PhD Studentship - Genome Editing for the Exploration of Biotechnological Applications and Evolutionary Potential of Microalgae (MOCK_UENV18EE)

University of East Anglia - Environmental Sciences

Start Date: October 2018

No. of positions available: 1

Hours: Full time or part time

Supervisor: Professor Thomas Mock

Project description: Background

Microalgae contribute more than 25% of global annual carbon fixation, which is equal to the carbon fixation of all tropical rainforests combined. Furthermore, microalgae are at the intersection of many different disciplines because of their interesting biology rooted in complex evolution and their key position in aquatic environments where they underpin global biogeochemical cycles and food webs.

Although many decades of research have elucidated the evolutionary forces underpinning their biology and ecology, only recently our group provided the first evidence of a previously unknown mechanism of Environmental Dependent Differential Allelic Expression discovered in a marine diatom. This evolutionary innovation seems to play a key role for how algae adapt to extreme fluctuating environments. In simple terms, allelic variants of the same genetic locus have diverged under Darwinian selection, facilitating adaptations to sometimes diametrically different environments. Evidence of this phenomenon is found throughout many microalgal communities, as well as other species with vast population sizes in the marine environment.

Research methodology

  1. Single cell DNA and allele-specific RNA-seq with model microalgae to identify gain or loss of heterozygosity and copy number variation, and assess the evolutionary forces underpinning allelic divergence and differential expression.
  2. Selected allelic variants of single genes and entire metabolic pathways will be subjected to editing using CRISPR/Cas.
  3. Testing the ecological significance and biotechnological potential of selected alleles using phenomics.

Training

The student will receive training at the crossroads of functional molecular biology, population genomics and bioinformatics. The work extends to environmental biotechnology. Training will take place in UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences and the Computational Biology Laboratories at UEA and the Earlham Institute. Thus, training will be highly integrative and based on cutting edge tools. Specific training will be provided in how to work collaboratively, how to prioritize and how to organize and structure a complex work flow.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

For further information, please visit www.enveast.ac.uk/apply

Person specification: We are looking for a highly motivated student who is willing to pursue integrated work based on cutting edge technologies from neighbouring disciplines in environmental biology and biotechnology. Suitable first degree subjects are: molecular biology, bioinformatics, population genomics, environmental biotechnology, marine biology, plant molecular biology, genetics, genomics and bio-oceanography.

EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

Minimum entry requirement: 2:1 or equivalent.

Funding notes: Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South East England