Vacancy Details: Postdoctoral Researcher

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John Innes Centre

JIC is an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology. Our mission is to carry out fundamental and strategic research, to train scientists and to make our findings available to society.

The scientific research at the Centre makes use of a wide range of disciplines in the biological and chemical sciences, including cell biology, biochemistry, chemistry, genetics and molecular biology.

The John Innes Centre prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive working environment for all. We have a diverse and multicultural scientific community and thrive on our European and international links. The John Innes Centre is proud to hold a prestigious Athena SWAN Gold award, recognising the impact of our work in promoting gender equality in science. For more information, go to We are also a proud member of the Stonewall Diversity Champion’s programme and, as a Disability Confident employer, guarantee to offer an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for the post.

The John Innes Centre is a registered charity (No. 223852), limited by guarantee (registered in England No. 511709) and is an Equal Opportunities Employer.

Athena Swan

disability confident employer

   Stonewall Diversity Champion

Advancing gender equality in science, engineering and technology.

Post Number1003163
Job TitlePostdoctoral Researcher
Closing Date28 Oct 2017
Starting Salary£31,250 - £38,100
Hours per week 37
Project Title Functional characterization of aphid effectors
Expected/Ideal Start Date 08 Jan 2018
Months Duration 18
Main purpose of the job The candidate will clone virulence protein genes from several aphid species and assess their expression levels in aphids on different plant hosts. The plant targets of (mutants of) the virulence proteins will be determined by yeast two-hybrid screening against plant transcript libraries and via co-immunoprecipitation using specific antibodies or probes and subsequent mass spectrometry analyses. The candidate will use various plant genetics methods to examine if the plant targets are involved in plant-aphid interactions. Finally, the candidate will transform the silkworm Bombyx mori with (mutants of) aphid virulence (and plant target) protein genes to produce these proteins in the silkworm silk gland and purify them from the silk for structure-function analyses, possibly together with the plant targets.
Department Crop Genetics
The Department of Crop Genetics undertakes fundamental research on the biology of cereals, brassicas and legumes to understand the genetic and molecular basis of phenotypic variation. A major goal is to develop the technologies and knowledge base to provide a predictive framework that will underpin conventional and novel plant breeding strategies. This will enable high-yielding, stress and disease resistant varieties, with a particular end-use quality, suitable for an efficient but benign agriculture.
Group Details Research in the Hogenhout group focuses on understanding the molecular basis of interactions of sap-feeding insects (aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies) and plants and insect transmission of plant pathogens (such as the bacterial pathogen phytoplasma). Both insects and phytoplasmas produce virulence proteins (effectors) that modulate plant processes to promote plant colonization by these parasites. We use a variety of approaches to identify and functionally characterize the effectors, including insect bioassays, genetics, (functional) genomics, genetic modification, RNA interference (RNAi), proteomics, and biochemistry.

Research in the Huang group focuses predominantly on Bombyx mori to establish an insect genetic manipulation platform, which will be used for exploration of insect sex determination and regulation mechanisms, improving silk quality and developing environmentally friendly pest management methods. The Huang lab is also involved in genome-wide sequence analyses of the cotton/melon aphid Aphis gossypii.
Advert Text Postdoctoral Researcher

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Researcher to join the laboratories of Saskia Hogenhout in the Department of Crop Genetics at the John Innes Centre (JIC, Norwich, UK) and Yongping Huang in the Insect Molecular Genetics group at the Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology (SIPPE), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS, Shanghai, China). The successful candidate will be at the John Innes Centre for a period of 18 months starting January 2018 or as soon as possible after this date.

Research in the Hogenhout group focuses on understanding the molecular bases of interactions between sap-feeding insects (aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies) and plants and the transmission of plant pathogens (such as the bacterial pathogen phytoplasma) by these insects. The Huang group studies insect genetics and sex determination of the silk worm Bombyx mori and the cotton/melon aphid Aphis gossypii and quality of silk production by B. mori.

Aphids are sap-feeding insect pests that cause crop losses via direct feeding damage and through the vectoring of plant viruses. The aphid stylet-like mouthparts probe multiple plants cells on their way to the plant vascular tissues for long-term feeding. During probing and feeding, these insects secrete saliva containing virulence proteins (effectors) and plant pathogens. This project will focus on the functional characterization of an important family of effector proteins of the green peach aphid Myzus persicae, which is a polyphagous insect pest of a broad range of economically important crops worldwide.

