EU-LIFE

Building and promoting Excellence in Life Sciences in Europe
Building and promoting Excellence in Life Sciences in Europe

Ph.D. position in Experimental Evolution and Evolutionary Genomics

Description

A Ph.D. position is available in the Van de Peer Lab in Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Genomics (BEG), VIB – Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium (http://bioinformatics.psb.ugent.be/). The student will work on an FWO funded project in collaboration with Olivier De Clerck (Phycology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium). 

Project: Testing big evolutionary hypotheses with small organisms - The effects of whole-genome duplication (WGD) on plant evolution

Polyploids, organisms that underwent a WGD, possess one or more extra copies of their genome, which has the potential to facilitate the evolution of new functionality. Many WGDs are accordingly found in very successful eukaryotic lineages characterized by particular biological innovations and/or diversifications. 

However, the acquisition of two complete genomes is generally not well tolerated by cells, leading to harmful effects on the overall fitness and fertility of the organism. This results in a paradox between the observed immediate negative effects of WGDs, and their attributed long-term positive effects. Phylogenomic dating of WGDs in plants suggests that many polyploids became established during times of environmental upheaval or extinctions. Present-day polyploids are also often more abundant in harsh environments such as the Arctic, which together would suggest that environmental turmoil and stress may enhance polyploid establishment, because their increased genetic variation could potentially enable rapid adaptive changes. To test this hypothesis, we are conducting evolutionary experiments in unicellular green algae (the model system Chlamydomonas), aiming to gain novel insights into why and how polyploids can obtain an evolutionary advantage over their non-polyploid ancestors.

The project has two components: 

1) Experimental evolution of algae to study the effects of stress and changing environmental conditions on the survival and establishment of polyploids. 

2) Evolutionary genomics of evolved algae using next-generation sequencing to correlate genomic and transcriptional dynamics with fitness, adaptation, and establishment.

Profile

  • Candidates should have a Master’s degree (or equivalent), a strong background in evolutionary biology, and a keen interest and preferably experience in both empirical research and bioinformatics. 
  • The student needs to be dedicated to carrying out long-term multidisciplinary research which involves regular maintenance of algal cultures, some molecular work, as well as evolutionary genomic analyses. 
  • Basic knowledge of programming/scripting and statistics is required. Fluent English and good communication skills, oral and in writing, are essential.

We offer

The position is for three years (a one-year extension might be possible) and is available immediately.

How to apply?

Send your online application containing a CV, a motivation letter (max. 1 page) and contact information of two referees, combined in a single PDF, to Dr. Eylem Aydogdu. For further information about the position also contact Dr. Eylem Aydogdu directly.

Host Institute