Position studying the ecology and evolution of host jumps using a novel experimental system and/or models

The Kennedy Lab (https://sites.psu.edu/kennedylab/) at Penn State in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) is seeking a Postdoctoral Scholar to work on projects relating the ecology of spillover to the evolution of host jump success. Preventing host jumps depends critically on identifying traits associated with disease emergence so that actions can be taken early to stop the spread of the disease, but knowledge of the factors that facilitate or prevent host jumps has been limited by a lack of suitable experimental study systems. Disease emergence is inherently a population-level phenomenon, and therefore can only be experimentally studied in a system where it is possible to have replicate host populations with potential for pathogen transmission. We have recently developed such a system (Caenorhabditis hosts and viruses native to C. elegans and C. briggsae). We have shown that for at least one of these viruses (Shaw & Kennedy 2021, https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.12.10.472097), some species of Caenorhabditis hosts are refractory to infection, some are infected but do not transmit, some are infected and transmit weakly, and some are infected and transmit well enough for the virus to be maintained in the population. In other words, different host species span the full range of possible outcomes following exposure to a novel pathogen. We additionally have preliminary data showing that these outcomes can evolve in the lab over short timescales.

The successful applicant will develop case law and theory relating the ecology of spillover to the evolution of successful host jumps. This knowledge may be achieved by any combination of suitable approaches including ecological and/or evolutionary experiments in a laboratory setting, genomics and sequencing of viral isolates, or disease ecology modeling.

Education: The ideal candidate will have a Ph.D. in a relevant field, a strong interest in evolutionary biology, and a history of productivity.

Additional Information: This is a limited-term appointment funded for one year from date of hire, with excellent possibility of extension. Applicants should submit a cover letter describing their research experience and how these experiences relate to the position, a CV, and contact information for three references. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

Please feel free to email Dave Kennedy (dak30@psu.edu) with any informal inquiries if you are interested.

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Penn State University
State College, PA
Closing date
July 15th, 2022
Posted on
June 15th, 2022 20:48
Last updated
June 15th, 2022 20:48