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National Tree Genomics – Functional Genotype Prediction For Horticulture

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Horticulture is a highly valuable industry within the Australian agricultural sector. Tree crops account for half of the horticulture industry’s value, with mango, macadamia, avocado, almond and citrus being the major Australian horticultural tree crops. The goal is to help the horticulture industry and improve global food security. New management and breeding strategies, as well as intensive production systems, can maintain profitability in a changing global market. A deeper understanding of the relationship between a crops phenotype and underlying genetic mechanisms has the potential to offer new tools and opportunities to efficiently address current and future needs of the Australian horticulture industries.

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) within Western Sydney University is looking for a highly motivated and qualified candidate for a 3-year PhD program of research to commence in 2019. This studentship is part of a new research program established under National Tree Genomics Program – Genotype Prediction Toolbox. 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 need to be developed to understand the function of gene traits valuable to Australian horticulture
This project aims to develop new tools and technologies to advance functional genomics. We will develop new viral induced gene silencing systems to transiently silence genes involved in the control of carotenoid secondary metabolism, development, flowering, and tree architecture. Gene function will be validated using Arabidopsis as a model organism. The end goal is to establish rapid flowering tree crops and advance breeding programs to identify genetic traits involved in disease resistance, precocious flowering, nutrition and that increase yield and cropping density.

The position is based at the Hawkesbury campus of Western Sydney University, Richmond, NSW. Our collaborating partners are Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland and Department of Primary Industries.


We welcome applicants from a range of backgrounds, who are keen to apply their skills to the project topic. The successful applicant should:
- Hold qualifications and experience equal to one of the following (i) an Australian Bachelor Honours degree, (ii) coursework Masters with at least a 25% research component, (iii) a Research Masters degree or (iv) equivalent overseas qualifications.
- Demonstrate strong academic performance in plant molecular biology, biochemistry, virology and/or genomics.
- Be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level.
- Possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Have proven data analysis experience.
- International applicants must also meet English language proficiency

How to apply

- Contact Dr Chris Cazzonelli to discuss your eligibility, the project requirements and your intention to apply. Alternatively you may contact Dr Alexie Papanikolaou , or Dr Jonathan Plett .
- Complete the application via the link
- Compile your CV, contact information for two referees and a one-page proposal stating how your research interests align with the project aims.
- Ensure all documentation is certified according to Western Sydney University requirements (
- All applications and supporting documentation must be submitted directly to the Graduate Research School as follows:
- Use the email subject line: Application_2019_069_HIE
- Submit to

Funding Notes

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. All International students are required to hold an Overseas Student Health Care (OSHC) policy covering the duration of their studies in Australia. The HIE will provide funding for a single Overseas Student Health Cover policy. The project will also provide substantial benefits in terms of additional operational funding for project fieldwork and data collection, and travel and conference attendance.

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