Bachelor and Master Thesis

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If you are interested in joining our group for a bachelor or master thesis or an internship, then please explore our Research site and contact the relevant group leader well ahead of your desired starting date. Your e-mail should include a few paragraphs that explain what you have studied, who you are, what the time frame for your planned project is, and why you would like to join our group.

Below is a list of possible research projects for a Bachelor or Master thesis. Please contact the person indicated if you would like to find out more about the project.

Research projects   Contact
Towards a checklist of Swiss rust fungi Details Reinhard Berndt
Host adaptation in Epichloë fungal endophytes Details Adrian Leuchtmann
Molecular evolution of conserved imprinted genes in wild tomatoes Details Thomas Städler
Looking for a silenced transgene in South African maize Details Miluse Trtikova


Research Projects Details:


Towards a checklist of Swiss rust fungi

Reinhard Berndt

More than 500 species of plant parasitic rust fungi (Uredinales) have been reported from Switzerland but little is known about their actual distribution, abundance and their response to anthropogenic changes of the environment.

In this master thesis you will acquaint yourself with this ecologically and economically important group of fungi and contribute to a national checklist.

Work will include

  • Fieldwork and light microscopy to familiarize yourself with the study organisms
  • Data mining in major Swiss herbaria, especially Geneva
  • Data mining in relevant literature
  • Entering and processing obtained data for use in a checklist



Host adaptation in Epichloë fungal endophytes

Adrian Leuchtmann

Host specificity is an important concept that underlies every association between microbes and their hosts. An example are the wide spread and agriculturally important fungal endophytes of genus Epichloë (Ascomycota) that infect grasses. Sexual taxa of this genus may formspecies complexes including several host-associated cryptic species, which provides an ideal model to study speciation. For understanding coevolutionary processes between host and fungus, the molecular genetic basis of host adaptation will be examined. Master thesis projects may include genomic work using DNA libraries as well as experimental work with plants and fungi done in growth chambers.




Molecular evolution of conserved imprinted genes in wild tomatoes

Thomas Städler

Genomic imprinting occurs in the triploid endosperm of flowering plants, a seed compartment vital to the nourishment of the developing embryo. Imprinting refers to the biased expression of either the paternal or the maternal allele, and this (near) monoparental expression at some of these genes is likely to be critical for the success of developing seeds.  A rich body of evolutionary theory to explain the evolution and maintenance of genomic imprinting has accrued, and the "kinship" or "parental conflict" theory posits differential interests of father and mother over the allocation of resources to offspring. Recent work on wild tomatoes has identified candidate imprinted genes in tomatoes that appear to be shared in their imprinted status in other flowering plants such as maize or Arabidopsis.

The proposed Master project could investigate such conserved imprinted genes for signatures of natural selection, in particular evidence of balancing selection that might manifest as haplotype structure and/or unusual patterns of polymorphism in DNA sequence data. The tomato clade is particularly suitable for this type of investigation because it comprises several closely related species with diverging mating systems; parental conflict is expected to be diminished under partial self-fertilization compared to obligate outcrossing. The project could make use of already existing data obtained from transcriptome sequencing, or could also generate new sequence data that would ideally encompass promoter (noncoding) regions adjacent to the coding regions of candidate genes. Data analyses would use programs for molecular population genetic analyses.



Looking for a silenced transgene in South African maize

Miluse Trtikova

Transgene flow between genetically modified (GM) Bt maize and non-GM open pollinated maize varieties (OPV) could have promoted the development of resistance to Bt maize in a major pest Busseola fusca in South Africa. It remains unknown how is the transgene expressed once it is acquired by OPV and whether the Bt toxin level reaches the sufficiently high dose to kill B. fusca. In this bachelor thesis you will analyze samples collected from the crosses between Bt maize and OPV that tested negative for Bt toxin, however, it needs to be proven that the transgene itself is absent in these samples, as it could still be present but not expressed, i.e. silenced. You will use LAMP, an innovative method to detect transgenes in plant material, that could be deployed under field conditions in South Africa, unlike the traditionally used PCR.

















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