PhD positions in the Department of Archaeogenetics beginning as early as October 2018
The Archaeogenetics Department at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, is offering up to 10 PhD positions beginning as early as Fall 2018. The overarching research topic of the department is the use of novel scientific approaches including high throughput sequencing of ancient DNA from human populations, their pathogens, and their beneficial microbes to explore research questions related to human history, migrations, gene-culture coevolution, microbiome evolution, and adaptation to infectious disease.
The institute hosts a multi-disciplinary research team and is looking for students from a variety of backgrounds including, but not restricted to, molecular biology, bioinformatics, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, mathematics, physics, computer science, anthropology and archaeology. Students holding a Master’s degree (or equivalent) with a proven record of success in their discipline and a genuine interest in examining questions related to human history are encouraged to apply.
Deadline for applications is 15 March 2018.
Please submit your application in English, including the following:
- Cover letter, explaining research experience, and indicating project(s) of interest (see below) and reason for interest in project(s);
- Copies of degree certificates (Bachelor’s and Master’s diplomas or transcripts); if the candidate is enrolled in a Master’s program and the degree is anticipated but not yet granted, please explain the circumstances in the cover letter;
- Names and contact information (including email and phone) for 2-3 referees. Note these individuals will be automatically contacted to provide a reference letter.
Please submit your application online here.
The students will be part of the newly founded International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Human history. The Max Planck Institute is not itself part of a university, but is affiliated to the Friedrich Schiller University, in Jena Germany. Doctoral degrees will be granted by the affiliated university.
Doctoral candidates enroll in a 3-year fully-funded graduate program that provides excellent research conditions. Graduate courses and all other degree requirements necessitate proficiency in English.
The Max Planck Society is committed to employing individuals with disabilities and especially encourages them to apply. The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. Information regarding the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History can be found at www.shh.mpg.de.
For queries, please contact:
Ms. Johanna Allner
Projects offered in 2018
Please find below a list of topics we offer for this year's recruitment. All projects are highly integrative and require collaboration between different research groups. Applicants should choose up to three topics of interest. If you are invited to Jena for a recruitment event/interview it is possible to change your preferences after talking to the supervisors.
Topic 1: Historical Human Population Genetics
Main supervisor: Dr. Stephan Schiffels
Description: Human history leaves its traces in genomes, via changes in population size and structure. By analysing the genomes of living and ancient populations, we can therefore directly learn about historical events, such as migrations. In recent years, this approach has led to many new insights, mainly in prehistoric time periods. In this project, we want to develop advanced analytical methodology and analyse new data to investigate events in more recent, historical, time periods, as has been done for example in the case of the Anglo-Saxon migrations into England (Schiffels et al. 2016). Applicants for this topic should have a Master’s degree in some field of the Sciences, technical/analytical skills (including programming experience), and an interest in human history.
Topic 2: Pleistocene Human Population Genetics
Description: Recent years have seen the emergence of the first genome wide data from Pleistocene Eurasia, painting a complex picture of genetic interactions and turnovers, likely often caused by major climatic events such as glaciation cycles and volcanic eruptions. In this project we want to establish a more detailed time transect through Pleistocene Eurasia, starting with genome wide data from the first modern humans that left Africa to the early Holocene hunter gatherers that were often absorbed or replaced by farming populations in the early Holocene. Specific questions include, the Pleistocene genetic connections of Eastern and Western Eurasians. The genetic origin of the Beringian population that gave rise to Native Americans. The genetic relationships that connect Northern-Africa and Pleistocene Europe.
Topic 3: Eastern Mediterranean Population Genetics
Description: Since the advent of human civilisation, the Eastern Mediterranean presents a crossroad for human mobility and interactions as well as a core of innovation throughout human history – from the Near East being one of the centers of origin for agriculture in the world up the first urban centers and writing systems. In this project, we are planning to analyze a time transect through the Eastern Mediterranean from the Late Pleistocene to the early first millennium BC in order to understand the complex genetic interactions between human populations in this region. Thanks to the ongoing Max Planck Harvard Research Center for the Archaeoscience of the Ancient Mediterranean (MHAAM) this genetic research will be part of a larger group of geneticists and archaeologists who aim at integrating all possible strands of archaeological and scientific approaches in order to better understand human mobility in this key area of human existence.