The successful candidate will generate transgenic B. mori, express specific members of the aphid effector family in insect cells and purify the effectors for function-structure analyses. In addition, the candidate will conduct yeast two-hybrid screens and co-immunoprecipitation and microscopy experiments to identify and functionally characterize plant targets of effectors and investigate how effector-target interactions lead to the modulation of specific plant processes that promote insect pest colonization.

Candidates should have a PhD or equivalent in zoology or related discipline with extensive research experience in molecular biology and biochemistry. Knowledge of basic genetics and evolutionary biology and experience with molecular cloning, heterologous expression techniques, protein purification methods, basic bioinformatics procedures and insect handling and rearing protocols are required. Specific expertise in transformation methods of B. mori and lepidopteran cell and tissue cultures, western blotting and immunoprecipitation, and paraffin sectioning are also required. The candidate should show evidence of good presentation, writing, computational and organisational skills and the ability to work independently. The position will involve travel and a requirement to spend time at CAS (Shanghai, China). The candidate will be involved in the supervisory committees of (under)graduate students.

Salary on appointment will be within the range £31,250 to £38,100 per annum depending on qualifications and experience. This post is for a contract of 18 months.

For further information and details of how to apply, please visit our web site or contact Human Resources, Norwich BioScience Institutes Partnership, Norwich Bioscience Institutes, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK, 01603 450462 quoting reference 1003163.

As a Disability Confident employer, we guarantee to offer an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for this vacancy. The John Innes Centre is also proud to hold a Silver Award from Athena SWAN and is a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme.

The closing date for applications will be 28th October 2017.

The John Innes Centre is a registered charity (No. 223852) grant-aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and is an Equal Opportunities Employer.
Key relationships This project is a collaboration between the Hogenhout laboratory at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK and the Huang laboratory at the CAS/SIPPE, Shanghai, China. The candidate will be at the John Innes Centre for a total of 18 months, possibly for 6 months per visit and return to the CAS as needed, within a period of about 27 months (Jan 2018 - Mar 2020). At the JIC, the postholder will conduct yeast two hybrid screens and co-immunoprecipitation experiments and mass spectrometry analyses to identify plant targets of aphid virulence proteins. They will identify plant mutants and generate transgenic plants to assess the impact of aphid virulence proteins and plant targets on aphid-plant interactions. At the CAS, the candidate will clone (mutants) of virulence proteins and transform Bombyx mori and purify proteins from the transgenic insects and/or from Sf9 cells.
Main Activities & ResponsibilitiesPercentage
Conduct molecular and biochemical experiments in a laboratory.60
Write scientific research papers and reviews.20
Write progress reports and organise (Skype) meetings between the Hogenhout and Huang labs to discuss progress once every 3 months.10
Help to supervise a PhD student at CAS.5
As agreed with line manager, any other activities commensurate with the nature of the post.5

Education & QualificationsRequirementImportance
A PhD (full award or expected within 6 months) or equivalent degree in zoology or related disciplineEssential

Specialist Knowledge & SkillsRequirementImportance
Experience with Bombyx mori transformation and genetics of lepidopteran insectsEssential
Computational skills, such as word, data and image processingEssential
Knowledge of basic genetics and evolutionary biologyEssential
Experience with biochemistry techniques, such as immunoprecipitation and western blottingEssential
Experience with handling cell and tissue culture systemsEssential
Experience with co-immunoprecipitation procedures and mass spectrometry analysesEssential
Experience with genome editing technologyEssential
Experience with paraffin sectioningEssential
Experience with yeast and yeast two-hybrid screensDesirable

Relevant ExperienceRequirementImportance
Experience with handling aphids or working with quarantine/exotic insect pestsEssential
Previous experience with cloning and heterologous expression of genes and protein purification proceduresEssential
Expertise in basic bioinformatics toolsEssential
Experience with protein structure-function analysesDesirable

Interpersonal & Communication SkillsRequirementImportance
Demonstrated ability to work independently, using initiative and applying problem solving skillsEssential
Excellent time management and organisational skillsEssential
Evidence of presenting seminars to a scientific audienceEssential
Evidence of good scientific writing skillsEssential
Ability to work alongside colleagues on similar projectsEssential
Ability to communicate protocols and procedures to colleaguesEssential
Promotes and strives for continuous improvementEssential
Experience with supervising junior scientistsDesirable

Additional RequirementsRequirementImportance
Willingness to work at the CAS, Shanghai and JIC, Norwich Essential
Promotes equality and values diversityEssential
Willingness to travel between CAS and JICEssential
Willingness to help surpervise PhD student at CAS while at JICEssential

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