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National tree genomics- Functional genetics in horticulture using viral induced gene regulation

Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Monday, November 30, 2020 Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Horticulture is a highly valuable industry within the Australian agricultural sector. Tree crops account for half of the industry’s value, with mango, macadamia, avocado, almond and citrus being Australia’s major players. New management and breeding strategies, as well as intensive production systems, can help maintain profitability in a changing global market. A deeper understanding of the relationship between a crop phenotype and genotype can provide new opportunities to efficiently address current and future needs of the Australian horticulture industry.

The PhD project is part of a new research program established under National Tree Genomics Program – Genotype Prediction Toolbox, in collaboration with partners from Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland and Department of Primary Industries. Aims are to establish annotation, allelic diversity and functional characterisation of key genes involved in advancing plant productivity to drive the selection of desirable traits. Tools and technologies have been developed to understand the function of gene traits valuable to Australian horticulture. The overall goal of this project is to equip the horticulture industry and improve global food security.


The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) within Western Sydney University is seeking a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD program of research to commence in 2021. The project aims to advance engineering of genetic tools for tree functional genomics. We will expand the development of viral gene regulation systems to transiently control the expression of genes involved in flowering, tree architecture, secondary metabolism and development. Gene functions will be validated using Arabidopsis as a model organism. The end goal is to establish rapid flowering tree crops with a compact architecture and fast-forward tree breeding programs to identify genetic traits controlling precocious flowering, tree architecture, nutrition and yield.
The position is based at the Hawkesbury campus of Western Sydney University, Richmond, NSW.


• Domestic students will receive a tax free stipend of $30,000 per annum and a funded place in the doctoral degree.
• International students will receive a tax free stipend of $30,000 per annum. Those with a strong track record will receive a fee waiver.
• The project will also provide funding for research costs and conference travel.


We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, who are keen to apply their skills to key issues in environmental and genetic biology. In particular, the project is suitable for candidates with strong interests in plant molecular biology, biochemistry and genomics, and horticulture.

The successful applicant should:
• hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian First Class Bachelor (Honours) degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least 25% research component, (iii) Research Masters degree, or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications and be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
• demonstrate strong academic performance in subjects relevant to plants, molecular biology, biochemistry, genomics and/or virology.
• have an understanding of the importance of tree functional genomics.
• be willing to learn bioinformatics and genomic engineering technologies.
• possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.
• have proven data analysis experience.
• International applicants must also meet English language proficiency.


• Applicants should discuss their eligibility and interests with Dr Chris Cazzonelli at .

• Contact the Graduate Research School to discuss enrolment and scholarships at .

• Please submit an application form, CV, names and contact information of two referees, and a one-page document stating how your research interests align with the project’s aims.

• The application form can be downloaded:

Closing date: 30th November 2020
*Applications close at 11.59pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).

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