Postdoctoral Researcher in Molecular Microbiology of Anti-phage Defense Systems

Postdoctoral Researcher in Molecular Microbiology of Anti-phage Defense Systems

University of Helsinki - Department of Microbiology

Helsinki, Finland

Microbial Ecology and Evolution Research group led by Professor Ville-Petri Friman at the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki is looking for a postdoctoral researcher with background in molecular microbiology, genetics and evolution to a Novo Nordisk funded project: ‘Development of phage biocontrol to overcome the antiphage defense system arsenal of phytopathogenic Ralstonia solanacearum bacterium’.

About the position

Due to a lack of efficient control methods, plant-pathogenic bacteria threaten safe and stable food production. This project will develop a novel biocontrol method against the plant-pathogenic bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum by employing its natural viral enemies, phages. While phages are highly pathogen-specific and safe to the environment, they can become inefficient due to rapid development of phage resistance, which could explain the incomplete protection observed in previous experiments.

This project will overcome this by identifying antiphage defence systems that are important for R. solanacearum phage resistance, and then isolating phages that can counteract these defences by escaping their recognition or by deploying their own counter-defence systems. Antiphage defence systems will be identified bioinformatically based on pangenome analysis of a new unpublished strain collection, and gene neighbourhood analysis will be used to identify novel defence systems through guilt-by-association. The potential synergistic benefits of defence systems will be validated experimentally by cloning them in the “null mutant” background, alone and in combination, while a tomato infection model will be used to identify systems that are actively expressed in planta. Finally, we will identify and isolate phages that can counteract these defences and retain their infectivity to design and validate evolution-proof phage biocontrol cocktails.

We are seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic postdoctoral researcher with experience in molecular microbiology, genetics/bioinformatics, and evolution to join our international team. The candidate should hold PhD degree in molecular microbiology or related field, and good written and verbal communication skills in English are necessary. The postdoctoral position is for 3 years starting in April 2024. The project is co-supervised by Vasili Hauryliuk and Gemma Atkinson at the Lund University (Sweden), providing valuable networking and training opportunities within the phage research community.

Requirements

  • Doctoral degree in molecular or microbiology, genetics, or another relevant field;
  • Experience in construction of bacterial mutants using genetic engineering. Experience in plant pathology, bacteria pathogenesis, microbial ecology, evolution or phage biology are desirable;
  • Ability to conceive, execute, and complete research projects independently;
  • Creativity and good group-working skills;
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.

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