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4 year fully-funded PhD on: Understanding the role of diversity in picornavirus biology and pathogenesis

   Institute for Integrative Systems Biology

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  Dr Ron Geller  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

* IMPORTANT: due to a large number of applicants, we will only email those that are selected for the second round.


RNA viruses have the highest mutation rates in nature. Combined with large population sizes and fast replication times, this property endows RNA viruses with the largest capacity for rapid evolution in nature. This allows RNA viruses to escape host immunity, render antivirals ineffective, thwart vaccination efforts, and breach the species barrier to cause new pandemics, as has recently been observed with SARS-CoV-2. While the high mutation rates of RNA viruses clearly play a role in their successful propagation, how RNA viruses contend with high mutation rates despite most mutations being deleterious to protein function remains unclear. Moreover, our understanding of how different viral proteins or even classes of proteins (e.g. polymerase, structural proteins, proteases) accommodate mutations and how such mutations affect the biology of the virus remains limited. Elucidating these fundamental questions is key to understanding the biology and evolution of RNA viruses and has important implications for developing therapeutic strategies that mitigate escape by these pathogens. 

The goal of the project:

We are addressing these questions by generating highly diverse viral populations and using high-fidelity next-generation sequencing techniques to understand how each mutation affects viral fitness under different environments. We then plan on using this information to define how the virus escapes host neutralizing antibodies and innate immunity as well as better understand viral evolution. Finally, we will combine the information gained from these studies to generate live-attenuated vaccine candidates that will be validated in mouse models of infection.

Specifics for the Ph.D. grant:

The grant is the 2022 Santiago GRISOLIA Ph.D. grant from the Valencian Government in Spain (https://innova.gva.es/es/web/ciencia/a-programa-i-d-i2). The grant covers 4 years of salary and some initial money to support any costs of moving. The starting date is preferably mid-September, 2022, or January 1st, 2023. Please apply as early as possible as there is not much time to evaluate candidates before the position closes.

Candidates MUST fit the description below:

Essential requirements:

1.      Undergraduate degree in biological sciences from an institution outside of the EU/Europe obtained after 01/01/2017.

2. Master's degree or equivalent to be completed before August 1, 2022 (can be in the EU/Europe). Specifics for the requirements are dependent on the Ph.D. program to be chosen at the University of Valencia. Most likely, one of the two indicated below:

a. https://www.uv.es/uvweb/doctoral-biomedicine-biotechnology/en/doctoral-programme-biomedicine-biotechnology-1285885301480.html

b. https://www.uv.es/uvweb/cavanilles-institute-biodiversity-biology/en/teaching/doctoral-studies/programme-biodiversity-evolutionary-biology/doctoral-programme-biodiversity-evolutive-biology-1285897406833/Titulacio.html?id=1285887567209&p2=5-1

3.      Wet lab experience

4.      Good level of written and spoken English

In addition, one or more of the skills below are needed:

1.      Experience in tissue culture and/or virology

2.      Experience working with mice

3.      Experience with bioinformatics

Interested candidates should send an email to [Email Address Removed], including a description of their experience and education, their grades from their undergraduate studies, and the contact information for two references that have the ability to comment on the potential of the candidate. Top candidates will be contacted for an online interview.

Funding Notes

Only available for students that completed their undergraduate studies OUTSIDE of the EU/Europe. A total of 4 years of funding. Starting date is either the 16th of Sept, 2022, or January 1st, 2023.


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