PhD position available for fall 2020

The Gompert lab in the Department of Biology at Utah State University (USU) is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic PhD student to study the ecological causes and evolutionary genetic consequences of fluctuating selection and contemporary evolution. Research in the lab addresses fundamental questions in evolutionary genetics. We are particularly interested in the genetic architecture of ecologically important traits, the determinants of genetic variation and molecular evolution in natural populations, and the nature and evolution of species boundaries and barriers to gene flow. This specific position is funded through a NSF CAREER award to Gompert. A stipend will be provided via a mixture of teaching and research assistantships. Review of applicants will begin November 25, 2019. The start date for the PhD project is fall 2020.

In the struggle for existence, organisms interact with each other and with their environment. Variation in climate, weather, and species interactions can cause variation in the direction and strength of natural selection. Differences in selection across space cause local adaptation. However, whether seasonal, yearly or longer-term fluctuations in selection are equally important for evolution is unknown. Selection that varies over time can cause rapid evolution. It can also erode or maintain variation for individual traits or genes, but may or may not be an important factor in evolutionary dynamics more broadly. In this NSF-funded project, the Gompert lab will use computer simulations, experiments, and genome sequencing of populations sampled across multiple generations to fill this knowledge gap.

We are looking for a PhD student interested in collaborating on the project. The PhD student will develop computational methods to quantify the prevalence, causes and targets of fluctuating selection from population genomic time-series data. Additional components of the PhD student’s dissertation will be tailored to the student’s interests and background. Possible project include: (i) developing theory on the consequences of fluctuating selection, (ii) studying the evolutionary genomic consequences of fluctuating selection in quasi-natural selection lab experiments (with cowpea seed beetles), or (iii) identifying the causes and consequences of fluctuating selection (or contemporary evolution) using population genomic time-series from natural populations of Lycaeides butterflies.

The successful candidate should have previous training in evolutionary biology, population genetics, applied math and statistics, or computational biology. Some proficiency with R (or other language, e.g., C) or experience working with population genomic data is preferable, but not essential. Students with or without a Master’s degree are encouraged to apply. We welcome and encourage enthusiastic and open-minded applicants from any nation, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic class. For more information about the Gompert lab, including a statement of mentoring philosophy and expectations, please visit the lab website at https://gompertlab.com/.

USU is a public land-grant research university in Logan, Utah (USA). The Department of Biology and USU offer excellent opportunities for education, training, funding, and collaboration. Graduate students in the department have the option of pursuing a PhD in Biology or in the inter-departmental Ecology program. Located in the Rocky Mountains, the Logan area also offers exceptional opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Interested students should e-mail me (zach.gompert@usu.edu) with the following:

1. A cover letter describing the student’s background and training, goals and reasons for pursuing a PhD, and the specific reasons why this opportunity is of exceptional interest.
2. A CV, including contact information for three academic references.
3. A writing sample. This could be in the form of a published or draft manuscript, an undergraduate thesis, or some other substantial document that constitutes scientific writing.

 

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