Optimize tools to study gene functions in pest invertebrates with a focus on aphids and whiteflies


This project is a three-way collaboration of the laboratories of Saskia Hogenhout (John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK), Grant Hughes (Liverpool School of Medicine (LSTMed), UK) and Marcus Guest (Syngenta, Jealotts Hill, UK) to develop gene knock-out technologies for the aphid Myzus persicae and the tobacco whitefly Bemisia tabaci.

Access to these technologies will be important not only for generating fundamental knowledge on how these insects establish intimate interactions with plants and how they efficiently transmit viruses, but also for identifying new target sites for agrochemicals to control hemipteran pests that are not damaging for beneficial invertebrates, such as bees.

The project has the following three aims:
(1) Mine and annotate genes of specific pathways in the M. persicae and B. tabaci genomes;
(2) Identify a suitable ligand to target the M. persicae and B. tabaci germlines;
(3) Generate gene knock outs in M. persicae and B. tabaci.

The student will learn genomics and bioinformatics, a range of molecular biology skills (e.g. cloning), gene expression and protein purification methods, fluorescence microscopy analyses and bioassays with a wide range of insect species that are pests of humans and crops. The student will be mainly based at the John Innes Centre and will do placements in the Hughes lab (LSTM, Liverpool) and the Guest lab (Syngenta, Jealott’s Hill).

The student will be supervised by an experienced team of wet-lab scientists and bioinformaticians. The student will participate in weekly lab meetings to present his/her own work and discuss recent literature and contribute presentations in the departmental seminar series, and attend several (inter)national conferences.