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In the GGL, doctoral projects are embedded in topic-oriented research. Admission is international, and teaching is carried out in the English language. In association with the GGL the medical faculties offer a PhD – MD/PhD programme.

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Open projects

This is an overview of open projects offered for the winter term 2020/2021. You will be able to apply for a total of up to three projects. You may select the projects in our portal by project ID, name of supervisor and title. We will not be able to consider incomplete applications or applications that are not submitted via the online portal.

 

In the GGL, doctoral projects are embedded in topic-oriented research. Admission is international, and teaching is carried out in the English language. In association with the GGL the medical faculties offer a PhD – MD/PhD programme.

Keeping meristems at balance - stem cell maintenance and termination in flowers with two meristem types

SupervisorProjectID
Prof. Dr. Annette Becker
1

 

Description

The maintenance of stem cell activity in the floral meristem is required for the establishment of the basic structure of a flower. Only one type of floral meristem exists in the flowers of most plants, from which floral organs initiate successively in a simple, straightforward way generating a whorled arrangement of floral organs. Some plants produce a second, ring-like meristem whose prolonged activity allows the production of stamens even after the central floral meristem ceased in the process of carpel development. This evolutionary novelty leads to a more flexible growth mode allowing adjustment of stamen number until late in flower development.
The molecular basis underlying the formation of the ring meristem is unclear, yet it is very likely that ectopic expression, alternative rewiring and patterning of the stem cell determination program is modified. The aim of this project is to obtain mechanistic insights into the development and maintenance of two neighboring meristems. Moreover, we aim to elucidate the molecular base of ring meristem origin. We want to compare two closely related Papaveraceae species, one with (Eschscholzia californica) and one without ring meristem (Pteridophyllum racemosum) regarding 1) genes regulating the stem cell activity of meristems, 2) their expression pattern and genetic functions. In addition, we 3) aim to identify the similarities and differences of the distinct meristem types and 4) want to understand the evolutionary processes leading to the origin of the ring meristem at the molecular scale. We will use Laser Microdissection in combination with RNAseq to identify candidate genes and functionally characterize those with Virus-Induced Gene Silencing or CRISPR-Cas9-based approaches.

 

Description of the team
We are a team of plant development enthusiasts who apply state of the art techniques to unravel fundamental questions regarding plant reproductive development. We are an international team with ties to many countries also outside the EU.

 

Expected skills
The candidate is expected to have practical experience in molecular genetic techniques, such as RNA isolation and gene cloning. Further, bioinformatics skills for digital gene expression analysis are required for this project. The candidate is expected to have a M.Sc. in Biology/Plant Biology/Molecular Genetics and a keen interest in developmental biology and evolution.

 

Funding
supervision, lab space and personal funding (DFG) are available.

 

This project is offered in the GGL research section 4 - Protein and Nucleic Acid Interactions.

FGF-10 signaling to protect ER-stressed alveolar epithelial cells against viral infection - impact on regeneration versus fibrosis

SupervisorProjectID
Prof. Dr. Andreas Günther and Dr. Martina Korfei
2

 

Description

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, progressive and fatal parenchymal lung disease, which is proposed to originate from chronic injury to aged alveolar epithelial type 2 cells (AT2) such as pro-apoptotic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Fibroblast Growth Factor 10 (FGF-10) has been shown to be important for the formation of the alveolar epithelial lineage development and for survival of AT2 in response to injury. Viral infection is known to trigger progression of IPF and to aggravate the disease. We identified the microRNA miR-142 to be linked with the formation of AT2 during lung development and to be regulated by FGF-10. We also showed that viral infection in  ER-stressed AT2 augments apoptosis and boosts lung fibrosis. Moreover, we found that FGF-10 prevents influenza (PR8) amplification in AT2 and that a knockout of miR-142 makes AT2 more resistant to PR8. We propose, that the newly discovered FGF-10-FGFR2b-miR-142 signaling axis in the adult lung decreases viral infection of ER-stressed AT2 cells, and we envision that targeting this axis including metformin administration beneficially impacts virus-induced lung injury and regeneration.

 

Description of the team
The labs in Giessen are equipped with all necessary equipment to perform cell culture, molecular biology and cell biology research (S1 and S2 level). In addition, the Universities of Giessen and Marburg Lung Center (UGMLC) and the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) provide excellent conditions, technology.

 

Expected skills
Master Biology/Molecular Biology or Veterinary Medicine; Experience with animal experiments;  Western Blot, qPCR, Histology, standard molecular biological methods.

 

Funding

supervision, lab space and personal funding (DFG) are available.

