Monday, November 10, 2014

We're Recruiting a Graduate Student to Study Microbiomes Inside Fungi

The Baltrus lab is looking to recruit a graduate student to start in the Fall of 2015. We have funds to support this student for at least 2 years, but am very willing to work with students to apply for outside fellowships to cover expenses past this point. Outside of this, the School of Plant Sciences at U of A does have opportunities for TA support on a competitive basis. Students are also encouraged to apply for the ABBS program (here), which provides support for rotations during the first year of graduate school. There's also the chance the grant gets renewed in a couple of years, fingers crossed. As such we're interested in recruiting either a Masters or PhD level student, given implicit funding caveats described above.

The student is being recruited to work on an emerging model system for multi-host symbioses. The Arnold lab (a close collaborator on this project) recently described a phylogenetically diverse group of facultative bacterial symbionts, found within a phylogenetically diverse group of fungal endophytes, found within a diverse group of host plants (here). Yes, even fungi harbor microbiomes! Betsy's lab has also demonstrated that these bacterial symbionts can mediate fungal metabolism (here). To this point, all of the bacterial symbionts are able to be grown and maintained under standard laboratory conditions. We have since established a protocol to cure and reinfect fungi with different bacterial symbionts and have demonstrated that effects on fungal metabolism are 1) specific to the bacteria isolate 2) specific to the fungal host. We have also been able to obtain complete genomes for 12 diverse bacterial symbionts. The new graduate student will work with me to tease apart the molecular basis for symbiotic phenotypes using basic microbial genetics approaches coupled with comparative genomics and transcriptomics.

There are many, many open questions at both evolutionary and ecological levels within this system. I am particularly interesting in setting up laboratory evolution experiments using these bacterial and fungal strains. In addition to the experiments described above, I'm open to helping this graduate student develop new research directions within the context of this system and encouraging of experimental independence. The deadline for admissions to UA is December 15th, and additional details can be found at the Plant Sciences admissions page (here).

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by email.

EDIT: even if you don't have questions feel free to email me. It's really important that you get along with your grad school advisor, so set up this connection early!

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