Discovery of DNA-based biomarkers for feed efficiency in beef cattle

Supervisor: Dr Derek Morris

Duration: Funded for 4 years (Structured PhD), full-time.

Project description: Reduction of feed costs in beef production is of paramount importance as feed represents the largest variable cost in any beef production enterprise. A standardized approach to enable selection for improved FE has yet to be adopted by the beef industry, either in Ireland or globally. This can be achieved by identifying panels of genetic variants of biological significance to FE for genomic selection and thus minimizing expensive phenotyping across large numbers of cattle. The aim of this PhD Scholarship is to discover accurate and robust DNA-based biomarkers for the selection of beef cattle with improved feed efficiency (FE). The project will utilize existing transcriptomic datasets to uncover key genes that regulate FE in cattle and sequence these genes to identify genetic variants. Panels of genetic variants putatively regulating FE will be refined based on functionality as determined using in silico bioinformatic methodologies and then tested in association studies in a large population of beef cattle using the custom made SNP chip technology. These will include both Irish and Canadian datasets for beef cattle, the latter serving to validate association of genetic variants in an independent cattle population. Robust and validated biomarkers will be incorporated into genomic selection beef cattle breeding programmes in Ireland and internationally. The PhD Scholarship is part of a joint research project between NUIG and Teagasc. The student will be based at NUIG, but may spend some time at Teagasc, Grange, Co. Meath. The project is jointly supervised by Dr Derek Morris (NUIG) and Dr Sinéad Waters (Teagasc).

Institute: National University of Ireland, Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland.

Stipend: €18,000 per annum & fees for 4 years.

Entry Requirements: At minimum, applicants must hold or be in the final year of a primary degree in a relevant scientific subject and have achieved or expect to achieve at least a high second class honours degree.

 Expected start date: 1st September 2015

 How to apply: Please send a one-page letter briefly outlining your reasons for applying for this PhD and a current two-page CV detailing your education and research experience, and including the names of two referees to Dr Morris (

Deadline:12th June 2015 (provisional interview date = 2nd July 2015).