Openings

If you are interested to join the laboratory, do contact us about opportunities for postdoctoral research, graduate studentships and undergraduate research experience.

Undergraduate Summer Student Opportunities: 2017

We have two summer studentships available on the symbioses between plant sap feeding insects and their intracellular bacteria.  Our focus is hemipteran insects of the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, including the leafhoppers, planthoppers, spittlebugs, cicadas etc.

These positions are paid, and available for 8 weeks, ideally 39 h/week.  We are flexible about start date and, if you have other commitments, we may be able to arrange reduced hours (minimum of 20 h/week).

1. Microbiome function in xylem-feeding insects

The only animals that feed through the life cycle on the xylem sap of plants are members of the Auchenorrhyncha, including the sharpshooters, spittlebugs and cicadas.  This unique trait is made possible by intracellular microorganisms that release essential nutrients to the insects, supplementing the very dilute diet of xylem sap.  We are investigating how the different microorganisms cooperate to provide the nutrients required by their insect host.  The experiments involve collecting the insects from the field and preparing the insects for analysis of metabolites, including UPLC and GC/MS. This studentship will have day-to-day supervision by an experienced postdoc, and offers experience of field and laboratory research on a group of insects with an exceptional biology.

This position is suitable for students entering sophomore, junior or senior year (or equivalent) in fall 2017.  No specific experience is needed, but an interest in insects, commitment to excellence, attention to detail, and willingness to work cooperatively in a busy research laboratory are all essential.

2. Phylogenetic patterns in microbiome composition in the Auchenorrhyncha

The Auchenorrhyncha variously feed on plant sap (phloem or xylem) and plant cell contents; and the identity of their microbial partners varies with both insect taxonomy and diet.  However, the evolutionary relationship between microbiome composition and insect traits has not been investigated systematically. This project will construct a database of microbiome status in different auchenorrhynchans, and then conduct a phylogenetic analysis to identify ancestral traits and the evolution of character states in different clades.  This research contributes to a collaboration with colleagues at Penn State University and University of Oxford, UK.

This position is suitable for students who have taken classes in phylogenetics, and who will be entering their junior or senior year in fall 2017.  A working knowledge of insect systematics and evolution, and an interest to apply and develop computational methods for phylogenetic analysis are essential. The project combines a mix of independent and collaborative work. As well as answering specific questions, this summer research would make an excellent training ground for developing the skills and identifying questions to pursue in the next academic year, for example as an Honors project.

To apply, contact Angela Douglas (aes326@cornell.edu), including your CV and a covering note to explain which position you are interested in and why.  If you have any queries about these positions, do contact me by email. For full consideration of your application, be sure to apply by Friday 21st April.

Graduate Studies

Students with an interest in symbiosis, animal-microbial interactions and metabolism are especially encouraged to contact us.  Applications can be made through the Graduate Field of Entomology, Graduate Field of Genetics & Development, Graduate Field of Nutrition, or the Graduate Field of Microbiology, with excellent funding opportunities.
We aim to offer a broad training, providing the opportunity for students to experience independent research and team-working, and enabling them to follow their own research goals.  Specific research skills provided include genomics, molecular and whole-organism physiology, experimental design, and statistics.  We have weekly lab meetings, and students are encouraged to attend regular discussion groups across campus (e.g. Symbiosis Group, Gut Group, Ecology & Evolution of Infection and Disease Group, Plant-Insects Group,… and more) and regular seminars in the Department and across campus.
To discuss opportunities further, do contact us.  The annual deadline for applications to enroll is in December of each year.

Undergraduate Opportunities

Working in a research lab is excellent experience for students intending to enroll into graduate school or take up a career in research.  We regularly have opportunities, especially for students interested in insect-microbial interactions, genomics and in applying bioinformatics tools to biological problems.  Previous experience is not required, but it is essential you are motivated to learn, reliable and have initiative.