Post Doctoral Research Associate in Insect Reproduction and Epigenetics

Country: United Kingdom;

Deadline: 23.04.2019



A 3-year postdoctoral research position is available to work on a newly-funded ERC project in the lab of Laura Ross (Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK) entitled 'How to break Mendel's laws? The role of sexual conflict in the evolution of unusual transmission genetics'. We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated postdoc interested in evolutionary/molecular genetics, epigenetics and reproductive biology.

The project focuses on the evolution and mechanism of Paternal Genome Elimination, a type of reproduction found across thousands of insects where males lose their father's genome during spermatogenesis and only transmit maternally-derived chromosomes to their offspring. We will use genomic, cytogenetic and experimental approaches in mealybugs to understand how chromosomes from the mother and father are recognized within sons, how this affects the expression of maternal and paternal alleles ("genomic imprinting"), how the paternal genome is eliminated and how this elimination affects offspring sex. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with several Project Partners in the UK and abroad.

Within the project, the postdoc will be able to develop independent lines of research with a view to establishing themselves as an independent investigator. The project includes substantial funds for sequencing, consumables, computing, training, and to attend international conferences. The position is initially funded for 3 years with an approximate start date of June 1st 2019.

Applicants should have a strong background in evolutionary genetics/molecular biology and a PhD (or soon to be obtained) in a relevant subject area (genetics, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, cell biology). Experience working with genomic data, molecular biology wet lab and bioinformatics skills are essential, as is a strong track record of independent and creative thinking. Applicants should be be willing to take on the challenges of working with a non-model organism. Experience with insect model systems, bisulfite and ChIP-seq sequencing data, RNAi experiments, FISH/in situ hybridization would be very advantageous.

Informal enquiries to

This post is offered on a full time, fixed term basis for 36 months.

Closing date for applications is Tuesday 23 April at 5pm (GMT).

1. Job Details

Job title: Post Doctoral Research Associate in Insect Reproduction and Epigenetics 
School/Support Department: School of Biological Sciences 
Unit (if applicable): Institute of Evolutionary Biology 
Line manager:Dr. Laura Ross

2. Job Purpose

To provide state of the art expertise on epigenomic, cytogenetic and molecular genetic methods on an ERC funded project. The post holder will perform experiments and analyse the resulting data to make inferences about insect reproduction, gene expression and patterns of inheritance.

Key tasks will include 
1) Obtaining and analysing bisulfite, Chip-seq and gene expression datasets. 
2) Designing and optimizing protocols for cytogenetic analyses and RNAi. 
3) Designing, performing and analysing large-scale experiments. 
4) Maintaining insect stocks as necessary for the proposed experiments. 
5) Training the project team and others in using protocols and analyses pipelines related to the project. 
6) To plan, conduct and write up research on the reproductive biology and genetics of mealybugs.

3. Main Responsibilities

  • Development and optimization of new and existing protocols and analysis pipelines for studying epigenetics and reproductive genetics in mealybugs (Approx % of time 20)
  • Plan and conduct large-scale experiments to determine and manipulate the molecular mechanism responsible for parent-of-origin specific gene expression and elimination in mealybugs (Approx % of time 40)
  • Write manuscripts and present research at conferences and workshops (Approx % of time 20)
  • Train the project team in molecular methods and use of analysis pipelines (Approx % of time 10)

  • 4. Planning and Organising

    The PDRA will be planning and conducting research on mealybug reproduction and epigenetics. This will involve coordinating collecting NGS datasets, planning large-scale experiments, while at the same time developing and optimizing new methods and analysis strategies. A high level of independence and leadership in developing research ideas, driving their execution and communicating results and work flows with the other team member and external collaborators is required.

    The PDRA should seek advice from the PI and project partners as and when required. The post holder is expected to collaborate closely with the other PDRAs, research students and external project partners. Project timelines will be established in discussion with the project PI and the other PDRA.

    5. Problem Solving

    The project will require adapting methods and protocols for use in mealybugs, a non-model organism for which relatively few molecular tools are available. Developing these tools will require trial and error, resourcefulness, persistence and close collaboration with other project partners.

    6. Decision Making

    The PDRA will have a direct role in developing research questions within the framework of the grant and will design experiments and methods to test these questions.

    7. Key Contacts/Relationships

    The PDRA will work closely with the PI, postdocs and graduate student researchers in the Ross lab and external collaborators of the ERC project, in particular Prof Patrick Ferree (California) and Isabelle Vea (Chicago). Progress will be communicated via regular lab group meetings.

