate students in Plant and Soil Science a decade ago. Their legacy will enable a paradigm change in skills-based training at the highest level as well as the opportunities and challenges of a doctoral degree.

“These graduates will acquire the skills and expertise that are required as part of our commitment to addressing the climate emergency, and energy transition, some of the biggest challenges of our time.”

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