The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced the opening of the annual Postgraduate Studentship competition for 2019.

The scheme was launched this year by DAERA’s Permanent Secretary, Dr. Denis McMahon with former PhD student, Jonathan Blair and current student, Kerry McIlwaine and it will offer 12 new Studentships due to commence in October 2019.

Dr. McMahon said: “Research and knowledge play an important role in the sustainable development of the agri-food, environmental, fishing and forestry sectors of the NI economy.

Our postgraduate programme is an important strand of our total science programme and contributes to our vision of a ‘living, working, active landscape valued by everyone’.

DAERA currently funds 36 postgraduate students to carry out specific research for the department over a three-year period, while working towards a PhD qualification.

Kerry McIlwaine, from Larne, graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 2018, being awarded a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with Professional Studies.

McIlwaine is currently carrying out her PhD in the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute and Queens University Belfast.

She is carrying out important research into poultry production systems, which could ultimately benefit the industry in Northern Ireland.

Jonathan Blair, from Belfast, completed his PhD in September and is currently working at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute as a scientist.

He said: “I am grateful to DAERA for funding me throughout my three year PhD into carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions. It was very hard work but ultimately rewarding.

“I have gained a deeper understanding of my area of study and, thanks to DAERA, how this work fits in with larger policy objectives. I would encourage anyone interested in taking their degree to the next level through research to apply.”

Funding PhDs

DAERA provides approximately £750,000 a year to fund Postgraduate Studentships.

Funding is provided in the form of a student maintenance grant, with fees and other costs paid directly to the student’s University or Research Centre.

Applicants must meet eligibility criteria, including academic qualifications and the research applications must meet one of DAERA’s Postgraduate Studentship Priority Research Areas for 2019.

Details of these and currently funded projects, along with application forms and terms and conditions for the awards, are available on the NI Direct website.

Applications must be submitted before 3:00pm on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.