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Mathematical modelling of plant circadian clocks - addressing the question of how the clock oscillators are coordinated in plants

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Domijan
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

This position will remain open until filled, and so we recommend applying as soon as possible.

The plant circadian clock is a time keeping mechanism that controls numerous physiological and developmental processes in plants and allows them to respond to environmental cues. Since individual cells have their own clocks, but a lot of downstream processes have to be carried out at precise times of the day, it is important to understand how these circadian oscillators are coordinated. Recent studies have described points of clock coordination [2-4], but still much remains to be understood about how this coordination is achieved.

The aim of this project is to develop a multiscale framework to address the question of how the clock oscillators are coordinated in plants. The project will address interesting mathematical questions in the field of nonlinear dynamical systems and pattern formation as well as contribute to the understanding of a cutting-edge biological problem. The project will start with the examination of single cell data from [3] and take into account the information that perturbations of external factors reveal about the clocks [1,5]. The student will develop and use skills from nonlinear dynamical systems, perturbation theory and pattern formation to carry out this work. They will not be expected to perform experimental work, but will be expected to collaborate with the lab of Dr James Locke at Cambridge University and use their mathematical analysis to inform further experiments.

At Liverpool the student will be part of a vibrant and diverse Mathematical Biology community and will have an opportunity to interact with the Liverpool Centre for Mathematics in Healthcare, as well as to attend a range of Masters level courses, MAGIC courses and research seminars.

The candidate is expected to have a solid mathematical background, with a degree in a quantitative discipline such as Mathematics, Physical Sciences, or Engineering. Basic skills or at least interest in computer programming are expected. Knowledge of nonlinear dynamical systems is preferred but not essential. While knowledge about the biological problem is not required, a genuine interest in the application is a must.

All shortlisted candidates will be contacted and invited to interview via Skype, in order to discuss the opportunities available. We are likely to make an offer soon after that.

As a GTA student you will spend most of your time working towards the objectives of the PhD programme. The teaching assistant duties will take up to 72 hours per semester (a mix of tutorial and marking) during each semester. Candidates can apply to work in any area of Mathematical Sciences with an agreed supervisor.

Funding Notes

This is a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) studentship for 3.5 years. It is fully funded, covers University fees at the level set for UK/EU students plus provides a stipend in line with that paid to students funded by the research councils (tax-free maintenance grant of last year was at £14,553, subject to increase in 2018/19 and with rises anticipated in future years).


[1] Bordage et al. (2016) Organ specificity in the plant circadian system is explained by different light inputs to the shoot and root clocks. New Phytologist.
[2] James et al. (2008) The circadian clock in Arabidopsis roots is a simplified slave version of the clock in shoots, Science.
[3] Gould, Domijan et al. Coordination of robust single cell rhythms in the Arabidopsis circadian clock with spatial waves of gene expression, BioRxiv.
[4] Takahashi et al. (2015) A hierarchical multioscillator network orchestrates the Arabidopsis circadian system, Cell.
[5] Voß et al. (2015) The circadian clock rephrases during lateral root organ initiation in Arabidopsis Thaliana, Nature Communications.

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