PhD fellow in Host manipulation and co-evolutionary processes of pathogenic fungi and microsporidia

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science at University of Copenhagen is offering a PhD scholarship in 2020 commencing 1April 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Project description

Some insect-pathogenic fungi can take over and control the behaviour of the infected insects, turning the infected host insects into “zombies”. Often this behavioural manipulation increases fungal transmission to new susceptible hosts, and contribute to the epizootic capacity of the fungi. Infection with microsporidia are similarly known to induce metabolic changes in the host insects. This project aims to determine pathogen beneficial host manipulation by Entomophthora muscae and microsporidia of house flies (Musca domstica) and wax moth larvae (Galleria mellonella), respectively. House flies are natural vectors of >100 different bacterial and viral food-borne human diseases, and like wax moth larvae also mass-reared in feed production. Using dual-RNAseq and microbiome characterization, the project aims to disentangle the molecular mechanisms of host manipulation and effect on the host microbiome by E. muscae and microsporidia infections in house flies and wax moth larvae.

Candidates should have a strong background in relevant subjects such as microbiology, mycology, evolutionary ecology, entomology, or insect pathology, and they should have experience in conducting biological experiments involving ‘omics’ techniques.

Description of the scientific environment

The PhD position is part of the research group Applied Evolutionary Ecology, and is a joint doctoral program (double degree) between University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark, and University of Exeter (UE), United Kingdom. The project is based at UCPH, but will involve at least 8 months at UE.

The PhD position you are applying for (ESR2) is part of a large Double Degree Programme called INSECT DOCTORS, funded by the European Commission. The overall aim of the INSECT DOCTORS’ training programme is to educate a new generation of scientist that have in-depth knowledge on insect pathogens, as well as the skills to assist the upcoming industry of insect mass rearing to prevent disease outbreaks in their insect cultures.

In total, 15 PhD positions are available in this programme, and each PhD candidate will be enrolled at two universities in different European countries. Each PhD candidate will have his/her own research project involving stays in at least two countries. Several novel PhD courses will be offered to all PhD candidates of INSECT DOCTORS. Start dates for all these PhD positions are scheduled for April/May 2020. To learn more about the training network please visit our website:

In order to be eligible for a place within INSECT DOCTORS, strict rules are set out by the European Commission. So please make sure you comply with these rules when applying.

  1. You must be an Early-Stage Researcher (ESR), meaning that at the day of your recruitment (= start date of your contract) you must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career, after obtaining your MSc degree.
  2. You have not been awarded a doctoral degree before.
  3. Mobility Rule: You must not have resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the day of your recruitment. For this particular PhD position the country of the recruiting organisation is Denmark. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention 1, are not taken into account.
    Please note, that these rules are not negotiable.

Principal supervisor (UCPH): Associate professor, Henrik H. De Fine Licht, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen,, Phone: +45 3532 0097. 

Co-supervisor: Senior Lecturer, Dr. Bryony Williams, Biosciences, University of Exeter, UK.

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 abroad
  • Work for the department

Formal requirements

Applicants should hold an MSc degree related to the subject area 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 325.625 (approx. €43,400) including annual supplement (+ pension up to DKK 44,980). 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, stating which PhD project you are applying for and detailing your motivation and background for applying for the specific 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 10th January 2020, 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, Henrik H. De Fine Licht, Department of Plant and Environmental,, Phone: +45 3532 0097.
General information about INSECT DOCTORS is available at or by contacting Project Coordinator, Professor Monique van Oers, E-mail:  
General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at


Københavns Universitet giver sine knap 10.000 medarbejdere muligheder for at udnytte deres talent fuldt ud i et ambitiøst, uformelt miljø. Vi sikrer traditionsrige og moderne rammer om uddannelser og fri forskning på højt internationalt niveau. Vi søger svar og løsninger på fælles problemer og gør ny viden tilgængelig og nyttig for andre.


Henrik Hjarvard de Fine Licht


Ansøgningsfrist: 10-01-2020
Ansættelsesdato: 01-04-2020
Arbejdstid: Fuldtid
Afdeling/Sted: Section for Organismal Biology

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