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Epigenetic basis of nutrition-mediated development in the honeybee


   School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

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  Dr Paul Hurd, Dr Chema Martin  No more applications being accepted  Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

About the Project

  • Supervisors: Dr Paul Hurd and Dr Chema Martin
  • Funding: China Scholarship Council (CSC)
  • Deadline: 31st January 2023

Research environment

The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 180 PhD students working on projects in the biological and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.

The Hurd lab employs functional epigenomics as a successful research theme; integrating molecular biology, biochemistry, proteomics and genomic approaches in honey bees in an effort to understand the epigenetic basis for gene-environment interactions during organismal development. Our research is focussed on the honey bee as an emerging model organism for epigenetics and we study how nutrition dictates the capacity of the honey bee genome to produce three phenotypically distinct organisms. Currently consisting of 2 postdoctoral researchers and 1 PhD student, the Hurd Lab is funded by UK national funding bodies (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and the European Comission through EASI-Genomics. 

Training and development

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

In addition, the Hurd lab is a founding member and core group of the QMUL Epigenetics Hub (http://qmulepigenetics.com/home). This provides considerable added value and experience for the training of the student. Joint lab meetings are held and attended by all groups, providing a very knowledgeable, stimulating, varied and dynamic environment. The student will be expected to give a seminar on their work every four months, which will not only develop their presentation skills but will provide an advisory group of fourteen other group leaders.        

Project description

The honey bee is an important emerging model organism for understanding epigenetic mechanisms. The honey bee genome encodes three phenotypically distinct but genetically indistinguishable organisms (queens, workers and drones) that are determined during early post-embryonic development by differential nutrition. The molecular mechanisms responsible for this differential development are unknown but through previous and current funding, we were the first to demonstrate that queen, worker and drone honey bees have phenotype-specific chromatin epigenetic states that establish and orchestrate the distinct patterns of gene expression that determine developmental trajectory.

Building on this work, the PhD project will examine the role of specific nutritional components as epigenetic modulators of phenotypic plasticity during development using our well-established in vitro honey bee rearing techniques. The student will be trained in state-of-the-art molecular techniques for epigenomics (ATAC-seq, ChIP-seq, CUT&RUN, CUT&TAG, RNA-seq), proteomics (mass spectrometry), metabolomics (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry), biochemistry (chromatin biology, recombinant protein techniques) and apiculture (general beekeeping, queen rearing, in vitro bee rearing). You will not only obtain hands on experimental approaches but also develop proficiency in computational and statistical analyses of large genomic datasets. 

The aim of this multidisciplinary PhD project is to exploit the unique opportunities of the honey bee system to understand how an environmental cue (nutrition) shapes phenotype through epigenetic mechanisms in an economically and ecologically important organism.

Funding

This studentship is open to students applying for China Scholarship Council funding. Queen Mary University of London has partnered with the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to offer a joint scholarship programme to enable Chinese students to study for a PhD programme at Queen Mary. Under the scheme, Queen Mary will provide scholarships to cover all tuition fees, whilst the CSC will provide living expenses for 4 years and one return flight ticket to successful applicants.

Eligibility and applying

Applicants must be:

- Chinese students with a strong academic background.

- Students holding a PR Chinese passport.

- Either be resident in China at the time of application or studying overseas.

- Students with prior experience of studying overseas (including in the UK) are eligible to apply. Chinese QMUL graduates/Masters’ students are therefore eligible for the scheme.

Please refer to the CSC website for full details on eligibility and conditions on the scholarship. 

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project such as molecular biology, biochemistry, biomedical science, genetics, developmental and cell biology. Some previous computational experience would be an advanatge. A masters degree is desirable, but not essential.

Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/international-students/englishlanguagerequirements/postgraduateresearch/

Informal enquiries about the project can be sent to Paul Hurd at [Email Address Removed]. Formal applications must be submitted through our online form by 31st January 2023 for consideration, including a CV, personal statement and qualifications. 

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for a formal interview by the project supervisor. Those who are successful in their application for our PhD programme will be issued with an offer letter which is conditional on securing a CSC scholarship along with academic conditions still required to meet our entry requirements.

Once applicants have obtained their offer letter from Queen Mary they should then apply to CSC for the scholarship by the advertised deadline with the support of the project supervisor.

For September 2023 entry, applicants must complete the CSC application on the CSC website between 10th March - 31st March 2023.

Only applicants who are successful in their application to CSC can be issued an unconditional offer and enrol on our PhD programme. For further information, please go to: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/scholarships/items/china-scholarship-council-scholarships.html

Apply Online


Funding Notes

This studentship is open to students applying for China Scholarship Council funding. Queen Mary University of London has partnered with the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to offer a joint scholarship programme to enable Chinese students to study for a PhD programme at Queen Mary. Under the scheme, Queen Mary will provide scholarships to cover all tuition fees, whilst the CSC will provide living expenses for 4 years and one return flight ticket to successful applicants.

References

1. Lowe, R., Wojciechowski, M., Ellis, N. & Hurd, P. J. (2022) Chromatin accessibility-based characterisation of brain gene regulatory networks in three distinct honey bee polyphenisms. Nucleic Acids Res. https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkac992
2. Wojciechowski, M., Lowe, R., Maleszka, J., Conn, D., Maleszka, R. & Hurd, P. J. (2018) Phenotypically distinct female castes in honey bees are defined by alternative chromatin states during larval development. Genome Res. 28, 1532-1542.
3. Dickman, M. J., Kucharski, R., Maleszka, R. & Hurd, P. J. (2013) Extensive histone post-translational modification in the honey bee. Insect Biochem. Mol. Biol. 43, 125-137.
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