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Churchill Fellowship for genomic researcher

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Dr Rebecca Jones has been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study methods in genomic analysis.

­ ­Dr Rebecca Jones, a former CRC student and now a postdoctoral fellow from the School of Plant Science at UTAS, has been awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship that will allow her to visit world centres of Eucalyptus genetics research to learn the most recent techniques for the analysis of the Eucalyptus genome.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust was established in 1965 after the death of Sir Winston Churchill and, with an average allowance of $25,000 per Fellowship, recipients have the opportunity to travel overseas to conduct research in aspects of their chosen field that are not readily accessible in Australia.  The Fellows are expected to return the benefits of their research to Australia.

Rebecca completed her PhD on "Molecular evolution and genetic control of flowering in the Eucalyptus globulus species complex" in 2009 and has since been working with Prof Brad Potts on an ARC funded project on Eucalyptus evolution and phylogeny.  Rebecca's Churchill Fellowship comes at a very exciting time, because 2010 sees the beginning of a research revolution for Eucalyptus geneticists.  The USA's Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Initiative (JGI) has publicly released the complete genome sequence of E. grandis.  The "resequencing" of the E. globulus genome is already well underway, with other species' genomes to follow.  The driving force behind the Eucalyptus genome sequences is an international association of Eucalyptus geneticists (Eucagen) that includes research groups from South America, South Africa, USA, Europe, China and Australia.  With Australia being the natural custodian of Eucalyptus, it is essential that we maintain links with the major international groups working with the Eucalyptus genome to ensure the maximum benefit for Australian science and industry.

Rebecca aims to learn the technical details of genome annotation, genomic data mining and gene characterisation. She will take part in a genome annotation course in Valencia, Spain; visit key research groups in France (Université Paul Sabatier) and the USA (University of Pennsylvania and Oregon State University) that are working with the Eucalyptus genome; and, whilst at the University of Pennsylvania, will collaborate with Prof Scott Poethig in examining the role of microRNAs in the control of phase change (i.e., the transition from the juvenile state to the adult state) in Eucalyptus.

An interview with Rebecca was aired on the Country Hour on Tuesday 20th July 2010.  The interview may be heard here, but be aware that it is embedded about half way through the hour-long program.  A short outline of the interview can be read here.

Biobuzz issue twelve, August 2010