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Ph.D. Assistantship in Plant Genomics

A position is available for a Ph.D. student to investigate the impact of abiotic and biotic factors on the diversification of flowering plants by using the species-rich and ecologically important genus Piper as a model. This research will focus on three evolutionary forces: i) climate, i) pollination (a mutualistic process benefiting both the plant and its partner) and iii) plants’ chemical defense (an antagonistic process developed to counteract insect herbivory). A genomic approach will be applied to unravel the evolutionary history of genes underlying pollination syndromes and plants’ defense mechanisms. This will be achieved by sequencing genes involved in inflorescence structures and alkaloid production. The impact of climate on diversification will be investigated by inferring species climatic niches based on museum collections. The contribution of each evolutionary force on the diversification of Piper will be assessed by correlating the emergence of novel genomic functions and/or climatic shifts with shifts of diversification rates along a dated phylogeny. The Ph.D. student will be supervised by Sven Buerki (Boise State University, BSU) in collaboration with James Smith (BSU) and Christopher Davidson (Idaho Botanical Research Foundation, Boise).  The student will also have opportunities to interact with our international network of collaborators. The student will conduct fieldwork to increase the number of samples, look after living specimens of Piper in our greenhouse, generate molecular data (using RNA-Seq, Target Enrichment and Genome Skimming) and analyze those using bioinformatic methods. We expect the student to lead on the writing of several scientific papers.


We are seeking someone who has a strong interest in genomics, evolutionary systematics, biogeography, bioinformatics and fieldwork. Competitive students will have a Master’s degree, a background in botany, and experience in systematics. Please address your qualifications for each of these points in your cover letter. The position starts fall (Aug) 2018.

Stipend and tuition and fees

This position includes support in the form of a graduate assistantships (renewable, 12-month at $25,000), tuition and fee waiver, and health insurance.

To Apply

Please send via email in a single file attachment (include your last name in the file name): a cover letter that states qualifications and career goals, a CV with the names and contacts for 3 references, copies of transcripts (unofficial are acceptable) and GRE scores and percentiles (not combined) to Sven Buerki (email: Please put “PhD application” in the subject line.  Applications will be reviewed as they are received until December 15 If you do not have GRE scores by the deadline your application cannot be considered.  Top candidates will be asked to formally apply to Boise State’s EEB program by January 20.  All admission decisions must be approved by the Graduate Dean.

Boise State University embraces and welcomes diversity in its faculty, student body, and staff. Accordingly, applicants who would add to the diversity and excellence of our academic community are encouraged to apply.