unisa ITA  unisa ENG

LabMedMolGe - Home

Call for a PhD position in the framework of the Marie Slovodska ITN EvoCELL


Call for a PhD position in the framework of the Marie Slovodska ITN EvoCELL “
Animal evolution from a cell type perspective: multidisciplinary training in single-cell genomics, evo-devo and in science outreach”, to carry out interdisciplinary training at Genomix4life Srl c/o Laboratory of Molecular Medicine and Genomics, University of Salerno (Italy)



A 3 year PhD fellowship is available under the supervision of Francesca Rizzo within the Marie Curie ITN "EvoCELL" (https://www.evocell-itn.eu/) at Genomix4Life S.r.l (https://www.genomix4life.com/en/), a young and innovative start-up active within the Laboratory of Molecular Medicine and Genomics in the University of Salerno’s Medical Campus of Baronissi (SA) in Italy (http://www.labmedmolge.unisa.it/inglese/index), specialized in the implementation of genomics and bioinformatics in different fields, including in particular biomedicine, and actively pursuing basic and translational research.  The PhD program will be carried out within the “Molecular and Translational Oncology and Innovative Medical Surgery Technologies” curriculum (XXXIV cycle) of the University Magna Graecia of Catanzaro (http://www.phdprogramme-scuoladottorati-umg.org/).

Preferred starting date is 1 September 2018.



General information

EvoCELL (https://www.evocell-itn.eu/) is a Marie Slovodska Curie Innovative Training Network aiming at studying the evolution of cell-types and tissues in a diverse array of vertebrates and invertebrates. The network brings together 8 academic and 2 non-academic organisations from 6 European countries. Its ambitious training programme will provide a multi-disciplinary and international environment with plenty of training opportunities and exchange between all the academic and non- academic network members [EMBL (Developmental Biology Unit, Germany) , SZN (Biology and Evolution Marine Organisms Department, Italy), UiB (Sars International Center, Norway), CNRS (Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche and Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon, France), UCL  (Dept Genetics, Evolution & Environment, UK), UNEXE (Living Systems Institute, UK) UHEI (Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University, Germany) UU (Department of Earth Sciences, Sweden), MFN (Germany), Genomix4Life Srl (Italy)]. The labs involved in the network will merge use the most recent single-cell and tissue genomic technologies with more traditional disciplines. As a fundamental part of the project, all participants will also contribute to scientific outreach and communication to a wider public.


Project description

The project entitled “Role of Piwi-piRNA pathway in somatic stem cell specification and differentiation” will be part of the EvoCELL WPs “Evolution of germline and somatic stem cells”, “Technology development” and “Outreach”.

Objectives: Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are single-stranded noncoding RNAs, 23-35 nt long, that specifically associate with PIWI proteins and have highly conserved functions. Initially detected in germline cells, they are also found in stem and somatic cells. piRNAs are believed to act as sequence-specific guides for Piwi protein complexes to mediate gene silencing of transposable elements and protein coding genes at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional level, modifying the methylation status of chromatin or acting on target RNAs. PIWIL proteins and associated piRNAs are emerging players in cancer genomics; it has recently been demonstrated that the overexpression of PIWIL pathway genes is highly correlated with cancer and that piRNAs have tumor-specific expression patterns. Cancer is often considered a stem cell disease, propagated by rare cancer stem cells (CSCs). Normal stem cells and CSCs share phenotypic and functional characteristic. Interestingly, PIWIL genes and piRNAs are de-regulated in many cancers, suggesting a link between these small noncoding RNAs and the carcinogenic process. The PhD student will explore the molecular mechanisms involved in piRNA biogenesis and functions by integrating results of comparative studies in model species investigated in EvoCELL with functional ones in cancer cell lines. Furthermore, in close collaboration with other network members, s/he will perform single-cell small RNA sequencing and analyse ncRNA content in stem cell-like cells. This will yield candidates for analysis in CRISPR/Cas9-generated CSC cancer cell lines expressing green fluorescent protein under the promoter of a gene marker of pluripotency in stem cells (e.g. Nanog, Sox2). At the same time, the fellow will develop protocols and pipelines to analyze piRNA expression and DNA methylation status in CSCs, combining NGS methods (Illumina technology) and high-throughput single-cell profiling.

The main aim of this project will be to help understand PIWIL and piRNA gene roles in specification and maintenance of differentiated cell types and its derangement in carcinogensis, identifying molecules that might serve also as new cancer prognostic marker and therapeutic targets.


Eligibility criteria

Candidates should possess a Master’s degree or equivalent (e.g. a 5-year university degree) in a relevant academic field, or a degree that allows them to embark in a PhD. The ideal candidate should have also a strong interest in bioinformatics applied to NGS data analysis and interpretation. Experience in molecular biology, computer science, programming languages, bioinformatics algorithm and methods development is advantageous and acquired ability to work with commonly used bioinformatics tools and on different types of NGS data (WGS, WES, ChIP-seq, RNA-seq, etc) is a plus. S/he should also have good communication and writing skills and be able to work both independently and in team.

Candidates must be within the first four years of their research career and can be of any nationality, but they must not have lived in Italy for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their appointment (except for short stays, such as holidays and/or compulsory national service, that are not taken into account) and should be able and not prevented to undertake transnational mobility.

Applications from candidates who already possess a doctoral degree will not be considered.

The fellow will receive a competitive salary, including a mobility allowance and social security.

Applications (form downloadable here) or informal enquiries should be sent to frizzo@unisa.it .



Application Deadline: 20 July 2018