Positions for two PhD students to study the ecology of the insect microbiome are available in Dr. Alison Ravenscraft’s laboratory at the University of Texas at Arlington: https://www.ravenscraftlab.com Both positions start in August 2021. Ravenscraft Lab focuses on ecological interactions between insects and their microbial symbionts. Graduate students are encouraged to contribute to one or both of the lab’s current lines of research:
Project 1 seeks to quantify the role of gut microbiota in the plant-insect chemical arms race. Coevolution between plants and the insects has generated much of Earth’s biodiversity: plants evolve chemical defenses to deter herbivores, and insects evolve ways to avoid or degrade these toxins. The idea that gut flora may assist insects in breaking down plant defenses has been often proposed, but rarely tested. We ask whether, and how much, the insect gut flora contribute to detoxification of an herbivorous diet.
Project 2 examines the relationship between stinkbugs and the bacterial genus Burkholderia, an emerging model system in symbiosis research, to understand when and how animals benefit from environmentally-acquired microbes. A large percentage of the host-associated microbiota, including the gut and skin flora, are obtained directly from the host’s surroundings (rather than from the parental generation). This component of the microbiota is often ignored but may play unique functional roles for the host. We ask whether the environmental acquisition of Burkholderia may confer rapid adaptations to environmental stressors such as pesticides or climate change.
Both projects will involve a combination of field work, insect rearing experiments in the lab, microbial cultivation, and high-throughput metagenomics. Students will acquire highly desirable skills including microbial culture techniques and the generation and analysis of next-generation sequencing datasets. We are a friendly and collegial department, and students will benefit from the opportunity to collaborate with other labs on campus that offer expertise in areas such as genomics, ecological network science, and global change.
Interested students should send an email describing their academic background and research interests to Dr. Ravenscraft (firstname.lastname@example.org) with "PhD position" in the subject line. Applicants should apply to the PhD program in Biology (https://www.uta.edu/biology/graduate-study/phd-program/index.php). Review of applications will begin on December 1, 2020.
UT Arlington is an R1-ranked research university, the second largest institution in the University of Texas system and the third fastest growing public university in the nation, with over 40,000 students. We are a Hispanic-serving institution and rank #8 in the nation for ethnic diversity. Our doctoral program in Biology focuses on training students to apply sophisticated quantitative techniques to solve research problems. This gives our graduates a competitive advantage for careers in industry, government, or academia. The Department (http://www.uta.edu/biology) offers access to numerous resources including state-of-the-art labs, an Animal Care Facility, a Genomics Core Facility, the North Texas Genomics Center, and the Shimadzu Institute for Research Technologies – a major partnership between UT Arlington and Shimadzu Scientific Instruments that offers extensive resources for imaging, proteomics and analytical chemistry.
Arlington is situated in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, affording access to numerous restaurants, microbreweries, and entertainment opportunities (museums, theatre, music, sports). While opportunities to appreciate these are, of course, reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants and museums have re-opened for outdoor and/or socially distanced visits. The city of Arlington alone has 82 public parks, including River Legacy Parks, a 1,300-acre oasis on the Trinity River in the heart of north Arlington. Arlington is the home of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, the Texas Rangers Ballpark, and Six Flags Over Texas. Cost of living is relatively low for a major metropolitan area. More information on the city of Arlington can be found at (www.experiencearlington.org).
Fundamental requirements include:
• A bachelor’s degree or higher in Biology, Ecology, Microbiology, Bioinformatics, or a related field
• Strong work ethic and independence
• Excellent communication and teamwork skills
• Excellent English writing and speaking ability.
Although not required, the preferred candidate will have prior research experience, programming experience (R or Python), and demonstrated scientific writing skills.