PhD fellowship on evolutionary histories of fungal and bacterial antimicrobials University of Copenhagen, Department of Biology Denmark

PhD fellowship on evolutionary histories of fungal and bacterial antimicrobials, University of Copenhagen


Department of Biology, Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD scholarship on evolutionary histories of fungal and bacterial antimicrobials in fungus-farming termites, commencing 01.04.2019 or as soon as possible thereafter. 


Description of the scientific environment 

The project will be based at the international research environment in the Social and Symbiotic Evolution Group at the Section for Ecology and Evolution within the Department of Biology. Research in the group cis highly interdisciplinary and combines the fields of evolutionary ecology, molecular microbiology, genomics, and metabolomics to address fundamental questions on how antagonistic (parasitic) and beneficial (mutualistic) microbial symbionts shape host ecology and evolution, how partners complement each other metabolically, and how host-symbiont associations defend themselves against exploitation ( 


Project description 

The fellowship will be part of a five-year project titled Disease-free social life without antibiotic resistance, financed by an ERC Consolidator Grant. The application of antimicrobial compounds produced by hosts or defensive symbionts to counter the effects of diseases has been identified in a number of organisms, but despite extensive studies on their presence, we know essentially nothing about why these antimicrobials do not always trigger rampant evolution of resistance in target parasites. Fungus-farming termites have evolved a sophisticated agricultural symbiosis that pre-dates human farming by 30 million years which, in stark contrast to virtually any other organism, does not appear to suffer from specialised diseases. This suggests that the defensive compounds produced by the termite host, its fungal crop, and gut bacterial communities have remained effective for more than 30 million years.  


This PhD will aim to use comparative analyses of the evolutionary histories, rates of sequence evolution, and modes of action of antimicrobials produced in the symbiosis, whether they have properties that are predicted to not induce resistance. The PhD project will perform comparative genomics of fungal cultivars and metagenomics/metatranscriptomics of termite gut and fungus garden microbial communities in a co-evolutionary framework. The will involve fieldwork in Comoe National Park, Ivory Coast ( The successful applicant will have experience and interest in antimicrobial compounds and their evolution, microbial ecology, fungal genomics and metagenomics approaches, and will work closely with a postdoc performing comparative metabolomics. Experience with microbiological techniques, genomics and/or metagenomics/metatranscriptomics of bacterial communities is desirable, as in an interest and willingness to work in the field for extended amounts of time in a ‘back to basics environment’ during fieldwork in the Ivory Coast.


Principal supervisor is Assoc. Prof. Michael Thomas-Poulsen (, E-mail:, Direct Phone: +45 35330377. 


Job description 

The position is available for a 3-year period and your key tasks as a PhD student at SCIENCE are: 

  • To manage and carry through your research project 

  • Attend PhD courses 

  • Write scientific articles and your PhD thesis 

  • Teach and disseminate your research 

  • To stay at an external research institution for a few months, preferably abroad 

  • Work for the department 

Formal requirements  

Applicants should hold an MSc degree in biology or bioinformatics with good results and good English skills. As criteria for the assessment of your qualifications emphasis will also be laid on previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience. 


Terms of employment  

The position is covered by the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff.  


Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State.  


The starting salary is currently at a minimum DKK 322,642 (approx. €43,015) including annual supplement (+ pension up to DKK 44,567). Negotiation for salary supplement is possible. 


Application Procedure 

The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.  


Please include  

  • Cover Letter, including a brief detailing your motivation and background for applying for the PhD project. 

  • CV  

  • Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc) 

  • Acceptance Letter for the relevant MSc Programme at SCIENCE, if any 

  • Other information for consideration, e.g. list of publications (if any),  

  • Full contact details (Name, address, telephone & email) of 1-3 professional referees 

The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background. 


The deadline for applications is 15. February 2019, 23:59 GMT +1. 


After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Interview Committee. Afterwards an assessment committee will be appointed to evaluate the selected applications. The applicants will be notified of the composition of the committee and the final selection of a successful candidate will be made by the Head of Department, based on the recommendations of the assessment committee and the interview committee.  

The main criterion for selection will be the research potential of the applicant and the above mentioned skills. The successful candidate will then be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD school of Science. You can read more about the recruitment process at 



For specific information about the PhD scholarship, please contact the principal supervisor Associate Professor Michael Poulsen, Section for Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biology, E-mail:, Direct Phone: +45 35330377. 


General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at 

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