Graduate position: PortlandStateU.MitonuclearEvolution

Available at Portland State University, Portland, Oregon: We are
seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic MS or PhD student to work
on a National Science Foundation-funded project that uses experimental
genomics in C. elegans nematodes to study mitonuclear evolution and the
impact of sexual system on mitonuclear adaptation.

Planned start date: September 2019. Earlier, off-cycle admission will
be considered.

Project Description: Energy metabolism in nearly all eukaryotic life
forms relies on coordinated interactions among gene products encoded by
both mitochondrial and nuclear genomes, and thus depends upon
inter-genomic coevolution. Neither the processes maintaining this
coevolution nor its downstream evolutionary consequences are well
understood. These consequences were recently hypothesized to include
the evolution and maintenance of sexual reproduction. This project
leverages the expertise and resources of three research groups to
provide the direct, non-retrospective tests of major hypotheses to
explain mitonuclear genome coevolution. These hypotheses predict that
integration of the two genomes is achieved primarily by fixation of
nuclear mutations that compensate for the deleterious effects of
previously acquired mitochondrial mutations, and that this process will
favor sexual recombination among nuclear chromosomes. We will apply
experimental genomics with Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes to study
evolutionary process within the context of the mitochondrial electron
transport chain (ETC), the proper functioning of which relies on the
maintenance of favorable mitonuclear epistatic interactions. The
project will take full advantage of the powerful C. elegans system to:
1) Determine the impact of sexual system on the tempo and patterns of
mitonuclear adaptation. C. elegans strains containing deleterious
mitochondrial- and nuclear-encoded ETC mutations will undergo
laboratory adaptation in replicate populations experiencing obligate
selfing, facultative outcrossing, or obligate outcrossing. This design
also permits examination of how rates of sexual outcrossing evolve in
response to these conditions. 2) Determine the evolutionary dynamics,
functional characteristics and sex-specific effects of individual
mitonuclear mutations. Genomic, bioinformatic and phenotypic analyses
will determine the molecular bases and functional underpinnings of
mitochondrial and nuclear mutations available to mask the effects of
deleterious ETC mutations, and reveal the relationship between rates of
outcrossing and mitonuclear adaptation.

Location: This project will be conducted under the direct supervision
of Dr. Suzanne Estes with co-supervision from Drs. Vaishali Katju and
Ulfar Bergthorsson (Texas A&M University) and based at the Department
of Biology at Portland State University, located in the heart of
downtown Portland, Oregon. The PSU Biology Department, which houses the
Center for Life in Extreme Environments (CLEE), has 21 research faculty
and over 65 graduate students. Our faculty strive to take an
integrative approach to biology, encompassing all levels of biological
organization from molecules to ecosystems. We collaborate and share
facilities with other science departments and with research faculty at
Oregon Health & Science University, a medical school and teaching
hospital located adjacent to PSU. This close proximity helps to foster
interdisciplinary research and creates a vibrant research culture that
ensures support and training for the next generation of evolutionary

Requirements: We are looking for a biology graduate who has a strong
interest in evolutionary and molecular biology. Some practical
experience in molecular, bioinformatic and/or C. elegans husbandry
techniques is highly desired, but additional training will be provided.
The successful candidate will be enthusiastic, highly motivated,
independent, and have a relevant bachelor’s degree. The applicant
must meet standard Portland State University graduate admissions and
language requirements, details of which can be found here: Note: ONLY US citizen or
permanent resident applicants are eligible for this studentship.

Funding Notes: The successful candidate will receive a full studentship
including tuition, fees and an annual living stipend of $24,000 for up
to 4 years for PhD students. Funds will also be available for research
expenses and conference travel. Support beyond this time period may be
available through a PSU departmental Teaching Assistantship.

Deadlines and Contact: The deadline for application is *February 1,
2019*; however, earlier admission may be possible. Please contact Dr.
Suzanne Estes at with informal enquiries.

Suzanne Estes, PhD
LSAMP Program Director
Associate Professor of Biology
Portland State University
Portland, OR 97201
LSAMP phone: 503.725.2422
Biology phone: 503.725.8782

Suzanne Estes <>