Jobba Statligt

PhD Student in Natural Science, specialising in Biology

  • Yrkesroll


  • Anställning

    Heltid, 6 månader eller längre

  • Lön

    Fast månads- vecko- eller timlön

  • Publicerad

    19 maj

  • Sök jobbet senast

    15 juni

Om jobbet

The University of Gothenburg tackles society’s challenges with diverse knowledge. 53 500 students and 6 500 employees make the university a large and inspiring place to work and study. Strong research and attractive study programmes attract scientists and students from around the world. With new knowledge and new perspectives, the University contributes to a better future.

The department is placed at three different localities: in Gothenburg Botanical garden, at Medicinarberget in Gothenburg and Kristineberg Marine Research Station. The current position is placed at Medicinarberget.

Project description - Can biopesticides provide evolutionarily sustainable pest control?

Pathogens provide some of the strongest selection pressures in nature, driving continual dynamic coevolutionary interactions with hosts. Because pathogens tend to show specificity in their ability to infect hosts, genetic variation for resistance to pathogens is typically high: any one host is unlikely to be able to resist all extant genotypes of pathogen circulating in a population. Host-pathogen coevolution is therefore key to fundamental questions about how selection shapes diversity, but it may also provide a tantalising solution to the long-standing problem of pesticide resistance evolution.

Insect pests consume 10-20% of globally produced food during growth or in storage, and therefore represent a substantial threat to global food security. Conventional pest control using synthetic pesticides can be problematic because it often conflicts with other sustainable development goals by damaging nontarget organisms and disrupting natural food webs. Moreover, in spite of intensive research and development, insects continue to evolve resistance to synthetic pesticides with predictable regularity, eluding even the most ingenious attempts to circumvent evolution. Populations of some pests, such as the cotton boll moth (Helicoverpa armigera), have evolved resistance to nearly all synthetic pesticides, and can quickly cause significant economic losses, while simultaneously prompting the overuse of ineffective chemicals by farmers who are desperate to control the damage.

Recently, we have proposed an innovative and evolutionarily sustainable approach to pest control that harnesses rather than resists the enormous evolutionary potential of pest populations. It relies on the observation that the performance of pest genotypes towards genetically complex challenges (e.g., the infective ability of pathogens and the similarly complex defences of host plants) depends strongly on environmental context. This suggests that we can preserve genetic diversity for susceptibility to biological agents by ensuring that pests experience different challenges (both in terms of fungal pathogens and host plants) at a landscape scale. However, while we have demonstrated this proof of concept, the long-term response of pest genetic architecture to constant or variable biopesticides remains unclear.

This PhD project can play a tremendous role in addressing one of the most wicked problems confronting sustainable development: the trade-off between abolishing hunger and preserving healthy environments. It will help clarify pressing but as yet unanswered questions about the long-term sustainability of evolutionarily sustainable pest control, while simultaneously shedding light on fundamental questions concerning host-pathogen evolution. The successful candidate will use a combination of quantitative genetic and laboratory evolution experiments to explore evolutionary changes in pest populations that are subject to variables levels of environmental heterogeneity. In addition, we will encourage the student to develop their own questions as the PhD develops, and to collaborate and conduct stakeholder outreach using our existing network in Sweden, Europe, South America and Africa.

Job assignments

The main task is to conduct the PhD thesis work under supervision, which includes development of the PhD student’s methodology experience, analytical skills, and theoretical depth and breadth. Techniques used within the project include quantitative genetic experiments, studies of laboratory evolution, microbiological infection assays, and methods associated with transdisciplinary work with stakeholders. The studies will be conducted mainly in the laboratory. Shorter periods may also be spent as field work in South America or Africa, where our research group has active collaborations with international researchers at universities, national research centers, not-for-profit organizations, and industrial partners. Specific research topics potentially associated with later parts of the research project include questions that transcend disciplinary boundaries, such as those concerning the logistics of biopesticide development, heterogeneous landscape management, the economic implications of producing or using diverse biocontrol products, and the social science of sustainable agriculture from farm to fork.

For more information and how to apply

In order to apply for a position at the University of Gothenburg, you must register an account in our online recruitment system〈=UK&rmpage=job&rmjob=20544 It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the application is complete in accordance with the instructions in the job advertisement, and that it is submitted before the deadline. The selection of candidates is made based on the qualifications registered in the application.

The application must be received no later than: 2021-06-15



In connection to this recruitment, we have already decided which recruitment channels we should use. We therefore decline further contact with vendors, recruitment and staffing companies.


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