Topic 4: Population and Immunogenetics of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Western Eurasia
Description: This project continues to fill the temporal and spatial gaps in the three-dimensional grid of ancient human genome data. The main aim is to understand the processes that underlie the main demographic turnover events in Europe that were uncovered by ancient DNA studies. In the light of recent findings that lend weight to past epidemics being one of the potential driving forces in human movements in prehistory, we would also like to focus on the immunogenetics of past populations. More generally we aim to characterise the interplay of human genetics and immunogenetics, human-pathogen interactions, and aspects of gene-culture co-evolution through time. This topic will form part of the 5-year ERC-funded project PALEoRIDER - Human health and migration in prehistory. Applicants should have a combined broad interest in human genetics, archaeology, and bioinformatics.
Topic 5: Detection and Analysis of Human Pathogens from Metagenomic data
Main supervisor: Dr. Alexander Herbig
Description: The Department of Archaeogenetics is producing thousands of DNA sequencing datasets from ancient human remains. These datasets are of metagenomic nature, which means that they not only contain the DNA of the human but also of other organisms, e.g. from the soil. In some cases we can even retrieve genetic material from bacteria or viruses that have infected the individual whose remains we are studying.
We have developed experimental and computational techniques to reconstruct the genomes of these pathogenic organisms in order to comparatively analyse them together with their modern relatives. Furthermore, we are developing automated screening and authentication techniques for the detection of pathogens from metagenomic data.
In the context of this topic we want to apply these techniques to a wide range of sequence data in order to detect pathogens in different human populations, study their genome evolution in comparison to modern forms and identify the cause of past epidemics.
Topic 6: The Prehistory of the Pacific
Main supervisor: Dr. Adam Powell
Co-supervisor(s): Prof. Johannes Krause
Description: The prehistory of the Pacific is relatively short yet incredibly complex. Uncovering the genetic, cultural and linguistic interactions between the indigenous Papuan peoples in Near Oceania and the incoming Austronesians is key to understanding the population history of the wider Pacific. This project will combine analyses of new modern and ancient genetic data from across the region with methods from archaeology and computational historical linguistics to provide an integrated account of Pacific demographic history. This topic will form part of the 5-year ERC-funded project Waves: Waves of history in the South Pacific: A gene-culture co-evolutionary approach. Applicants should have an interest in human population genetics and archaeology, and ideally have bioinformatics or computational methods training.
Topic 7: Molecular Paleopathology
Main supervisor: Dr. Kirsten Bos
Description: Methods of disease detection and analysis from archaeological remains have matured in recent years, where full genomes of pathogens can now be reconstructed. Examples include, but are not limited to, plague, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever. Through molecular detection of ancient pathogens, research in this topic explores changes in the infectious disease landscape in human populations over time and considers such themes as transmissibility, disease susceptibility, co-morbidity, zoonoses, and bacterial evolution. Applicants here should have a broad interest in past population health, and training in skeletal pathology and/or laboratory methods.
Topic 8: Ancient Microbiome Research
Main supervisor: Dr. Christina Warinner
Co-supervisors: Dr. Alexander Herbig
Description: Dental calculus is now known to be the richest source of ancient biomolecules in the archaeological record. However, the microbial richness of this system also poses challenges, such as the efficient recovery of low abundance species. This project will focus on developing in solution capture enrichment strategies to allow the recovery and study of specific bacteria and yeasts in the ancient human oral cavity in order to understand their evolution through time. Applicants should have a broad interest in the microbiome and training in laboratory methods.
Topic 9: Microbial diversity of traditional fermented foods
Main supervisor: Dr. Christina Warinner
Description: Since prehistory, humans have been utilizing microbes to create a wide variety of fermented foods. However, the microbial diversity of these traditional foods today and their connections to prehistoric migrations and past culinary innovations are understudied. In cooperation with the Heirloom Microbes Project, this research will characterize microbial diversity in fermented dairy products from around the world and investigate the microbial connections between the world’s major dairy traditions. Applicants should have a broad interest in human diet and microbiology, and ideally have bioinformatics or computational methods training.
Topic 10: Proteomic Investigation of Ancient Disease
Main supervisor: Dr. Christina Warinner
Description: Genetic analysis of ancient diseases has vastly expanded our understanding of the origins and evolution of microbial pathogens. Recent advances in proteomics have shown that ancient health states can also be investigated through the study of ancient proteins, including immune proteins and microbial virulence factors. This project will focus on characterizing the proteomes of skeletal pathologies and skeletal material from individuals with suspected or confirmed connections to past epidemic events. Applicants should have a broad interest proteomics and paleopathology, and ideally have training in mass spectrometry techniques.