Post Doc. / Research Assistant / Associate in Plant Pathology

We invite applications for a post-doctoral research associate to join the University of Cambridge Department of Plant Sciences in the area of Food Security and Plant Pathology. The appointee will join the recently established group of Dr Sebastian Eves-van den Akker.

The research will be part of a BBSRC project to understand the juxtaposition of genomic variability and stability in the HYP effector gene family of globally important plant-parasitic nematodes. Like many "effector genes", HYPs encode nematode proteins that are secreted into the plant apoplasm, and are necessary for infection. HYPs are unusual in that, to the best of our knowledge, there is no known mechanism that can account for both the hyper-variable domain organisations/re-organisations, and the gene number variation spanning an order of magnitude between sisters of the same population. Juxtaposed to this variability, the genomes of 'successfully' infecting individuals (those that develop into females) always appear to encode at least one HYP, and all HYPs share two continuous strings of 410 and 94 coding nucleotides that have remained almost unchanged for ~30 million years. Understanding the juxtaposition of genomic variability and stability within a gene family involved in plant-parasitism is academically fascinating while disrupting this highly conserved gene family has the potential for considerable impact.

The successful applicant will use long-read nanopore sequencing to re-construct the local genomic neighbourhood of HYP effectors in individual nematodes, to understand the unprecedented genomic variability. They will use capture sequencing of various populations, species, and life stages to determine the full extent of HYP diversity in 'successfully' infecting individuals (those that develop into females) and 'non-successfully' infecting individuals (those that develop into males), to accurately target multiple HYP members. Finally, they will exploit HYP genetic structure to knockdown the entire gene family during infection, ultimately creating a tool to understand the collective function of the HYP gene family and determine the efficacy of targeting HYP effectors in planta.

The successful applicant will work closely with a technician employed on the same project, and will be expected to have involvement in the training and supervision of PhD students and other researchers within the group. The successful applicant will participate in the dissemination of research through publications and oral presentations both within the department and at conferences.

Applicants must possess, or will soon be completing, a PhD in an appropriate area (e.g. plant-microbe interactions), together with excellent skills in scientific analysis and design, independent working and time management, as well as in oral and written presentation. Applicants should be skilled in wet-lab molecular biological techniques, while a basic understanding of dry-lab bioinformatics is an advantage (in particular nanopore and/or pacbio sequencing) but is not necessary. Good interpersonal skills and enthusiasm are essential. Exceptional early career researchers will be encouraged and mentored to apply for subsequent independent fellowships.

Click here to read more about this post-doc opportunity.

GSBIUniversity of Cambridge