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Ph.D. Student position in the diversity and evolution of insect symbioses at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at JU n Kraków, Poland

Ph.D. Student position in the diversity and evolution of insect symbioses at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at JU n Kraków, Poland

The new Symbiosis Evolution research group (www.symbioses.pl) at the Institute of Environmental Sciences of Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland is seeking a motivated Ph.D. Student to join the project “The evolutionary dynamics of the symbioses of Auchenorrhyncha”, funded by the Polish National Science Centre (NCN) Sonata Bis 8 grant.

The project will comprehensively describe the evolutionary processes and patterns related to microbial symbioses of hemipteran insects from the suborder Auchenorrhyncha (cicadas, spittlebugs, leafhoppers, treehoppers, and planthoppers). These specialized microbes producing essential nutrients have been transmitted from mothers to offspring for a very long time – as much as 300 million years in some cases. But in many Auchenorrhyncha lineages, these ancient symbionts have become replaced or complemented by other microorganisms. We will describe the incidence and nature of these symbiont replacements, the origins of the replacing microbes, their genomic evolutionary patterns, their current biological roles, and the effects of the replacements on the ecology and evolution of hosts. Initially, we will conduct broad microbiome screens and reconstructions of the symbiont replacement patterns across the taxonomic diversity of Auchenorrhyncha. We will then follow up with phylogenomic, comparative genomic, and microscopy-based analyses of symbionts in clades that have experienced the replacements.

The Ph.D. Student will focus on bioinformatic reconstruction of the symbiont co-diversification and replacement patterns, and on phylogenomic analyses of the host and symbiont relationships. They will also have an opportunity to participate in international fieldwork, process the collected insects, conduct molecular work (automated DNA extraction, next-generation sequencing library preparation), and work on the reinterpretation of the extensive microscopy observations by 20th-century German scholars. They will be encouraged to work closely with project collaborators, including Gordon Bennett (University of California - Merced), Insect Biome Atlas consortium members in Sweden, and Anna Michalik (Jagiellonian University).

The successful candidate will have an M.Sc. degree in a relevant field by July 2019; a demonstrated interest in Evolution, Entomology, Microbiology, and/or Genomics; experience with, or a keen interest in learning, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology; and strong English language, communication, and organizational skills. Previous experience with insect ecology, evolution and especially symbioses, molecular biology, microbiome surveys, phylogenomics and/or comparative genomics, as well as German language skills and willingness to travel are advantageous.

The student will receive a generous 48-month tax-free stipend from the National Science Centre (NCN) grant, expected at 4500 PLN (~1050 EUR) per month (pending the funding agency’s approval). This amount goes a long way in Kraków - check out a cost-of-living calculator such as www.numbeo.com. Additional scholarships may be available through Ph.D. programs of Jagiellonian University. The official start date of the Ph.D. program will be October 1st, 2019, but depending on the student’s interest, there may be a possibility of an earlier start as a research assistant.

The recruitment process consists of three stages, detailed on the next page. Initially, the candidates are asked to submit a cover letter with details of two references, a CV, and a copy of statement regarding the processing of personal data, to Dr. Piotr Łukasik (p.lukasik@gmail.com). The review of applications starts on 10th May 2019.

For further information and informal inquiries, please contact Dr. Piotr Łukasik.

The application/recruitment process consists of three stages.

1) Preliminary evaluation of candidates by the Principal Investigator of the project:

The applicant should send the following documents by email to the principal investigator, Dr. Piotr Łukasik (p.lukasik@gmail.com):

  1. A cover letter in English, explaining how the applicant’s background and research interests make them a suitable candidate for the position.
  2. A Curriculum Vitae including information on relevant academic achievements, publications, awards, relevant experience and training. This document should also include the names, affiliations and email addresses of two people with first-hand knowledge of the applicant’s skills and past research experience, who have agreed to provide confidential references
  3. A signed copy of a formal statement concerning the processing of personal data, available in Polish at https://symbioses.pl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/PhD_Data_Statement_PL.doc or in English at https://symbioses.pl/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/PhD_Data_Statement_EN.docx

Candidates selected based on these documents will be interviewed via Skype.

The evaluation of applications begins on 10th May 2019 and continues until the position is filled.

2) Enrollment in a Ph.D. program at the Institute of Environmental Sciences

One or more of the interviewed candidates will be invited to apply for a place in one of the Ph.D. programs at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Jagiellonian University. A place in a Ph.D. program is a prerequisite to being offered the NCN stipend.

Preference will be given to applicants to the Ph.D. Program in Biology: https://wb.uj.edu.pl/studia/phd-biology. In case none of the prospective students are accepted to this English-language program, applicants to the standard Ph.D. program will be considered: https://wb.uj.edu.pl/studia/studia-3-stopnia-biologia (in Polish). The online registration for the programs will open, and the details of the recruitment procedures will be announced, in late Spring.

Note that all applicants who are accepted to the graduate schools secure a Ph.D. position at the Jagiellonian University are eligible for internal funding. The NCN funding from the project grant will be awarded to one student, chosen based on their qualifications (see below).

3) Granting the National Science Centre stipend.

The selection committee will choose one candidate accepted to one of the Ph.D. Programs at the Institute of Environmental Sciences as the NCN recipient. The selection procedure will follow standard regulations regarding scientific scholarships for young researchers in research projects financed by the National Science Centre. The criteria are as follows: scientific achievements, especially publications (50%), other achievements and honors related to the scientific activity (awards, stipends, internships, workshops, etc.; 20%), competence in tasks required in the project realization (30%). The full description of the regulations, in Polish, is available at https://www.ncn.gov.pl/finansowanie-nauki/koszty-w-projektach/stypendia-naukowe/zasady-przyznawania-wyplaty-stypendiow-2).