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  • Developing and Applying Innovative Tools for SARS-CoV-2 in Wildlife. MS Graduate Assistantship

    Guest Patrick Zollner
    • Employer: Purdue University, Dept Forestry & Natural Resources
      Location: West Lafayette, IN
      Country: United States
      Last Date to Apply: 08/01/2023
      Open Until Filled: Yes

    Title: Developing and Applying Innovative Tools for SARS-CoV-2 in Wildlife
    Institution: Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources
    Location: West Lafayette, IN
    Job Category: MS Graduate Assistantship
    Salary: Year-round funding (full tuition waiver and salary of ~$22,000/year as a Graduate Research Assistant (MS level) 
    Duration of Appointment: Two years.
    Pertinent Websites: https://www.purdue.edu/fnr/sites/zollner/
    Start Date: August 15, 2023 or sooner if possible.
    Last Day to Apply: Application review will begin July 3, 2023 the candidate selected from that pool of applicants will need to submit an official application to Purdue’s graduate school after they are notified that they are the top candidate.
    Project Description: This project will develop a universal field-deployable paper-based test for SARS-CoV-2 that detects the most recent variants in animal species. The test will detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA in oronasal or cloacal samples while quantifying the viral load, and uploading the data in a web-based dashboard. The universal test for SARS-CoV-2 will be scalable in production and low in cost due to the use of paper-based devices and it will offer results that are comparable to lab-based diagnostics. While developing this tool, the team will fill in gaps in surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 by collecting almost 2000 oronasal swabs from 38 different animal species spanning the range of wildlife (captive and free-range), farmed animals, and companion animals. This work will provide initial insight into which factors (such as geographic location, time of sampling, and contact with humans/animals) affect One Health surveillance efforts. Once developed, the test will be easy to use in the field and will be applicable for wildlife veterinarians and biologists, epidemiologists, and animal and public health agencies. Such a test will help track zoonotic diseases using a One Health approach across wildlife, farmed animals, and companion animals. Thus, it will benefit wildlife veterinarians and biologists, epidemiologists, and animal and public health agencies that work within a variety of environments and for employers from tribal, state, and federal agencies as well farms, veterinary clinics, and homes. The team will disseminate results of their findings through publications, conferences, and their collaborators (who are also stakeholders).
    Position Description: This MS position is a unique opportunity for individuals interested in wildlife biology and disease ecology. The position provides applied experience for a career trajectory in local, state, tribal or federal agencies as well as some NGOs. Given the growing emphasis on One Health perspectives the student completing this MS project should have exciting job opportunities following graduation. The student will be located in Dr. Patrick Zollner’s lab within the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University. The student’s research will involve collaboration with project Co-PI labs from Purdue’s Departments of; Agricultural & Biological Engineering, Animal Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Forestry & Natural Resources, and Mechanical Engineering. This student will also work cooperatively with numerous collaborating partners from; other universities, tribal agencies, state and federal agencies as well as NGOs.
    Project Role/ Specific Duties: This student will coordinate the collection of samples from all wildlife species. The majority of these samples will be gathered by external partners. So, this student will need to work with those partners to: develop protocols for sampling, ensure all parties are collecting samples according to established protocols, send sampling materials to those partners, receive samples shipped by partners and deliver samples to the appropriate labs at Purdue in a timely
    manner. The student will need to travel to off campus locations to work with collaborators on training and collection of samples from live as well as harvested and captive wildlife. The student’s thesis will focus on comparisons of trends in SARS-CoV-2 from surveillance across wildlife species however specific questions and emphasis remain to be determined. So, the student will need to take a creative and innovative perspective on identifying trends from lab analysis of samples as well as have and or develop strong analytical skills to write and submit manuscripts based upon results. While writing this student should be prepared to collaborate with a large number of coauthors on edits of manuscripts submitted to relevant journals.
    Qualifications: Students should have a BS in Wildlife Biology or a related discipline. Applicants should be highly motivated with a demonstrated ability to work independently and collaboratively as well as strong organizational skills and scientific writing ability. Applicants with experience publishing peer-reviewed journal articles, a strong work ethic, demonstrated technical writing ability, training in statistical analysis/GIS, excellent interpersonal skills, demonstrated skill or skill potential in quantitative ecology and proficiency in R will be most competitive. Candidates who bring unique contributions to the diverse perspectives within the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources are all additional elements that will make applicants more competitive.
    How To Apply: When preparing materials (statement of interest & response to 5 questions) applicants should explicitly address their demonstrated organizational skills, interest/background in disease ecology as well as their technical writing and statistical analysis abilities.
    Interested applicants should compile all of the following materials into a single pdf file; copies of unofficial transcripts, a CV that includes contact information for three professional references, a 1-page statement of interest, and responses to the following 5 questions (each of these responses should be 250 words or less). 1. Describe a situation that demonstrates your work ethic and ability to complete complex tasks in a timely manner. 2. Provide an example of a work/academic situation that typifies how you handle adversity when striving to attain a goal. 3. What motivates you to pursue your proposed graduate studies, and how will completion of these studies prepare you to achieve your career goals? 4. Please describe a specific example from your work/academic experience that demonstrates your curiosity and creativity. 5. What are your strengths and weaknesses with regard to achieving goals individually and in collaboration with others? That single pdf should be attached to an email that has a subject line of “Application for MS Position Wildlife and SARS-CoV-2”. That email should be sent to Dr. Patrick Zollner (pzollner@purdue.edu) and applicants should understand that their application materials may be reviewed by other project collaborators as part of application evaluation.
    Employment Context: Purdue is a land-grant university of over 40,000 students and ranked the 10th best public university in the U.S. The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources is housed administratively in the College of Agriculture (#7 US ranking) and offers vibrant, nationally ranked graduate programs. Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue is an easy drive from Indianapolis and Chicago. The West Lafayette-Lafayette area is home to a diverse
    community of 174,000, with good schools, safe neighborhoods, over 40 parks and extensive trail systems, active Farmers Markets, and year-long community festivals and art events.
    Purdue University is committed to providing an educational and work environment free of discrimination and harassment and does not condone and will not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any person in the University community.
    Contact Persons: Dr. Patrick Zollner
    Contact Phones: (765) 496-9495 Contact e-mails: pzollner@purdue.edu
    Purdue University is an EOE/AA employer. All individuals, including minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply.

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