Applications for this PhD have now closed.
Location Western Sydney University, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment
App. deadline 20/09/2017
  • Please enquire for further details
Eligibility Open to international applicants

Environmental regulation of plant nutrition: Linking secondary metabolites to cellular communication and epigenetic memory formation

The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) is dedicated to excellence in research. The mission of the HIE is to generate insights into the impacts of a rapidly changing environment on Australia's agricultural, natural and managed ecosystems. Our academic staff build on existing national and international reputations in plant molecular (epi)genetics, physiology and terrestrial plant ecology.

Carotenoids are colourful pigments found in plants that are essential for human health. In plants, carotenoids are required for photosynthesis, photoprotection and the production of signaling molecules (e.g. hormones and volatiles) that promote chloroplast to nucleus communication, shoot branching, microorganism (e.g. mycorrhizal) symbiosis and tolerance to drought stress (Cazzonelli and Pogson, Trends in Plant Science 2010; 15: 266-274). We have shown that perturbations in the biosynthesis of carotenoid-derived signaling molecules can affect plant development processes (Cazzonelli et al., Plant Cell 2009; Van Norman, et al., PNAS 2014; Avendaño-Vázquez et al., Plant Cell, 2014).

We identified a carotenoid mutant with altered root architecture and hypothesized mycorrhizal symbiosis. A forward genetics approach identified revertant plants that restored wild type root development and we are elucidating the molecular (genetic) and physiological (hormones) mechanisms controlling root development.
The long-term goal is to understand how carotenoids synthesized in the chloroplast signal epigenetic regulatory processes in the nucleus to facilitate stress signaling and developmental acclimation. This project can offer experience in phenotyping metabolic mutants, mutant screening, genetic mapping and the quantification of chloroplast and nuclear gene expression.

The aims are to: 1) investigate how a carotenoid enzyme and altered carotenoid accumulation can influence root development, and 2) establish links between prolonged changes in temperatures, branching and carotenoid-derived signaling metabolites. Students will have the opportunity to design and implement their own molecular experiments

The goal of the EElab ( ) are to understand how environmental signals such as temperature, light and wind alter metabolic signaling processes and induce structure changes to DNA or RNA thereby promoting cellular memory formation, stress acclimation and transgenerational adaptation. The PhD candidate is anticipated to commence in 2017.

Please email an expression of interest aligned with the above themes to Dr. Chris Cazzonenlli. ( )

» University scholarships are highly competitive and advertise twice a year
» Domestic students will receive a tax free stipend of $26,288 per annum and a funded place in the doctoral degree.
» International students will receive a tax free stipend of $26,288 per annum.
» International students will receive $3,267 towards the cost of an Overseas Student Single Health Care Policy. Those with a strong track record may receive a fee waiver.
» Additional funding to support training and equipment purchases
» Funding is available to support reserach costs and conference travel
» A rich environment of support and academic expertise via supervisory panels, seminars, colloquia, international and industry collaborations

The successful applicant should:
» demonstrate excellent academic performance related to the research proposed (e.g. publication or industry based experience)
» hold qualifications and experience equal to an Australian First Class Bachelor Honours degree or equivalent overseas qualifications (minimum of 50% thesis component)
» be enthusiastic and highly motivated to undertake further study at an advanced level» possess a background in bioinformatics, RNA, epigenetic and molecular biology or related disciplines.
» International applicants must also demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the English language. Please refer to the English language requirements

» Potential applicants should first contact Dr Chris Cazzonelli including CV to discuss interests and shape a research proposal that is relevant to the project.
» Closing date 20st September 2017
» Submit a scholarship application form, research proposal and all other relevant supporting documentation to the Graduate Research School ( ) by the closing date.
» For further information refer the following link:

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