Position Details

School of Biosciences

Location: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham UK

As this vacancy has limited funding the maximum salary that can be offered is Grade 7, salary £33,309

Grade 7

Full Time – Fixed term contract up to July 2025

Closing date: 9th June 2022


To create and contribute to the creation of knowledge by undertaking a specified range of activities within an established research programme and/or specific research project.


Epigenetics studies biological traits which are not dependent on changes in DNA sequence. In plants, many of these epigenetic changes are stable and are transmitted very efficiently from parent to offspring. Therefore, epigenetic variability represents an important source of biological variation, including traits potentially able to improve crop plants and develop sustainable agriculture. However, the main limitation of using epigenetic traits in agriculture is our inability to induce sufficient epigenetic diversity in plants without interfering with critical developmental pathways.

Our preliminary investigation suggests that most viability problems produced by genome demethylation in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana are caused by epigenetic misregulation of a limited number of genes. In stable Arabidopsis plant lines with identical genome sequence but different degree of reduction in DNA methylation a set of genes are always inherited in their methylated version, suggesting that the removal of DNA methylation at these loci has negative impact on plant fitness. 


With this project we will investigate the relationship between plant epigenetic stability, decrease of fitness, and different epigenetic regulation of specific genes. we will test if the artificial generation of alleles insensitive to DNA methylation can be a suitable approach to avoid the negative effects associated to the generation of epigenetic variability. We will also test if the same approach can be used to limit deleterious consequences of DNA hypomethylation in crops, using wheat as main model.

Wheat is the most extensive cultivated crop worldwide and target of intense breeding programs, it is used as critical food resource for more than 2.5 billion people, and it is strategically important for UK economy. Therefore, the genetic material produced in this project will have direct relevance to breeders, allowing the investigation and screening of epigenetic traits relevant to the generation of new wheat varieties. 

The role:

We are looking for an enthusiastic postdoctoral research associate to contribute to understand epigenetic regulation and plasticity of plant genomes. You will be part of a BBSRC-funded project aiming to study transgenerational epigenetic memory and to explore the use of epigenetics traits in crops.

Since the project will involve the generation and the analysis genomics data, experience in this context is highly desirable. An ideal candidate would have experience in dealing with both model plants (Arabidopsis) and crops (wheat) in experimental conditions, however this is not an essential criterion. A willingness to trouble-shoot protocols, and experience in computational biology is also desirable. 

Summary of Role

•    Work within specified research grants and projects and contribute to writing bids 
•    Operate within area of specialism
•    Analyse and interpret research findings and results 
•    Contribute to generating funding 
•    Contribute to licensing or spin out deals with demonstrated commercial success (such as revenues, asset or company sales, IP generated) and/or public understanding of the discipline or similar

Main Duties / Responsibilities

The responsibilities may include some but not all of the responsibilities outlined below.
•    Develop research objectives and proposals for own or joint research, with assistance of a mentor if required
•    Contribute to writing bids for research funding
•    Analyse and interpret data
•    Apply knowledge in a way which develops new intellectual understanding
•    Disseminate research findings for publication, research seminars etc
•    Supervise students on research related work and provide guidance to PhD students where appropriate to the discipline
•    Contribute to developing new models, techniques and methods 
•    Undertake management/administration arising from research
•    Contribute to Departmental/School research-related activities and research-related administration
•    Contribute to enterprise, business development and/or public engagement activities of manifest benefit to the College and the University, often under supervision of a project leader
•    Collect research data; this may be through a variety of research methods, such as scientific experimentation, literature reviews, and research interviews *
•    Present research outputs, including drafting academic publications or parts thereof, for example at seminars and as posters *
•    Provide guidance, as required, to support staff and any students who may be assisting with the research *
•    Deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines*
•    Promotes equality and values diversity acting as a role model and fostering an inclusive working culture.

* These indicative responsibilities may also be included in a research role at grade 6.

Person Specification

•    First degree in area of specialism and normally, a higher degree relevant to research area or equivalent qualifications
•    High level analytical capability
•    Ability to communicate complex information clearly
•    Fluency in relevant models, techniques or methods and ability to contribute to developing new ones
•    Ability to assess resource requirements and use resources effectively 
•    Understanding of and ability to contribute to broader management/administration processes
•    Contribute to the planning and organising of the research programme and/or specific research project
•    Co-ordinate own work with others to avoid conflict or duplication of effort
•    Knowledge of the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, and how to actively ensure in day to day activity in own area that those with protected characteristics are treated equally and fairly

Informal enquires to Marco Catoni, email: m.catoni@bham.ac.uk 

Valuing excellence, sustaining investment

We value diversity and inclusion at the University of Birmingham and welcome applications from all sections of the community and are open to discussions around all forms of flexible working

Apply online now

Advert Close Date : 10.06.2022, 12:59:00 AM

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