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The role of Blastocystis in inflammatory bowel disease


   Faculty of Science and Technology

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  Prof M Van der Giezen  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The PhD Fellow will be affiliated with the following project: "The role of Blastocystis in inflammatory bowel disease", financed by The Research Council of Norway. This is a large interdisciplinary project with collaborators at the Stavanger University Hospital, the Staten Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Institute of Parasitology in České Budějovice, Czech Republic. See more information about the project here.

The project will be carried out at the University of Stavanger, by the research group of Professor van der Giezen

In the clinic, microbial eukaryotes are usually treated as parasites. However, recent data suggest a possible beneficial and/or commensal role for intestinal eukaryotes such as Blastocystis. Given the widespread distribution of Blastocystis in the general population and our preliminary data, we hypothesise that this intestinal microbe plays a beneficial role in human intestinal health and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in particular.

The current literature on IBD and the gut microbiome has mainly focused on the bacterial microbiome while ignoring microbial eukaryotes. Therefore, it remains unknown whether gut microbial eukaryotes such as Blastocystis are associated with clinical outcomes such as disease activity, gut inflammation, treatment response, or quality of life and fatigue in patients with IBD.

This project will thoroughly address our current lack of understanding of the role of the intestinal protist Blastocystis in intestinal health and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in particular.

Our hypothesis is that the IBD gut is unfavourable for strict anaerobes such as Blastocystis. Currently, there is controversy in the literature as to whether this organism is harmful, commensal, or beneficial. As these studies were based on small cohorts, it is important to finally address this knowledge gap using larger cohorts. Using the cohort of patients from the Stavanger University Hospital Inflammatory Bowel Disease study (SUSI) will finally provide us with solid information on the presence of Blastocystis in IBD patients.

Qualification requirements

We are looking for applicants with a strong academic background who have completed a five-year master degree (3+2) within Biological Sciences, preferably molecular biology or microbiology, and ideally acquired recently; or possess corresponding qualifications that could provide a basis for successfully completing a doctorate.

To be eligible for admission to the doctoral programmes at the University of Stavanger both the grade for your master’s thesis and the weighted average grade of your master’s degree must individually be equivalent to or better than a B grade. If you finish your education (masters degree) in the autumn of 2022 you are also welcome to apply.

Applicants with an education from an institution with a different grade scale than A-F, and/or with other types of credits than sp/ECTS, must attach a confirmed conversion scale that shows how the grades can be compared with the Norwegian A-F scale and a Diploma Supplement or similar that explains the scope of the subject that are included in the education. You can use these conversion scales to calculate your points for admission.

Emphasis is also placed on your:

  • experience working in intestinal microbiology, preferably with Blastocystis
  • experience with molecular biology techniques and with next-generation sequencing, microbiome analyses, bioinformatics (for example using R)
  • motivation and potential for research within the field
  • professional and personal skills for completing the doctoral degree within the timeframe
  • ability to work independently and in a team, be innovative and creative
  • ability to work structured and handle a heavy workload
  • having a good command of both oral and written English

The application must be accompanied by a cover letter explaining your interest in the project and the relevance of your background and experience.

Requirements for competence in English

A good proficiency in English is required for anyone attending the PhD program. International applicants must document this by taking one of the following tests with the following results:

  • TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language, Internet-Based Test (IBT). Minimum result: 90
  • IELTS – International English Language Testing Service. Minimum result: 6.5
  • Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) or Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) from the University of Cambridge
  • PTE Academic – Pearson Test of English Academic. Minimum result: 62

The following applicants are exempt from the above requirements:

  • Applicants with one year of completed university studies in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA
  • Applicants with an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma
  • Applicants with a completed bachelor's and / or master's degrees taught in English in a EU/EEA country

We offer

  • a PhD education in a large, exciting and socially important organisation
  • an ambitious work community which is developing rapidly. We strive to include employees at all levels in strategic decisions and promote an informal atmosphere with a flat organisational structure.
  • salary in accordance with the State Salary Scale, l.pl 17.515, code 1017, NOK 501 200 gross per year with salary development according to seniority in the position. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.
  • automatic membership in the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund, which provides favourable insurance- and retirement benefits
  • favourable membership terms at a gym and at the SIS sports club at campus
  • employment with an Inclusive Workplace organisation which is committed to reducing sick leave, increasing the proportion of employees with reduced working capacity, and increasing the number of professionally active seniors
  • "Hjem-jobb-hjem" discounted public transport to and from work
  • as an employee in Norway, you will have access to an optimal health service, as well as good pensions, generous maternity/paternity leave, and a competitive salary. Nursery places are guaranteed and reasonably priced
  • relocation programme
  • language courses: On this page you can see which language courses you may be entitled to (look up “language courses” under employment conditions)

Contact information

More information on the position (and project description) can be obtained from Head of Department Ingunn W. Jolma, e-mail: [Email Address Removed] or Professor Mark van der Giezen, tel: +47 51 83 44 93, e-mail: [Email Address Removed].

Information about the appointment procedure can be obtained from HR advisor Rosa Andrade, tel: +47 51 83 11 91, e-mail: [Email Address Removed].

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