Master Projects

A unique opportunity for students from Portuguese Universities to have contact with the IGC, an international institution renowned for its research, education and training. Every year, several master students join the Institute to develop their master research thesis in one of IGC labs.

 

Eligibility

In order to be eligible to apply, you must be registered with a university on an MSc Degree.

 

To apply

If you wish to apply, please check the contact details associated to the project of your interest and send an e-mail to the selected contact (with cc to mscproject@igc.gulbenkian.pt) and “MSc project application” in the e-mail subject and the following documents attached: 

  • Motivation letter
  • Curriculum vitae

 

Supervisors and projects

 

Title: Lipids important for influenza infection

Supervisors: Maria João Amorim and Sílvia Costa

IGC Group: Cell biology of viral infection

E-mail contact: mjamorim@igc.gulbenkian.pt

Abstract: Lipids are important components of the cell, delimiting classical organelles and contributing to their identity via incorporation of a selected combination of these substances. Influenza A virus infects cells and alters cellular architecture, modifying vesicular trafficking and the endoplasmic reticulum, both delimited by lipids. The contribution of lipids to these alterations is not understood. This project aims at identifying the role of lipids in infection, as well as, identify lipids that are important for infection.

 

Title: Role of VIM proteins in male gametogenesis in plants

Supervisors: Jörg Becker, Chandra Shekhar Misra and Anton Kermanov Group: Plant Genomics

E-mail: jbecker@igc.gulbenkian.pt

 

Title: A comparative biology approach to gametogenesis and fertilisation

Supervisors: Paulo Navarro-Costa and Jörg Becker Group: Plant Genomics

E-mail: jbecker@igc.gulbenkian.pt

 

Title: Modifiers of sister chromatid cohesion loss

Supervisor: Raquel Oliveira

IGC Group: Chromosome Dynamics

E-mail: rcoliveira@igc.gulbenkian.pt

Abstract: Sister chromatid cohesion is essential for faithful mitosis, as premature cohesion loss leads to random chromosome segregation and aneuploidy, resulting in abnormal development. To identify specific conditions capable of restoring defects associated with cohesion loss, we screened for genes whose depletion modulates Drosophila wing development when sister chromatid cohesion is impaired (a first report on the results of this screen can be found here: https://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdfExtended/S0960- 9822(18)30853-4. This project aims to validate other hits arising from this screen with regard to their ability to modulate defects associated with sister chromatid loss.

 

Title: Uncovering the fate of P. patens centrioles by advanced microscopy

Supervisors: Mónica Bettencourt-Dias and Jörg D. Becker

Groups: Cell Cycle Regulation and Plant Genomics

Contact: Sónia Gomes Pereira (sgpereira@igc.gulbenkian.pt)

Abstract: Centrioles are microtubule-based structures that play dual roles inside eukaryotic cells. They can either serve as a core component of the centrosome with crucial roles in cell division, or they template the assembly of a cilia/flagella which are key structures for cellular motility.

Plant vegetative cells are devoid of centrioles. However, the sperm cells of several plant species are flagellated, assembling centrioles de novo during spermatogenesis. How are these centrioles assembled? And when and how do these centrioles disappear from the plant?

We are studying the origin and fate of centrioles during spermatogenesis in the mossPhyscomitrella patens. So far we have been focusing on several known components of animal centrioles and characterizing de novo centriole assembly. With the tools already generated, we can now tackle the second question. To achieve this, we will use techniques such as immunofluorescence, super-resolution, electron microscopy and live-imaging.

In animal fertilization, both centriole inheritance and centriolar loss followed by de novobiogenesis are known to occur. However, the mechanisms remain mostly unknown. By approaching such events from a different evolutionary perspective, this work will increase our understanding of centriole biogenesis, inheritance and loss.

 

Title: Can gut bacteria promote anti-malaria vaccine efficiency?

Supervisors: Miguel Soares and Jessica Simpson

IGC Group: Inflammation

E-mail: sofiarebelo@igc.gulbenkian.pt

Abstract: Malaria, caused by species of the parasite, Plasmodium, remains a major threat to human health. Despite many attempts to target this pathogen through chemical intervention, 219 million cases and 435,000 deaths are still attributed to malaria worldwide, highlighting a need for effective vaccination approaches. Only one vaccine, the RTS,S, vaccine, has been approved for use in the field, however its efficacy is relatively low and additional measures are required to promote the eradication of malaria.

We found that gut colonisation by the enteric bacterium, Escherichia coli O86:B7, protected mice against malaria transmission. Protection is due to a host antibody response raised against the bacterium that recognises one of its surface carbohydrate structures (or glycans),known as αGal (Galα1-3Galβ1-4Glc), which is also found on the surface of Plasmodium. These anti-αGal antibodies target Plasmodium sporozoites when inoculated into the skin, to blocktransmission and promote sterile protection against malaria in mice. Given that humans generate natural anti-αGal antibodies, we hypothesise that boosting this response, thought to arise following exposure to αGal-expressing members of the gut microbiota, may be of benefit in targeting Plasmodium and preventing malaria transmission.

