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Ursula Oggenfuss

Research interests

As a PhD candidate at University of Neuchâtel, I study the population biology and adaptive potential of transposable elements in a fungal plant pathogen. Transposable elements are mobile repetitive DNA sequences with the ability to independently insert into new regions of the genome. Most of these new insertions are neutral or even deleterious for the host. But TE insertions can as well be adaptive, especially in a changing environment. In the fungal plant pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici, the insertion of TEs contributed to the evolution of fungicide resistance. TEs also triggered chromosomal rearrangements and epigenetic silencing that enabled the pathogen to surmount host immunity. These individual impacts of TEs on phenotypic traits point to a key role of TEs in adaptive evolution. However, the population-level context of TE dynamics is poorly understood. With my PhD project, I would like to fill this gap.
I am fascinated by the new possibilities, but also the perils lying in the new methods of whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics, in combination with older methods to find answers and outlooks for understanding evolutionary mechanisms. I’m convinced it is important to keep an extremely open and creative mind as a researcher.

 

Curriculum

2017: PhD candidate in the Laboratory of Evolutionary Genetics, University of Neuchâtel

2016: Internship and research assistance Mycorrhiza Group WSL Birmensdorf

2016: Research assistance Plant Pathology Group ETH Zurich

2016: Master of Science ETH in Environmental Science, Major in Ecology and Evolution
Masterthesis in plant pathology at WSL Birmensdorf: Hymenoscyphus fraxineus Mitovirus 1. Population comparison between two fungal host species in Europe and Japan.

2013-2014 Internship Grün Stadt Zürich: Creation and implementation of ecological networking projects in the context of agricultural subsidies

2013 Bachelor of Science ETH in Environmental Science, Major in Terrestrial Systems
Bachelor thesis I in philosophy: How would Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau deal with contemporary environmental problems? 
Bachelor thesis II in forest pathology: Fungal endophyte communities on Hymenoscyphus fraxineus infested leaves of Fraxinus excelsior