Come join our lab – we are hiring

A good day in the duck trap. Photo by Vilhelm Fagerström

A good day in the duck trap. Photo by Vilhelm Fagerström

The Zoonotic Ecology and Epidemiology lab is recruiting two new PhD students, and in the larger research center EEMiS there are another three available positions. Please find descriptions and application instructions for all five positions here.

If you are interested in disease ecology, these two projects are based in my lab:

Readdressing Campylobacter jejuni epidemiology and evolution.

Campylobacter jejuni is the most common zoonotic infection in Europe. Despite a well described epidemiology and targeted interventions to reduce carriage in food animals (especially poultry), human campylobacteriosis remains high in Sweden and the EU. In this doctoral student project, we want to turn the question of campylobacteriosis around. Instead of asking how humans become infected, we will investigate what properties that make specific campylobacters so adapted to their food animal niche. Identifying the genes responsible to a ‘life on the farm’ will: (1) enable a more comprehensive understanding of C. jejuni evolution, (2) pinpoint which traits that underlay emergence of new genotypes in food animals and human disease, and (3) provide new entry points for measures to reduce C. jejuni carriage in food animals.

A vital part in this line of research is to combine epidemiology with phylogenomics where genotypes and phenotypes of C. jejuni from food producing animals are contrasted with strains isolated from non-food animal sources. At our disposal, we have the largest collection in the world of C. jejuni strains from wild birds which, together with new strains, will form the basis for gene-by-gene comparisons with C. jejuni genomes from a reference strain repository. Based on the genetic studies the student will set up phenotypic assays, perform experimental binding studies, and carry out experimental infections in bird models to test the predictions arising from the genomic approach.The successful applicant will interact with other students and researchers within EEMiS, a multidisciplinary center of excellence within Linnaeus University that comprises expertise in ecology, evolution, and microbiology. This project is run together with Sheppard Lab in Swansea

Innate immunity of waterfowl – from genes to function.

The extent to which naturally occurring polymorphisms in immune genes result in individual differences in pathogen susceptibility remains an open question. While inbreeding has been linked to increased disease susceptibility in many species, it is not currently known whether low heterozygosity in general, or at specific immune loci, is responsible. β-defensins are key effector molecules of the innate immune repertoire of higher vertebrates, including birds. Their primary mode of action is the disruption of microbial membranes. However, they are increasingly recognised to have multifaceted roles in immune defence. β-defensins represent an ideal system for the study of host ecoimmunology. Firstly, they have a direct role in killing invading pathogens, and secondly, the functional peptide is encoded by a single exon of 36-38 amino acid residues. These genes thus represent a tractable and biologically relevant tool for elucidating the genetic basis for host immunity. The current project aims to build on knowledge of β-defensin allelic variation within and between wild populations and species in order to develop an in vitro model for assessing host-pathogen interactions. Based on allelic profiles the student will compare the bactericidal properties of defensin alleles in their native conformations. This work may involve folding and oxidation of native peptides, liquid chromatography, structure determination based on NMR data, and development of bioassays for testing. The successful applicant will interact with other students and researchers within EEMiS, a multidisciplinary center of excellence within Linnaeus University that comprises expertise in ecology, evolution, and microbiology.

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