PhD Position in evolutionary mitochondrial biology in Montreal. Application deadline: September 15, 2019.

An opportunity is available for a PhD position in the research group of Dr Sophie Breton at the Université de Montréal.

Project: Organisms respond to environmental factors over time in two ways: (i) short-term changes during their lifetime (e.g. epigenetic modifications and gene expression changes) and (ii) long-term changes across generations, i.e. heritable evolutionary responses, resulting in genetically distinct populations – potentially even new species. While empirical examples of rapid responses and evolutionary adaptations involving nuclear epigenetic variation (in the form of DNA methylation) and genetic variation (through the evolution of lineage-specific or adaptive genes or ORFan genes) exist from a range of animals and plants, the importance of mitochondria (the powerhouse of cells) and their genomes (mtDNA) in promoting adaptation to both short- and long-term environmental changes using the same mechanisms is still largely unexplored. This major knowledge gap is surprising given the pivotal role of mitochondria in cell survival and functions, aging and human diseases. The team of Dr Sophie Breton (Canada Research Chair in Evolutionray Mitochondrial Biology) is interested in this fundamental knowledge gap in our understanding of adaptation and speciation processes through the use an integrative approach combining epigenomics, transcriptomics, physiology and cell biology to investigate the capacity of mitochondria and their genomes to adapt to changing environments. The PhD project will focus specifically on the estimation of the prevalence of mtORFans and their putative function(s). Bivalves, with their sex-specific mt-encoded proteins with (still unknown) functions other than energy production, and/or yeast (S. cerevisiae), with their important mitochondrial genome size, will offer unique opportunities to test the hypothesis that like the nuclear DNA, the mtDNA possesses several overlooked small protein-coding genes that have key functions and are important sources of functional novelty.

The starting date is scheduled for May or September 2020 at the Université de Montréal, under the supervision of Sophie Breton. A $ 17,000 / year scholarship is offered for three years with funding available for a fourth year, but the successful candidate will be invited to submit an application to the FRQNT and NSERC as early as autumn 2019.

Qualifications: – Be highly motivated and determined to complete graduated studies; – Publication experience in scientific journals is valued; – Have a good academic record (the minimum rating to be admitted is 3.2 / 4.3); – Having experience in cell / molecular biology is an important asset.

Interested students should contact Sophie Breton before September 15, 2019 and attach a CV, academic transcript, contact details of two academic referees, and a brief description of their research interests.