Graduate student positions – Understanding and modifying microbial niche breadth


Location:
University of Toronto – Scarborough, Scarborough, ON, Canada

Description: I am in the process of moving my lab from The Pennsylvania State University to the University of Toronto – Scarborough in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, with an official start of January 2023. I am looking for graduate students to start sometime in 2023 to help launch my new program. Some of our current work can be found here: https://microbiomemanipulationlab.weebly.com/

Student projects can focus on the fundamental and/or applied consequences of microbial niche breadth. Fundamentally, microbial compatibility with various environments helps to determine microbial biogeography. While a broad environmental range may provide benefits to a microbe, there are likely costs to carrying more survival traits; however, we know little about the relative costs of different types of generalism (e.g. resource generalists vs. thermal generalists). From an applied perspective, understanding the factors that shape the niche breadth of microorganisms can help us in designing more effective microbial inoculants, for agriculture and otherwise. Such inoculants are promising alternatives to chemical additives, such as inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, but are still largely unpredictable in field settings.

Project development will depend on a combination of lab needs and student interests, but I expect most student projects will contribute to one of the following three areas:

  1. Environmental filtering to collect microbes with unique ecological traits
  2. Directed evolution to modify microbial niche breadth
  3. Modification of environmental stressors and opportunities to affect in-field microbial survival and function

To date, I have worked with an amazing and diverse group and appreciate the value that many types of diversity have brought to our work. This includes, but is not limited to, diversity in academic training, problem-solving approaches, and personal backgrounds and experiences. Je suis content d’intéragir en anglais ou en français.

Funding will be provided in line with the particular graduate program that the student applies to. We can discuss and investigate options, as I am still learning!

If interested, please send a CV, a letter of interest, unofficial transcripts, and contact info for 3 references to thb15@psu.edu .

Information on the Department can be found here: https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/physsci/

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