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  • Writer's pictureHenry

Research Intern (UNIQ+ Graduate Access Programme)

Updated: Jan 15

1 July – 16 August 2024 (full-time, seven weeks)
£3,000 + free College accommodation + central training + other benefits

Dr Henry Hung (Department of Biology, University of Oxford) is hosting one UNIQ+ research intern, who aspires for prospective graduate applications but under-represented and disadvantaged, during the summer vacation. The intern will work on the project ‘Comparative genomics and evolution of resistance genes in legumes’.

Project description

Legumes (the Fabaceae family) are the third largest family among angiosperms, which have significant ecological and economic values because of their nitrogen-fixing ability and dietary protein production. However, they are also susceptible to a wide suite of pathogens. Availability of newer genomic assemblies, especially from non-model species, helps understand the evolution of disease resistance in this important family.

Despite their sessile lifestyle, plants have evolved a complex defence mechanism in response to pathogen challenges. One mode of inducible resistance is known as the effector triggered immunity (ETI), that results from effector recognition by cytoplasmic immune receptors encoded by resistance (R) genes. Most of these R protein receptors contain a nucleotide-binding site (NBS) and a leucine-rich repeat domain (LRR), thus they are also commonly known as the NBS-LRR family––one of the largest gene families known in plants.

Project outcomes

The overarching goal of the project is to characterise the R genes in legume genomes and to study their evolutionary history. By the end of the project, you will have: (1) curated a database from literature and database searches; (2) acquired a suite of bioinformatic skills, including protein motif prediction, comparative genomics, and phylogenetics; and (3) produced a short report on the project results. The project may lead to a publication.

Entry requirements

These skills would be helpful to the project but is not essential as training will be provided: proficiency in UNIX and programming languages (especially Python and R) and experience in cluster computing. The only essential criteria are a genuine interest in the subject and a willingness to learn.

Eligibility and how to apply

UNIQ+ is designed to provide students from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds who are ordinarily resident in the UK with the opportunity to experience postgraduate study. Please check all the important information on before applying. You should indicate ‘Biology 05’ in the application process if you are interested in this project.

Important dates

15 January: Application opens

21 February: Application closes

April: Notification of outcome

1 July – 16 August: Internship


Martin, E. C. et al. (2023). NLRscape: an atlas of plant NLR proteins. Nucl Acids Res. [link]

Woudstra, Y. et al. (2023). Conifers concentrate large numbers of NLR immune receptor genes on one chromosome. bioRxiv. [link]

Kourelis, J. et al. (2021). RefPlantNLR is a comprehensive collection of experimentally validated plant disease resistance proteins from the NLR family. PLOS Biol. [link]

Informal inquiries

Dr Henry Hung ([email protected])



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