With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, our group is now working towards assessing whether anti-αGal antibodies effectively prevent malaria transmission either aloneor in conjunction with other well-characterised anti-malarial antibodies. Alongside this study,we propose to investigate whether gut colonisation by αGal-expressing bacteria might similarly enhance vaccine functionality and Plasmodium targeting. In this project we will use a series of mutant strains of E. coli O86:B7 affected in the synthesis of αGal to investigate whether this bacterium modulates the expression of αGal in response to αGal immunity, howthese processes affect bacterial colonisation of the gastrointestinal tract, and whethercolonisation, αGal expression and the elicitation of a natural anti-αGal response can promotethe efficacy of Plasmodium targeting and host protection by existing, characterised anti- Plasmodium antibodies.

 

Title: Ironing out the details of myeloid ferritin in the control of organismal homeostasis

Supervisors: Miguel Soares and Rui Martins

IGC Group: Inflammation

E-mail: sofiarebelo@igc.gulbenkian.pt

Abstract: Myeloid cells, such as monocyte/macrophages play a central role in the maintenance of organismal homeostasis, beyond their well-described innate immune functions. This is illustrated for example in the context of iron metabolism, where tissue-resident macrophages recycle up to 95% of the iron required to sustain erythropoiesis.

The iron is acquired and extracted from the prosthetic heme groups of hemoglobin through erythrophagocytosis of senescent red blood cells (RBC) by tissue-resident macrophages in the spleen and liver. Iron is than exported from macrophages via ferroportin or stored inside ferritin, a multimeric protein composed of 24 heavy/heart chain (FtH) and light/liver chain (FtL) subunits. Expression of FtH plays a non-redundant physiologic role during embryonic development, and as such its constitutive deletion is embryonically lethal.

Our group recently revealed that conditional deletion of FtH in adult mice using a tamoxifen-inducible R26CreERT2FtHlox/lox (FtH∆/∆) mouse model, leads to a fast loss of body weight andtemperature with concomitant disruption of energy homeostasis, mitochondrial function, and organ dysfunction ultimately leading to death. Recently, we found that the lethality of FtH∆/∆mice is rescued upon bone marrow transplant of cells expressing normal levels of FtH, which is sufficient to maintain body weight and temperature, and fully support organismal homeostasis. Furthermore, this rescue effect is dependent on the expression of FtH by myeloid cells (e.g. macrophages), as the transplant of bone marrow cells lacking expression of FtH in either LysM or Cx3CR1 lineages is not able to rescue the mice from tamoxifen-induced FtH deletion and subsequent loss of organismal homeostasis and death. This surprising observation indicates that FtH expression by cells of myeloid lineage is sufficient to maintain organismal homeostasis in mice following inducible FtH deletion.

Our work is now focused on understanding the cellular and molecular basis of how myeloid- expressed ferritin is able to sustain energy and organismal homeostasis. For this project, we willreconstitute FtH∆/∆ mice by transplanting bone marrow cells from reporter mice where LysM+cells are tagged with a fluorescent protein (dTomato). This will allow us to initially characterize the FtH-expressing cell population responsible for the rescue effect using multi-color flow cytometry followed by single-cell sorting and RNAseq analysis of sorted dTomato+ cells to understand the transcriptional programs underlying the rescue effect upon tamoxifen-induced FtH deletion.

 

Title: Haematopoiesis in Drosophila: mechanistic control of haemocyte proportions during larval development

Supervisor: Élio Sucena

IGC Group: Evolution and Development

E-mail: esucena@igc.gulbenkian.pt

 

Title: Chasing the genetic bases of resistance and tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster

Supervisor: Élio Sucena

IGC Group: Evolution and Development

E-mail: esucena@igc.gulbenkian.pt

 

Title: Optimization of Sample Processing for Electron Microscopy

Supervisor: Erin Tranfield

IGC Group: Electron Microscopy Facility E-mail contact: etranfield@igc.gulbenkian.pt

Abstract: Sample processing for Electron Microscopy is a technique that is surrounded by habit and old standard conventions. There are a lot of reports in the literature of different protocols, but it is hard to know which protocol is the best for a given sample when there have never been side by side comparisons of conditions. The purpose of this Masters project will be to compare different methods of sample preservation on the same sample(s) and to evaluate the effectiveness, and overall quality of ultrastructural preservation. There are many different conditions that can be tested and many different models that can be used so the specifics of this project will be discussed between the PI and the student to see what is most interesting for the student. This project would be excellent for a chemistry student interested in learning more about biology or a biology student interested in learning more about the chemistry behind sample preservation and fixation.

 

Please check our website for research interests and recent work from the various groups.

MSc Project Committee: 
Maria João Amorim 
Luís Teixeira
Gabriel Martins

 

More information:
mscproject@igc.gulbenkian.pt
Tel: +351 214 464 549