PhD Position in RESPONSE (ESR 01): EpiBreed: Unlocking Epigenetic Variation to Breed Sustainable Crops in a Changing Climate

Updated: 4 days ago

Plant and Microbial Biology
PhD Position in RESPONSE (ESR 01): EpiBreed: Unlocking Epigenetic Variation to Breed Sustainable Crops in a Changing Climate
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The Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology (IPMB) focuses on research and teaching of genetic, molecular, biochemical, developmental, evolutionary, and cellular aspects of plants and their interactions with other organisms, as well as on limnology, aquatic ecology, microbial evolution and ecology, and microbiology. Moreover, IPMB manages the Botanical Museum of UZH, consisting of 35'000 specimens that represents a cultural heritage of international importance.
The research in Ueli Grossniklaus' laboratory is on the developmental genetics of plant reproduction. Research projects are focussing on sexual reproduction and apomixes in Arabidopsis thaliana and maize by using genetic and molecular approaches to identify genes controlling the underlying developmental processes.
Your responsibilities
Within the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847585, University of Zurich is offering a 36-month PhD position for an early-stage researchers (ESR) in in the area of sustainable food systems.
The inclusion of epigenetic variation into breeding schemes has great potential for breeding new crops required for productive, more resilient and sustainable food systems. Unfortunately, we currently know very little about how stable epialleles are inherited over generations, how they are influenced by genetic background, and how they respond to environmental influences. The goal of this project is to gain fundamental insights into the stability, heritability, and environmental dependence of epigenetic variation.
The ESR will setup an experiment that allows to study the stability and heritability of specific epialleles over several generations in populations with varying genetic background grown under different environmental conditions. The DNA methylation status of epialleles will be monitored with assays developed by the ESR. In parallel to the experiment, the ESR is expected to write a review on epigenetic variation and its relevance for breeding. This review will also serve as starting point for public engagement and outreach. Finally, the ESR will analyze, interpret, and publish the outcome of the experiment in an international journal. A planned secondment (i.e. internship) of 3 months at MWSchmid GmbH is part of this project. During this secondment, the ESR will study variable selection using linear models or machine learning in complex experimental designs (possibly involving data from other research fields). If possible, results of this internship will be published. Overall, the PhD project offers an interdisciplinary research training in genetics, molecular biology, bioinformatics (transcriptomics, whole-genome bisulfite sequencing and more) and statistics.
Your profile
Potential candidates should have strong interests in plant genetics, experimental work in the laboratory and statistics. Previous experience in lab work or programming and a solid background in statistics are beneficial. Good writing and communication skills are essential.
Main Research Field: Plant Science
Sub Research Field: Transgenerational epigenetics, Bioinformatics, Statistics
RESPONSE is open to applicants of any nationality.
Language requirement: Proficient oral and written English skills are expected
Eligibility: Early stage researcher in the first 4 years (full-time equivalent) of their research careers, including the period of research training, starting at the date of obtaining the degree which would formally entitle them to embark on a doctorate either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the initial training activities are provided.
At the time of recruitment (for call 1 = December 1, 2019) by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.
What we offer
We are offering an interesting position at the interface of science and innovation. While working in an international, interdisciplinary and innovative research environment at University of Zurich, the ESR will be jointly co-supervised by Prof. Dr. Ueli Grossniklaus (Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Zurich) and Dr. Marc W. Schmid (MWSchmid GmbH).
The successful candidate will be matriculated and will have a working contract at University of Zurich. He/she will work in Switzerland. The secondment will take place at the NWSchmid GmbH in Zurich, Switzerland.
This program offers a three-year full-time position according to the PhD salary regulations of the University Zurich and according to EU regulations for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researchers. This program offers a three-year full-time position according to the PhD salary regulations of University of Zurich and according to EU regulations for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researchers.
RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP): «RESPONSE - to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585. RESPONSE DP builds on the academic expertise of three world-leading institutions - ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel. The successful candidate will be integrated in the research network and infrastructure of the internationally renowned competence center Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center (PSC)
All RESPONSE ESRs will follow the PSC PhD Program Science and Policy that is unique in its kind. Through the curriculum of this program, ESR will be trained in the communication of scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public; the involvement of different stakeholder groups as well as in policy development and endorsement in Europe and at global scale.
Place of work
Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zürich
Start of employment
01.04.2020

Further information
For project, programme and application details: Plant Science Center
For questions and further information on the position, please contact Ueli Grossniklaus or Marc Schmid


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