XiaLab at University of Ottawa

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PhD and MSc Studies in XiaLab

Thinking of joining a group of bright students in Xia Lab? PhD and MSc positions are available for those well versed in

  • mRNA optimization in viruses, bacteria and eukaryotes (factors affecting capping efficiency, translation initiation, elongation, termination efficiency, mRNA stability), and coevolution between mRNA and the translation machinery
  • Intron splicing efficiency and alternative splicing in yeasts and multicellular eukaryotes (5' and 3' splicing sites, branchpoint sites, enhancers and silencers)
  • Virus-host coevolution
  • Molecular adaptation in extreme environments (e.g., Helicobacter pylori in the acidic mammalian stomach)
  • New algorithms in sequence alignment and molecular phylogenetics aiming to resolve deep phylogenies.
  • Computational methods in genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics aiming to achieve a mechanistic understanding of cellular processes (e.g., unfolded protein response)
  • Software development in molecular biology and evolution

General information

  • Minimum requirement:
    • PhD applicants: Have made a significant scientific discovery in prior research
    • MSc applicants (currently limited to Canadians and permanent residents): Research experience through an honors research project.
    • A coherent presentation of a research project you have participated in.
    • Familiarity with some aspects of my research.
    • You need to be passionate about something in biology, which could be either a particular group of organisms or genes, biological processes, regulatory mechanisms, theories, hypotheses, challenges, controversies, algorithms or data (e.g., data hosted in NCBI databases such as Gene, Nucleotide, Genome, SRA).
  • Graduate students registered in Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, will have a minimum salary of $25,025/year in Sept. 2024 which is made of research assistantship from my research grant and teaching assistantship from the department. The salary will increase over years.
  • Review the application guide and apply through our graduate office
  • Our graduate programs are research-intensive. In your first term of registration (when you are heavily burdened with settling down and teaching assistant duties), you need to assemble your graduate advisory committee in consultation with me, and to present your research project to the advisory committee (me and two other professors). The research proposal typically includes three inter-connected components, ideally built on top of previous publications from my laboratory (Every good paper would point to new directions of research). You need to convince the advisory committee members that completion of the research proposal will lead to significant scientific discoveries materializing in about three publications. In the first or second term of your registration, you need to defend your research project in a comprehensive exam with about four examiners. If you are interested in one particular topic, develop your research plan focusing on that topic, and then contact professors working in this topic. Some applicants tend to think that they could worry about research proposals AFTER they are offered admission. We do not consider such applicants.

How to improve your ranking

  • My program DAMBE is used extensively in research and teaching worldwide in molecular biology, evolution, genomics and phylogenetics. DAMBE is freely available at this site, together with a lab manual for you to work through. You need to know DAMBE well to serve as teaching assistant in my courses. Here are links to scientific publications that have cited DAMBE in case you wish to know what researchers have used DAMBE for:
  • Research project
    • The minimum should include a title and an abstract.
    • The title of the research project has to be in the form of a specific question. The abstract will elaborate the question and propose bioinformatic approaches to answer it. Students without research experirence fall into two categories: 1) they have no questions, or 2) they have too many questions but do not know which to ask first. You need to learn how to ask questions. Most likely you will need to have several related research questions in your thesis project, but for the time being I need to see just one question which may or may not be included in your thesis research. I will share with you many specific research questions in my mind during the interview. You probably should try to think about what questions I have in my mind.
    • I work on many projects and you are welcome to contact me to inherit one or several.
    • Research projects that are built upon what we have done will have priority in consideration
  • Check out publications from our lab of which many are by graduate students (and some by honors students). If you have many questions upon reading those papers, then you are likely a good fit to our lab.

Local information

  1. Our Biology Department
  2. University of Ottawa
  3. Ottawa: the Canadian capital
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