PhD Position – Molecular Biosciences Program at Middle Tennessee State University

Published by Cori VanGalder on

University: Middle Tennessee State University

Location: Murfreesboro, TN

Job Category: Graduate Research Assistantship (PhD)

Salary: $30,000/year plus tuition remission

Start date: January 18, 2022

Last date to apply: December 18, 2021



The Microbiome Ecology Lab at Middle Tennessee State University is seeking an outstanding PhD student beginning January 2022 in the Molecular Biosciences program. Research expertise in the Microbiome Ecology Lab is in the areas of molecular evolution and molecular ecology of microorganisms with an emphasis on pathogenic fungi of animals. We use a variety of molecular and microbiological techniques to understand host-microbiome-pathogen associations and the synergistic to antagonistic interactions within these systems. Emerging infectious fungal pathogens are threatening wildlife species world-wide, therefore, we are interested in answering questions that inform management of species of greatest conservation need in the southeastern US. 

Understanding the biodiversity and function of microbes that are present in the digestive tracts of reptiles and amphibians is critical for insight into their role in host health. The PhD student’s project will focus on the filamentous fungus Basidiobolus as an important member of reptile and amphibian gut microbiomes. Preliminary evidence suggests that this fungus influences what types of bacteria are present in the digestive tract. Genomic sequencing of the Basidiobolus fungus shows that genes have been transferred to the fungus from the gut bacteria. This transfer of genes between bacteria and fungi results in novel metabolism in the fungus that we propose plays important roles in regulating the reptile/amphibian host’s immune system, iron metabolism, and chemical communication with the gut bacteria. An interdisciplinary scientific approach will be used to understand the functional roles that specialized metabolites play in microbial interactions between fungi and bacteria in gut microbiomes of animals and also other natural microbiomes. The PhD student will have the opportunity to participate in field and outreach activities with zoos and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Interdisciplinary training of the PhD student will occur with Dr. Jason Stajich at University of California, Riverside and Drs. Joey Spatafora and Kerry McPhail at Oregon State University. 

To Apply:

Submit a single pdf that includes a cover letter summarizing your qualifications and interest in the position, followed by CV, unofficial transcripts and GRE scores (if available), and contact information for three references to Dr. Donny Walker (


  • MSc in community ecology, microbiology, molecular biology, microbial ecology, wildlife disease or a closely related field.
  • Excellent quantitative skills and substantial experience in R.
  • Ability to perform field work.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills including a demonstrated ability to publish in peer-reviewed journals. 
  • Motivated with an excellent work ethic

Contact person: Donny Walker

Contact email: