Master Projects

(1) Stress-induced mobilisation of transposable elements in the grass B. distachyon

Background
Environmental stresses can trigger the transcriptional activation of transposable elements (TEs) in plants. Occasionally, this can lead to their mobilization and induce stable transgenerational (epi)genetic changes. Interestingly, it was reported in several examples that novel TE-copies can bring flanking regions under epigenetic control and make them stress responsive. Hence, the stress-induced mobilization of TEs and the resulting (epi)genetic diversity is considered to be a main driver of plant evolution. 
Aims of the project
Using an approach we have previously developed in Arabidopsis and rice, we want to study the adaptive potential and mobility of TEs in the model plant Brachypodium distachyon. By tracking transposable elements in various accessions from different habitats, we are aiming to observe and understand TE-mediated evolution in real-time.
Tasks and methods
Your task will consist in i) optimizing growth conditions and stress treatments of Brachypodium distachyon ii) tracking of transposon dynamics in planta through whole genome sequencing and iii) rescue and propagate stressed plants on soil to document phenotypic variation.
You are ...
… Interested in plant genetics/physiology/ecology/evolution and willing to develop skills in molecular biology and/or Bio-informatics. You will be encouraged to come up with your own ideas and creativity in order to shape the Master’s project according to your interests.
Any Question?
For more information or to visit the lab, don’t hesitate to contact anne.roulin@botinst.uzh.ch or michael.thieme@botinst.uzh.ch 

(2) Flowering time variation and adaptation in the grass Brachypodium distachyon

Background and aims of the project
In plants, flowering time is believed to be adapted to local environmental conditions, as a failure in producing seeds at the appropriate time would lead to the extinction of the individual’s genotype. 
In this project, you will use genome-wide association (GWAs) and genome-environment association (GEAs) studies to explore how plant populations adapt locally to survive seasonal environmental deterioration. Namely, we will use the plant species Brachypodium distachyon as a system, since natural populations of this Mediterranean grass are known to display a broad range of flowering behaviors.
Tasks and methods
Your task will consist in i) measuring flowering time in a large number of natural accessions originating from France, Spain, Tunisia, Italy, Turkey and Iraq in controlled conditions ii) Assess whether flowering time is correlated with any environmental variables (precipitation, temperature etc…) and adapted to local conditions  (GEAs) iii) Perform a GWAs to identify potential candidate genes associated to variation in flowering time.
You are ...
… Interested in plant ecology/evolution/genetics and willing to develop skills in experimental biology, statistics and Bio-informatics. 
Any Question?
For more information or to visit the lab, don’t hesitate to contact anne.roulin@botinst.uzh.ch 

Other projects

We are otherwise always looking for motivated master students. If you are interested in population genomics and bioinformatics, do not hesitate to contact anne.roulin@botinst.uzh.ch