Avenues are available for qualified postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists to develop research in the Clayton lab.
For potential PhD students, general information is available about the online application process. Many students are supported by competitive college-sponsored studentships, but other external sources for “self-funding students” may also be considered.
Students from China may benefit from the joint program with the China Scholarship Council, which covers all fees, tuition and living expenses (application deadline in January).
Students from Brazil may benefit from the Science Without Borders program, with application deadlines at the end of January, May and September.
Potential postdoctoral scientists may wish to consider applying for support from:
- Marie Curie Actions (deadline in August)
- HFSP (deadline in August)
- EMBO (deadlines in mid-February and mid-August)
Examples of projects include:
- Songbird Neurogenomics. Projects are available to build on published and unpublished data describing changes in brain gene expression associated with social interactions and song learning in the zebra finch. The research may incorporate a mix of techniques, potentially including: behavioural manipulation and observation; bioinformatic and statistical analyses of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) data; basic molecular biology (RNA purification, gene amplification and sub-cloning); neuroanatomical analysis of gene expression using in situ hybridisation and related techniques. The student will have opportunities to interact with other investigators studying epigenetic mechanisms in neural and behavioural plasticity.
- Understanding the “genomic action potential” (see: Clayton 2000; Clayton 2013). Brain activity involves not only acute changes in electrophysiological signaling (e.g., the classic “action potential”) but also acute changes in gene expression. It is hypothesized that such “genomic action potentials” integrate and process information but over a much longer timecourse than do the more familiar electrophysiological action potentials. Tests of this will involve analysis of how genomic responses to experience vary with developmental stage, social interactions and stimulus salience – factors that can be readily manipulated using the zebra finch as a model.
- Computational resources for neurogenomics (see: Replogle 2008; Drnevich 2012). Genomic sequencing technologies are changing biological science, and we continue to develop efficient strategies for applying these technologies in research using songbirds. Opportunities exist for refining servers, databases, tools and pipelines to support RNAseq analysis of complex changes in gene expression. Opportunities also exist for comparative transcriptomics of songbird species (in collaboration with Chris Balakrishnan).
- Analyzing social behavior in the domesticated zebra finch (with Sarah London and Saurabh Sinha). We breed and maintain domesticated zebra finches in naturalistic indoor aviaries, where the birds can be readily observed. We have accumulated a large volume quantitative data on social interactions in this context, and opportunities exist for developing statistical and computational analyses of these and future data sets.
- Non-invasive imaging of neurogenomic function. With several collaborators we continue to explore nIRS, fMRI and other non-invasive imaging techniques to probe how changes in gene expression relate to changes in brain activity.
- Targeted molecular studies (e.g., microRNAs, neuropeptides, immune genes, NR4A3, estrogen). Our recent studies (both published and unpublished) have demonstrated changes in expression of many different genes during juvenile song learning and adult song perception. Opportunities exist to test hypotheses about the functions of these various changes.