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PhD position in Theoretical evolutionary biology

  • 10 May 2023
  • Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany

Severe changes in the environment of a population can lead to maladaptation and ultimately extinction unless evolution is rapid, giving rise to genotypes that are well-adapted to the new conditions and rise in frequency. Such a scenario is termed "evolutionary rescue". Whether populations confronted with environmental change survive or go extinct is a key question in evolutionary biology. Which populations have the greatest chances to survive? How do genetic and environmental factors interact to slow down or to speed up adaptation? The extent of human-induced environmental change endangering biodiversity makes answering these questions a pressing need. An answer is equally important in medicine and in agriculture where we aim to eradicate/control the pathogens or pests and to inhibit the evolution of resistance.
Besides laboratory experiments and field studies, mathematical modeling greatly contributes to our understanding of rapid adaptation to environmental change.

The aim of this project is to develop mathematical models for the eco-evolutionary dynamics of evolutionary rescue. The precise project will be developed together with the student according to their interests. On the mathematical side, the project involves stochastic modeling in combination with deterministic approaches, complemented by computer simulations.

The ideal student is interested in applying mathematical modeling to gain insights into biological problems and is enthusiastic about math as well as about biology. The student will learn how to set up and analyse theoretical models to describe biological processes. Applicants should have a background in mathematics, physics, biology, computer science or a related field. Good quantitative skills are essential. Prior experience in mathematical modeling and knowledge of a programming language (C, C++, Java, Python, Julia...) is an advantage.

The position is part of a DFG-funded Research Training Group (RTG) on "Translational Evolutionary Research". The program brings together 14 research groups from several institutions to study how insights from evolutionary biology can be applied to solve problems in medicine, food production, and wildlife conservation.

Working environment
The student will be co-supervised by Hildegard Uecker and Arne Traulsen and will join the Research group Stochastic Evolutionary Dynamics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology. In the group, we focus on exploring the role of stochasticity in evolution. In the context of resistance evolution, we closely collaborate with experimental microbiologists at the University of Kiel. The group is part of the Department of Evolutionary Theory. The student will hence be part of a larger community of researchers working at the intersection between mathematics and biology with many opportunities to take part in journal clubs, reading groups etc.
The Max Planck Institute is a lively institute with three departments (Evolutionary Theory, Microbial Population Biology, Evolutionary Genetics) and several additional research groups. It hosts several workshops per year and continuously welcomes international short-term and long-term visitors, creating a stimulating and positive research environment. We maintain close interactions with Kiel University and belong to the Kiel Evolution Center. The area is a center of evolutionary biology in Germany.

Plön is a small town, embedded into a beautiful landscape with innumerous lakes and close to the Baltic Sea. The area provides ample opportunity for leisure activities such as swimming, canoeing, or biking in a stunning environment. At the same time, the cities of Kiel and Lübeck (245,000 and 215,000 inhabitants, respectively) are only half an hour train ride away. Hamburg (Germany’s second largest city) can be reached within 1.5h by train.

Interested candidates should send their application (motivation letter, CV, copies of certificates, contact details of two references) by email to uecker@evolbio.mpg.de. Please use the code PhD2023 in the subject line.

The Max Planck Society strives for gender and diversity equality. We welcome applications from all backgrounds. The Max Planck Society is committed to employing more disabled individuals and especially encourages them to apply. The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply.

For further questions, please get in contact with Dr. Hildegard Uecker. Application deadline is May 10, 2023. However, the position will remain open until filled by a qualified candidate.

Dr. Hildegard Uecker
Research group Stochastic Evolutionary Dynamics
Department of Evolutionary Theory
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology
Website: web.evolbio.mpg.de/stochdyn
Email: uecker@evolbio.mpg.de
Phone: + 49 4522 763-536

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