Postdoctoral Fellowships in Experimental Genomics of Malaria Transmission

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The Department of Molecular Biology. The department provides a vibrant interfaculty research environment and there is access to a wide range of state-of-the-art imaging, metabolomics, genomics and screening facilities.

The position. The holder of a fellowship will join a research team that is part of the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), which is internationally well-connected through the EMBL Nordic Partnership. (The European Molecular Biology Laboratory) for Molecular Medicine. Five postdoctoral fellowships are available for joining Oliver Billker’s new research team. The biennial fellowships are 262 080 SEK per year. You are expected to start in September 2018 or as otherwise agreed.

The projects. Our research forms part of a major effort funded by the European Research Council aimed at understanding the molecular basis of malaria transmission to mosquitoes. Examples of available projects are provided below. For additional information, visit our lab page (https://billkerlab.org), or contact Oliver Billker (oliver.billker@umu.se).

The transmission of malaria parasites to their mosquito vectors depends entirely on the sexual reproduction of the parasite in the mosquito midgut. Much of the underlying biology remains poorly understood. With the advent of genetic screening technology in the rodent model parasite Plasmodium berghei it has now become possible for the first time to screen systematically for essential parasite gene functions in transmission.

  1. Systematic identification of fertility genes in malaria parasites. Using our unique ability to carry out forward genetics screens (Bushell et al., Cell, 2017), you will develop assays to identify experimentally all parasite genes involved in specific aspects of male or female fertility, which is essential for parasite transmission to the vector.
  2. Mechanisms of Plasmodium sex determination and sexual stage differentiation. Outgoing from a list of candidate nucleic acid binding proteins which have already emerged from a genetic screen, you will use ChIP, single cells RNAseq and protein interaction studies to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of development in a divergent eukaryote downstream of the master regulator, transcription factor ap2-g (Sinha et al., Nature, 2014).
  3. Single Cell Biology of Malaria Transmission. Using single cell transcriptomics (scRNAseq, e.g. Reid et al., eLife, 2018), you will carry out an in-depth analysis of developmental mutants, using their unique transcriptional signatures to propose genetic networks and mechanisms of parasite development during transmission. You may visit collaborators in endemic countries for a comparative analysis of rodent and other animal models with parasites infecting humans.
  4. Mosquito Immunity. Our unpublished RNAseq analysis of thousands of single mosquito hemocytes has revealed new populations of immune cells of unknown function. You will use imaging and CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome editing to reveal their roles in controlling insect immunity and vector competence.
  5. Evolution of sexual processes in a divergent eukaryote. You will exploit the position of malaria parasites in the tree of life to reveal the most conserved molecules in cellular processes involved in eukaryotic sexual reproduction (e.g. the axoneme, meiosis, gamete fusion), as well as discover some of the unique biology of apicomplexan parasites.

Qualifications. You have a PhD in a relevant area such as genetics, genomics, cell and molecular biology or infectious disease research, as well as a proven ability to deliver high-quality scientific outputs. To be eligible you should have completed your PhD degree a maximum of three years before the end of the application period, unless special circumstances exist. You should be able to work as well independently as in team. You should have a keen interest and sound understanding of molecular and cell biology and experimental genetics. You need to be willing to undertake research involving animals. You are proficient in oral and written communication in English. You must be able to demonstrate a good ability to communicate science effectively and be able to develop creative ways to solve scientific problems.

For most projects the ability to analyse large data sets would be an advantage, as well as an understanding of programming and analysis software such as R, Perl or Python. A background in malaria research or rodent disease models would be highly desirable, as would be knowledge in molecular parasitology and genomics.

Application. The application should include:

  • A personal cover letter explaining why you want to work with us, how you fulfil the essential requirements, which project you would be most interested in, what you can bring to the project and in which direction you may want to develop it (2 A4 pages maximum).
  • A curriculum vitae that documents academic education and past and previous employments.
  • Your publication list.
  • Copies of doctoral thesis and PhD certificate. If you are close to completing you PhD, we would still like to hear from you.
  • Names and contact details with e-mail addresses of two to three academic references.
  • Other relevant documentation you wish to include in support of your application.

The application shall be written in English (preferably) or Swedish. Your complete application, marked with reference number FS 2.1.6-1171-18, should be sent electronically (in PDF format) to medel@diarie.umu.se (with reference number on the subject line) no later than July 27th, 2018.

One copy of the application should also be sent to oliver.billker@umu.se with the reference number in the subject line.