University of Cambridge

Job Opportunities


Wellcome Trust Doctoral Studentship

The Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), University of Cambridge, invites applications for a three-year doctoral studentship to start in October 2021. We seek outstanding candidates whose research will explore the history of 20th and 21st century agriculture, particularly with respect to plant exploration and/or plant health regulations.

The successful applicant will be part of the Wellcome Trust funded project 'From Collection to Cultivation: Historical Perspectives on Crop Diversity and Food Security' directed by Dr Helen Anne Curry. This project explores the history of international agricultural research related to crop diversity from the 1930s onward. It aims to develop a better understanding of how and by whom modern agricultural crops have been made.

The successful applicant for the studentship will develop a project that investigates the twentieth-century history of either (1) plant exploration or (2) plant introduction (the movement of plants across political borders), with an eye to documenting how the study and use of crop diversity has, or has not, fostered food security.

Applicants interested in (1) exploration will develop a project that charts the reasons why and the means by which researchers and institutions obtained breeding materials from distant locations from the 1920s onwards. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: the training and experiences of twentieth-century agricultural explorers, the contributions of peasant and indigenous farmers to plant exploration, the science and politics of crop plant bioprospecting, and the origins of globally important collections of crop diversity.

Applicants interested in (2) introduction will develop a project that investigates the transit of plant materials across political borders with a view to understanding how crop threats and pathogens have been monitored, managed, and mitigated on national and international levels. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: specific plant pathogens and the techniques, tools, and screening measures developed to restrict their spread, the formation of institutions and infrastructures that regulate plant transport and trade, and the impacts of plant pathogens on food security.

Applicants are also invited to proposed topics that bridge these two themes.

The proposed doctoral project must integrate institutional histories with accounts of the daily activities of researchers within institutions and the movement of plants through these. Further details about 'From Collection to Cultivation', including its aims and methods, can be found at:

The three-year studentship pays a stipend plus University and College fees at the home rate, with additional funding available for conference and research travel. Applicants from low- and middle-income countries will be eligible to have the university's international fees paid

Candidates will usually be expected to hold (or be studying for) a master's degree or equivalent in one of the following fields: history of science, medicine and technology; science studies; modern history; environmental humanities; geography. Applicants in closely allied fields are encouraged to make inquires. The expected academic standards are explained at:

To apply, interested candidates should begin by contacting Dr Helen Anne Curry ( as soon as possible, to discuss their intended project and receive advice on preparing an application.

Formal applications will then be submitted to HPS through the University Graduate Application Portal, indicating that the application is for the 'From Collection to Cultivation' studentship under the supervision of Dr Curry:

Applications close on 3 December 2020. Admissions to the graduate program and competition for the studentship will be considered separately, and applicants will be considered for all funding at Cambridge HPS for which they are eligible.

Further information on graduate funding opportunities in HPS can be found at:

Please quote reference JN24163 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.