My research interests lie in the dissection of complex trait phenotypes in human, plant and animal populations into their underlying genetic components. This central problem in statistical genetics consists of multiple interrelated parts, from genetic and epigenetic studies to identify genetic variants involved, transcriptomics to explore the genome-wide expression patterns, to the related fields of proteomics and metabolomics. Integrating knowledge from each level of information has the potential to build realistic understanding of the molecular networks underpinning complex trait variation.
Advances in next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies have enabled a high- throughput genome-wide approach to unravelling the genetic components of phenotypic variation at an unprecedented level of resolution. The rapid pace at which new sequencing technologies are emerging is generating a growing disparity between the rate of data generation and its full and biologically meaningful analysis. I am interested in keeping pace with these advances by developing novel methodological and analytical approaches to integrate NGS into theoretical and empirical studies of complex trait genetics.
This PhD project will focus on the structural and functional effects of polyploidy on the genome of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Polyploid organisms possess multiple copies of the genome and display sophisticated patterns of chromosome behaviour in comparison to their diploid counterparts. As such, progress in the genetic study of these species lags far behind the study of diploid species, and yet progress is essential given that many of our agriculturally most important crops are polyploid, including bread wheat, potato, cotton, and oil-seed rape. The aim of the project will be to explore the consequences of polyploidy for meiotic recombination. Meiosis is a crucial process of cell division in all sexually reproducing organisms, in which recombination creates the genetic variation that is the raw material for all plant and animal breeding. The project will use a combination of laboratory and computer-based work to explore the frequency and genome-wide distribution of recombination in A. thaliana at diploid, allotetraploid and autotetraploid levels. This will involve generating large diploid and polyploid plant populations and analysing high-throughput molecular marker datasets (NGS). The application of this work will involve exploring the feasibility of artificially manipulating genome recombination for gene mapping and for generating novel plant varieties in breeding programs of essential food crops. This work will answer some fundamental questions in genome biology and help to address the urgent food security crisis currently facing the growing human population.
Applications are encouraged from graduates with backgrounds in any of the following disciplines: biology, bioinformatics, statistics, mathematics and computer science. The ideal candidate will have a passion for genetics and an aptitude for statistics and large-scale data analysis.
To find out more about studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, including full details of the research undertaken in each school, the funding opportunities for each subject, and guidance on making your application, you can now order your copy of the new Doctoral Research Prospectus, at: www.birmingham.ac.uk/students/drp.aspx
Please find additional funding text below. For further funding details, please see the ‘Funding’ section.
The School of Biosciences offers a number of UK Research Council (e.g. BBSRC, NERC) PhD studentships each year. Fully funded research council studentships are normally only available to UK nationals (or EU nationals resident in the UK) but part-funded studentships may be available to EU applicants resident outside of the UK. The deadline for applications for research council studentships is in January each year.
Each year we also have a number of fully funded Darwin Trust Scholarships. These are provided by the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh and are for non-UK students wishing to undertake a PhD in the general area of Molecular Microbiology. The deadline for this scheme is also in January each year.
The University of Birmingham also has a 'Doctoral Researcher Elite Scholarship Scheme' which aims to recruit the very best overseas PhD students to Birmingham - more details on this scheme can be found at http://www.graduateschool.bham.ac.uk/rsa/researchcouncils/drelite.shtml
Please note the only funding available for our PhD is via the Scholarships mentioned. All applicants should indicate in their applications how they intend to fund their studies. Any academically suitable applicant that does not indicate how they intend to fund their studies will be considered for the Darwin and/or the Elite Scholarships if not already indicated. We can only consider applicants who have their own funding or wish to apply for their own funding or are successful in gaining a Scholarship.
Research Council Studentships are available for UK applicants. EU applicants resident in the UK may also be eligible. Non-UK students interested in molecular microbiology may apply for a Darwin Trust Scholarship. The deadline for applications for Research Council and Darwin Trust studentships is 31st January 2014.
We have a thriving community of International PhD students and encourage applications at any time from students of any nationality either able to fund their own studies or who wish to apply for their own funding (e.g. Commonwealth Scholarship Council, Islamic Development Bank).
For further information on funding see http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/biosciences/courses/postgraduate/phd.aspx
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6) Leach, L. J., Zhang, Z., Lu, C.Q., Kearsey, M. J. and Luo, Z. W. (2007). The role of cis regulatory motifs and genetical control of expression in the divergence of yeast duplicate genes. Mol. Biol. Evol. 24(11): 2556-2565.
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8) Luo, Z.W., Zhang, Z., Leach, L. et al. (2006). Constructing genetic linkage maps under a tetrasomic model. Genetics. 172: 2635-2645.
9) Lu, C., Zhang, Z., Leach, L. et al. (2006). Impacts of yeast metabolic network structure on enzyme evolution. Genome Biology. 8:407.