 

 

This project is offered in the GGL research section 3 - Heart, lung and blood vessels.

Understanding right heart hypertrophy and right heart failure

SupervisorProjectID
Prof. Klaus-Dieter Schlüter and Dr. Rolf Schreckenberg
3

 

Description

Right heart failure develops in mammalians as a long-term adaptation to systemic pressure overload or pulmonary hypertension. Unlike the well understood adaptation of the left ventricle, right heart failure differs from this process leading to the requirement of specific treatment strategies that are not fully developed. In a project funded by the German Research Foundation, we investigate the molecular and cellular characteristics of right heart hypertrophy and its transition to right heart failure. The successful applicant will be embedded in this project and will support this project by molecular and cellular analysis in vitro and in vivo. Specific techniques required include the isolation and functional characterization of adult rat ventricular cardiomyocytes.

 

Description of the team

The research group is embedded in the collaborative research center 1213 "Pulmonary Hypertension and Cor Pulmonale". The speciality of the group and its focus is on cellular and molecular mechanisms contributing to heart failure, more specific in the context of the project right heart failure. The research group is world wide leading in cultivation of terminal differentiated cardiomyocytes from left and right heart samples and their functional and molecular charactization .

 

Expected skills
We are seeking highly qualified, enthusiastic students holding a M.Sc. or equivalent degree with a suitable background in life sciences. Applicants must be proficient in English. Prior knowledge of the German language is desired but does not constitute a requirement for your application to be considered. We expect some experiences with cell cultivation and a high motivation to work on appropriate animal models alllowing to charactize the transition of right heart hypertrophy to heart failure. The successfull applicant should be team-orietented and have a good education in molecular biology. 

 

Funding
Supervision, lab space and personal funding (DFG) are available. Payment is based on the German federal public service scale TV-H (65% E13) and the position should be filled as soon as possible.

 

Application to the PhD Programme is possible.

This project is offered in the GGL research section 3 - Heart, lung and blood vessels.

Climate influences on the health and growth of birds and their tree habitats

SupervisorProjectID
Prof. Dr. Petra Quillfeldt, Prof. Lea Schneider
4

 

Description

A recent decline in some of the most common bird species in central Europe raises questions about the influence of birds on their habitat and vice versa. This project analysis the role of birds in forests, where populations have been more stable than among farmland species. However, forest ecosystems in central Europe underwent periods of increased stress due to unusual weather conditions in the past years resulting in reduced ecosystem productivity and local forest diebacks. To better understand the trophic cascade, this study comprises two parts. In part one, we will monitor the impact of birds on tree growth over multiple years with bird exclosure experiments and by manipulating bird populations with nesting boxes. This should reveal potential links in the food chain between the predator (birds), herbivorous insects and photosynthetic productivity of trees. In part two, we will investigate growth and health of forest birds in relation to climate change with respect to the abundance of vectors and the prevalence of diseases. Together, this research aims at a better understanding for the resilience of bird populations against future changes in forest ecosystems and under a changing climate. Field work and laboratory analyses will include phenological observations, dendrometer monitoring, medication experiments and NGS genetics.

 

Description of the team
The Behavioural Ecology group (Prof. Petra Quillfeldt) deals with questions of behavioural ecology and related ecophysiological processes. Behavioural ecology investigates how behavioural patterns have become established during evolution. The optimal behaviour for each individual can depend on many characteristics, such as food availability, their own condition or whether they are infested by parasites. The research group investigates wild populations of long-lived birds and their responses to changes in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, including: responses to historical and recent climate and land use changes; foraging and movements, using direct methods as well as non-invasive methods, molecular ecology and speciation; behavioural ecology with a focus on parental investment; and responses to variable environmental conditions, using field pathology, endocrinology and immunology methods.
The central research element of the research group "climate-environment-human relations" (Prof. Lea Schneider) at the Department of Geography is dendrochronology, i.e. the study of the annual rings of trees. The group samples and monitors trees in different ecosystems and analyzes their growth rates in climatological, ecological and historical contexts.
Both groups are members of  the Center for international Development and Environmental Research  (ZEU), which will host this PhD position.

 

Expected skills
You must have a university degree in a natural science subject (e.g. biology). Proven competence in the field of ecology, preferably with a focus on ornithology. Ringing and animal experiment certificates are an advantage. Good knowledge of statistical data processing (R) and laboratory methods (genetics) are desirable. Organisational and communication skills as well as team orientation are essential, as is resilience under high work load, especially during field work. Very good knowledge of the English language, written and spoken.

 

Funding
supervision, lab space and personal position are available

 

This project is offered in the GGL research section 9 - Ecology and Global Change