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Postdoctoral Position: Evolution of Pathogen Resistance/Freezing Tolerance in Switchgrass

 The Lowry lab in the Department of Plant Biology at Michigan State University (MSU) is seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate who will conduct research on the evolution of Pathogen Resistance and/or Freezing Tolerance in switchgrass. Switchgrass is an important target species for domestic production of cellulosic biofuels. The principal aim of most switchgrass breeding programs is to develop high-yielding cultivars. However, as feedstock plantings expand, so will pathogen pressure. Unless controlled, fungal pathogens with explosive disease potential will likely drive yield declines and economic losses. Pathogen resistance can be developed through breeding programs that exploit natural genetic variation in disease resistance. Much of the functional genetic variation in switchgrass is distributed clinally with latitude as well as between lowland and upland ecotypes. In general, southern lowland cultivars of switchgrass have many advantages over northern upland cultivars because they are higher yielding, require fewer nitrogen inputs, and are more resistant to pathogens. In addition, southern lowland cultivars are generally more tolerant to heat, drought, and flooding than northern upland cultivars. However, southern lowland cultivars are more susceptible to winter kill than northern upland cultivars.

The proposed research will utilize new and powerful genetic mapping populations (QTL and GWAS) to identify genomic regions responsible for divergence in disease resistance and freezing tolerance between northern upland and southern lowland switchgrass ecotypes. These mapping populations have been planted at an unprecedented geographical scale, spanning ten common garden field sites distributed over 17 degrees of latitude in the central United States. Therefore, this experiment is ideal for identification of regionally effective fungal pathogen resistance loci (at one sites) as well as globally effective loci (across multiple sites). In addition, we plan to survey populations for survival to identify loci involved in overwinter survival. Results from the field will be validated through laboratory experiments on fungal pathogen resistance and freezing tolerance. Overall, these studies will provide an improved understanding of the process local adaptation and identify loci that can be utilized in switchgrass breeding programs.

Required Qualifications: PhD in a field related to Genetics, Genomics,Bioinformatics, Evolution, Plant Biology, and/or Plant Pathology at the time of hire.

 Desired Qualifications: Expertise in Plant Pathology and/or Freezing Tolerance. General interest and understanding of evolution, genetics, and plant biology. Experience working in the field and laboratory with plants. Experience with analyzing genomic data. Experience conducting Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS).

To Apply: Potential candidates should send a one page statement of past research accomplishments, CV, and list of three references to David Lowry at dlowry@msu.edu.

For Potential Graduate Students

If you are interested in topics related to my research and think that you might be interested in joining my lab, please feel free to contact me at dlowry@msu.edu. Before contacting me, I strongly encourage you to read some of my recent publications, which can be found at:  https://davidbryantlowry.wordpress.com/publications/

My appointment at MSU is in the Department of Plant Biology (http://www.plantbiology.msu.edu/). While my appointment is in Plant Biology, there is the opportunity for graduate students to apply jointly to the University Program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior (EEBB; http://eebb.msu.edu/). Students in EEBB obtain their degree from a core department (Plant Biology), but also receive a certificate from EEBB. Students can also join my lab and receive their degree through the Genetics Graduate Program (http://www.genetics.msu.edu/index.html), which is part of the BioMolecular Science Gateway (http://biomolecular.msu.edu/index.html).

There are several fellowships at MSU, one exclusively for students in the plant sciences (unfortunately, these are only available for US citizens). There are also TA positions available in the Plant Biology department at MSU. The Genetics Program supports students during their first year of laboratory rotations. If you are eligible, I strongly encourage you to apply for a NSF Graduate Fellowship. These are very competitive, but a real benefit to your graduate program.

All of the application materials for the PhD programs should be available on the web, but if you have any questions regarding Plant Biology, please let me know. For information and application materials for EEBB or Genetics, check the websites (see above). If you have questions about Plant Biology admission requirements and financial support, contact the Plant Biology graduate program coordinator Dr. Alan Prather (alan(at)plantbiology.msu.edu).

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