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PhD position on resistance gene identification in wheat

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences

Fusarium head blight is one of the most destructive diseases of wheat (Triticum aestivum) leading to severe losses in both yield and crop quality. Moreover, the causative fungi of the genus Fusarium produce mycotoxins that accumulate in the grains and constitute a serious threat to food and feed safety. Hence, controlling this disease is of pivotal importance and growing resistant varieties is a sustainable, environmentally friendly and cost- effective approach.

Although FHB resistance QTL have been genetically mapped more than 20 years ago, the genes controlling this disease are largely unknown. In wheat, gene isolation and functional validation is especially challenging due to the huge genome size and polyploidy.

In a project funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) we aim to resolve a Fusarium resistance locus via CRISPR/Cas-induced mutagenesis and extensive transcriptome analysis. Defined alterations in the candidate region will be generated and evaluated for their functionality. We will combine short- and long-read RNA sequencing technologies with quantitative PCR to characterize the gene model and identify causal transcripts for resistance.

The PhD student will be involved in work focusing on transcriptomics, RNA-seq data analyses and RT-qPCR. The student will also be trained in genome editing and tissue culture and perform phenotyping trials of mutants.

Project team: Dr. Barbara Steiner, Prof. Hermann Buerstmayr experts in ‘Fusarium research’, Prof. Eva Stöger, Dr. Eszter Kapusi expertise in genome editing, Prof. Heinz Himmelbauer, Ass.-Prof. Juliane Dohm, Dr. Maria Kalyna support RNA-seq data analysis.

Ideally your profile incudes

  • MSc degree in plant breeding, plant biotechnology, molecular genetics, bioinformatics or a related field with relevance to plant genomics and biotechnology
  • Passion for crop improvement, molecular genetics and genomics
  • Bioinformatics skills, ability to work with large-scale sequence data
  • ‘Wet lab work’ skills, e.g. experience in RNA extraction, RT-qPCR, tissue culture
  • Team orientation, communication skills, good scientific writing in English

We offer

  • A PhD position for a duration of three years with a probation period for 3 months
  • Salary according to collective agreement for Universities in Austria for a 30h/week contract
  • The research will be carried out at the Institute of Biotechnology in Plant Production (Campus Tulln) and the Institute of Plant Biotechnology and Cell Biology (Campus Muthgasse/Vienna)
  • Attractive working environment in international research groups with flexible working conditions
  • Opportunity to apply to the BOKU Doctoral School AgriGenomics


If you have any questions, please contact Barbara Steiner

Please submit your application (motivation letter, CV and the contact details of two references) to until 10 Sept. 2021. Expected project start is fall 2021.

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