PhD positions in sociogenomics

Western University

PhD positions in sociogenomics at Western University, Canada.

The Social Biology Group ( in the Department of Biology at Western University (London, Canada) is recruiting two doctoral candidates in 2016 to advance any of the following four projects. We will match the precise project to the skill, aptitude and experience of successful candidates.

1) Molecular coordination of social traits in honeybees

Discover how genes and gene networks influence the evolution and expression of social traits. We need an evolutionary-minded student with an aptitude for molecular genetic or bioinformatics analyses, or both, to identify genes and gene networks that regulate worker sterility in response to queen pheromone. There are opportunities to work with live bees, but experience with beekeeping is not a requirement.

Some background information is available in:

Sobotka et al 2016. Structure and function of gene regulatory networks associated with worker sterility in honeybees. Ecology and Evolution doi: 10.1002/ece3.1997.

Mullen et al. 2014. Gene co-citation networks associated with worker sterility in honey bees. BMC Systems Biology 8: 38

2) Comparative biology of social and non-social insects

Discover the genetic and neural circuits that coordinate reproduction in social versus non-social insects. We need a student with experience in Drosophila biology and genetics to help identify genes and neurons essential for pheromone responsiveness and ovary de-activation - first in flies, then in other insects!

Some background information is available in:

Camiletti et al 2014. How flies respond to honey bee pheromone:The role of the foraging gene on reproductive response to queen mandibular pheromone. Naturwissenschaften 101: 25-31.

Camiletti et al 2013. Honey bee queen mandibular pheromone inhibits ovary development and fecundity in a fruit fly. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 147: 262-268.

3) Molecular coordination of social traits in termites

Discover the molecular basis of termite social life! We are probing the Eastern subterranean termite genome for genes associated with caste, sociality and invasiveness. We seek a candidate with interest or expertise in next-generation sequence analysis, gene network analysis, or in the general social and evolutionary biology of insects.

Some background information is available in:

Wu et al. 2015. Subterranean termites: the evolution of a pest. PCT Canada 3: 34-42.

Gao and Thompson 2015. Social context affects immune gene expression in a subterranean termite. Insectes Sociaux. 62: 167-179.

Scaduto et al 2012. Genetic evidence for multiple invasions of the Eastern subterranean termite into Canada. Environmental Entomology. 41: 1680-1686.

4) Developing and testing sociobiological ideas

Bridge the gap between selfish gene theory and real gene discovery. We have developed a conceptual roadmap for social gene discovery, and we seek a free-thinking student with an interest in population genetic modeling or comparative sequence analysis, or both. The successful candidate would help develop a conceptual and empirical framework for predicting the type, location and qualities of genes that underlay social traits - first in honey bees, but ultimately in any social genome. 

Some background information is available in:

Mullen and Thompson 2015. Understanding honey bee worker self-sacrifice: a conceptual-empirical framework. Advances in Insect Physiology 48: 325-354.

Thompson GJ et al 2013. Genes underlying altruism. Biology Letters 9: 20130395.

How to apply

Western University is located in the City of London (pop. 400 000) and has a large and vibrant Department of Biology We have strong links to the London Regional Genomics Centre (LRGC) and SHARCNET super-computing facilities. In addition, we run an active research group, with a well-equipped molecular laboratory. We have access to live termites and maintain a small apiary. Funding is available for Canadian students. International students are welcome to apply provided they have access to scholarships from their home country If interested in applying, please send your c.v., contacts for references, and a one page cover letter to Graham J Thompson ( The anticipated start date for all positions is from September 2016, with alternate starts in January 2017 and May 2017. Informal inquires are welcome :)

Graham J Thompson
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Ricola Foundation


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