University of Dundee

EASTBIO: Mummy Dearest: maternal control of grain development:

Cereal grain provides more calories than any other source to our diet, making grain production vital to our food security. We study how grain development influences final grain size and shape using barley, a widely-grown and economically important cereal, and a powerful genetic model system. Calories from grain mostly come from the ‘filial’ tissues, especially the starchy endosperm, which develop surrounded by nutritive and protective maternal tissues of the grain. Recent work in our laboratory suggests that growth and survival of these maternal tissues must be balanced with the need for nutrients and space for endosperm growth, but the exact mechanisms remain unclear.   To advance our understanding of this process, this PhD project will use the latest methods in genetics, genomics and molecular biology to identify and characterise genes that control maternal tissue development. In particular, you will employ cutting-edge transcriptomics and transgenic approaches to reveal how these genes influence gene expression and hormonal dynamics in maternal and filial tissues. You will also explore how these genes may contribute to differences in grain features across wild and cultivated barely lines, potentially revealing routes to better grain production. This project would best suit a student fascinated by developmental biology and motivated to translate this interest into cereal improvement. 

Through this project, you will learn techniques in cereal genetics and developmental biology as well as advanced bioinformatic skills in gene expression analyses. While you will be based in my lab (the McKim lab), part of this work will involve collaboration and supervision by Dr. Matthew Tucker at the University of Adelaide (Australia) with the possibility of research exchanges. The McKim lab is a dynamic, productive and supportive research group and is located at the James Hutton Institute (JHI), a global leader in cereal genetics and genomics, and part of the International Barley Hub, a £62 million investment in cereal research. You will join a cohort of next-generation cereal scientists and benefit from training offered both by University of Dundee and JHI. encourage students to present their work at international conferences and in scientific publications, as well as engage with the public to communicate our science. We warmly welcome students from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Please feel free to contact me to discuss any aspects of the project or about PhD studies in general. 


Second Supervisor:  Prof M Tucker, Univ of Adelaide