    8. Knowledge, Skills and Experience Needed for the Job


    PhD (or soon to be obtained PhD) in evolutionary biology, genetics or molecular biology. Must have a proven track record and a strong interest in molecular and/or evolutionary genetics. A proven ability (including publications) to i) work independently ii) lead and complete research projects and iii) communicate scientific results effectively to both specialists (e.g. papers and conference presentations) and non-specialists (e.g. undergraduate students who may undertake project work with the group) is essential. Evidence for meeting these criteria will be drawn from references and 15 minute interview presentation on a project in which the candidate has worked. The post holder would be expected to work alone efficiently on their tasks.


    Training in conducting bioinformatic analyses of genome and transcriptome data and in molecular genetics techniques including DNA/RNA extractions, qPCR, NGS library preparation and/or FISH/in situ hybridization would be highly beneficial.



    Experience and/or a strong interest in molecular and/or evolutionary genetics. A demonstrated ability to work independently and creatively.

    Previous experience working with ins 
    ects, analysing bisulfite and/or Chip-seq data, RNAi experiments and/or experience using microscopy (epifluorescence, confocal) would be highly desirable but is not essential. An interest in animal reproduction and genome biology is desirable.

    Knowledge, Skills and Competencies

    Strong laboratory and molecular biology skills and a proven ability to collect/process/analyse NGS data. 
    A solid understanding of evolutionary and molecular biology. Molecular biology wet lab skills (DNA and RNA extraction, PCR) and computing skills including a working knowledge of appropriate programming and scripting languages (R and Unix) are essential.


    The following skills would be desirable but not essential: preparing sequencing libraries, programming in either Python/Perl

    Personal Attributes


    The candidate should be an enthusiastic and highly motivated researcher who enjoys thinking creatively about fundamental problems in evolutionary biology and molecular genetics. She/he should be able to i) work independently ii) be willing to take on the challenges of working with a non-model organism iii) liaise effectively with the PI and the rest of the team and iiv) keep to agreed timelines and outputs.

    9. Dimensions

    The post is part of an ERC starting grant "How to break Mendel's laws? The role of sexual conflict in the evolution of unusual transmission genetics". The team includes two other PDRAs, a PhD student and a dedicated lab technician as well as several collaborators in the UK and abroad.

    10. Job Context and any other relevant information

    The position is available from 1st June 2019, for 3 years (full-time).

    Application Procedure

    All applicants should apply online by clicking the apply link at the bottom of this page and submitting an up to date CV with a covering letter. The application process is quick and easy to follow, and you will receive email confirmation of safe receipt of your application. The online system allows you to submit a CV and other attachments.

    You will be notified by email whether you have been shortlisted for interview or not.

    Closing date for applications is Tuesday 23 April at 5pm (GMT).

    Eligibility to Work

    In accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and Immigration Act 2016 the University of Edinburgh, as an employer, has a legal responsibility to prevent illegal working and therefore must check that all employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom (UK). 
    To do so, the University requires to see original documents evidencing right to work in the UK before commencement of employment and this is normally carried out at interview. Details will be provided in any letter of invitation to interview.

    For further information on eligibility to work please visit our eligibility to work webpage 

    If you are from outside the EEA and not currently eligible to work in the UK, there are visa routes that may be available to you, for example:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): If you are an academic in the field of sciences; humanities; engineering; medicine; digital technology; or the arts, it may be possible for you to apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. This route requires you to apply to be endorsed as an internationally recognised leader or emerging leader in your particular field by a designated competent body (Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, Tech City UK). However, if you are applying for a senior academic role, e.g. Professor/Reader there is an accelerated route to endorsement. Further information can be found on the UKVI website
  • Tier 2: The University is a UKVI licensed sponsor and is able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to successful candidates who are offered highly skilled roles and meet the eligibility criteria. The CoS enables candidates to apply for a Tier 2 (general visa).

  • Further information about whether you require a visa and other visa routes can be found at: 

    Conditions of Employment

    Pension Scheme

    This role is grade UE07 and therefore the post holder is automatically included in membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), subject to the USS membership criteria, unless they indicate that they choose not to join the Scheme.

    For further information please visit our Pensions website .


    The role is grade UE07 and attracts an annual salary of £33,199 to £39,609 for 35 hours each week. Salary is paid monthly by direct transfer to your Bank or Building Society account, normally on the 28th of the month.

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