FDA Postdoc Fellowship in the Characterization of Heavy Metals in Sweetpotato
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Type: Full Time
Area of Focus:
Environmental Plant Biology
FDA Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Characterization of Toxic Heavy Metals within the USDA Sweetpotato Germplasm Collection
A research opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), located in the Office of Regulatory Science (ORS) in Charleston, South Carolina.
The research general objectives are to screen USDA, ARS sweetpotato germplasm for accumulation of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) to identify germplasm and genetic markers that can be used in public breeding programs for development of varieties that have low levels of toxic heavy metals to ensure a safe source of food for human consumption. This project addresses a gap in knowledge in the accumulation potential of heavy metals in sweetpotato. At the completion of these studies, the expectation is that we will have provided knowledge regarding the variation of heavy metal accumulation in storage roots and will have identified previously unknown sources of germplasm that are low accumulators of heavy metals. Successful completion of this project is expected to have important positive impacts for American agriculture by helping stakeholders anticipate and respond to the potential impact of heavy metal contamination poses to sweetpotato production and provide a safe food supply within the US and around the globe. The rationale behind this project is to be responsive to toxic heavy metal contamination of sweet potatoes used for baby food in support of the FDA’s Closer to Zero initiative.
Successful completion of this project would identify sweetpotato varieties that accumulate low levels of heavy metals that could be grown by home gardeners to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby foods until new varietal development is completed. In the short term, this project will not immediately reduce heavy metal contamination in commercially produced baby foods containing sweetpotato, but rather provide a critical foundation for the sweet potato research community for addressing this issue. Specifically, this project will provide critically needed germplasm for breeding efforts aimed at reducing the heavy metal content in sweet potato thereby supporting the long-range improvement and sustainability of US agricultural and food systems. Additionally, the germplasm identified in this project will facilitate future studies on understanding the mechanisms of heavy metal accumulation in sweet potato.
Under the guidance of a mentor, the participant will assist in the following:
Characterize heavy metal accumulation in the USDA, ARS sweet potato germplasm collection. a. screen a core germplasm set of 48 sweetpotato plant introductions (PIs) for combined As, Cd, and Pb accumulation. b. screen a diverse germplasm set of 300 sweetpotato PIs for As, Cd, and Pb accumulation.
Identify genetic markers/regions associated with heavy metal accumulation in sweetpotato. a. perform genome-wide association studies of As, Cd, and Pb accumulation. b. identify coding region variation within the heavy metal ATPase 3 gene and develop a derived cleaved amplified polymorphic sequence (dCAPS) marker for selection of low accumulating germplasm.
Initiate breeding for sweetpotato varieties that are low accumulators of As, Cd, and Pb.
This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and FDA. The initial appointment is for one year, but may be renewed upon recommendation of FDA contingent on the availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience.Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. The appointment is full-time at FDA in the Charleston, South Carolina area. Participants do not become employees of FDA, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits.
Completion of a successful background investigation by the Office of Personnel Management is required for an applicant to be on-boarded at FDA. OPM can complete a background investigation only for individuals, including non-US Citizens, who have resided in the US for a total of three of the past five years.
The qualified candidate should have received a doctoral degree in one of the relevant fields (e.g., Food Science, Chemistry, Plant Genetics, Biology, Biochemistry), or be currently pursuing the degree and will reach completion by the start date of the appointment. Degree must have been received within five years of the appointment start date. Candidate should have completed at least two semesters of college-level coursework.
Preferred skills/knowledge include:
Strong background and interest in analytical chemistry (ICP-MS) as well as genetics and plant breeding
Experience working with plant breeding, genetic and elemental analyses
The ability to effectively communicate both verbally and in writing
Citizenship: LPR or U.S. Citizen
Degree: Doctoral Degree received within the last 60 months or currently pursuing.