Switzerland: PhD Studentship in Evolutionary Biology / Computational Biology, University of Zurich

A candidate with previous exposure to numerical analysis or computer science is desired for a Ph.D. studentship in evolutionary biology.
The population genetics group at the Institute of Zoology has formed a research team to study the evolution of biochemical and morphological adaptations in cyanobacteria. The physiology of the latter class of organisms exhibits two of the most important biochemical adaptations in the history of life: nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis. They have also evolved multicellularity. Our group, which is composed of both theoreticians and experimentalists, attempts to understand the evolution of these adaptations through a combination of empirical and theoretical approaches.

As a theoretician, the candidate will be engaged in two classes of modelling approaches. The first is the development of model-based methodologies for phylogenetic estimation and measures of genetic relatedness. This would involve the construction of theoretical models based on population processes, and the subsequent development of methods for estimating phylogenetic and population genetic signals arising from the latter processes. The developed methodology would then be tested against real data.

The second class of research project focuses on the development of models for the evolution of biochemical adaptations. Based on the candidate's tastes, this can range from evolution of ODE based models of biochemical processes, to more abstract theoretical models of parallel computation occuring in chemical media.


The environment of the lab is multidisciplinary and we do our utmost to accommodate candidates from diverse academic backgrounds. Working language of the group is English, though knowledge of German may be a plus for easing administrative interactions within the University (not to mention improving the candidate's social existence). Programming skills in C, R, Python, Matlab/Maple/Mathematica/Octave would be a plus. In addition, knowledge of computer architecture, Fortran77, Assembly, Lisp or familiarity with the internal workings of numerical analysis or computational algebra packages would be venerated (though clearly not a must). Previous exposure to evolutionary biology and/or knowledge of any one of the following areas of mathematics would be a plus: probability theory, graph theory and differential equations.

The opportunity exists to interact with experimentalists. The candidate should feel comfortable with interacting with biology students who may not have a quantitative background. Intellectual flexibility, combined with a genuine interest in biology are a must.

Ph.D. candidates at the University of Zurich should already possess a Masters degree (or alternatively, the equivalent of the Diplom in the German system) at the time of starting the program. The successful candidate would be supported by an annual stipend of roughly 38,000 Swiss Franks. Duration of study is usually 3-4yrs.


Interested candidates should send electronic versions of a cover letter and their CV with reference lists to evolzurich@gmail.com. Applicants should mention the earliest date at which they would be able to start and are also welcome to attach PDF versions of one or two of their previous publications if applicable (though prior publication is not a requirement).

Applications will be accepted until August 15th. 2007. Due to potential high volume of electronic applications, applicants who have not received a response by August 20th. 2007 may assume that their application was not successful.

Contact address:

Homayoun Bagheri, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Population Genetics
Institute of Zoology
University of Zurich
Winterthurerstr. 190
CH-8057 Zurich


Email evolzurich@gmail.com
Tel. (41) 44 635 6623
Fax. (41) 44 635 6887