YAG Interdisciplinary PhD: Evolutionary Biology and Philosophy


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University of Groningen

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has built up an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative institution, offering high-quality education and frontier research. We provide balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines to about 31,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. We rank one of the best research universities in Europe and have joined forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, making it a truly international place of knowledge.

The Young Academy Groningen (YAG), established in 2016, is an organization that brings together the most talented, enthusiastic and ambitious young researchers from diverse academic backgrounds. Our aim is to support young researchers in developing and strengthening public activities and outreach, contributing to developments in the areas of internationalization and science policy, and facilitating interdisciplinary research initiatives.

Each year we have two interdisciplinary PhD positions available to help foster interdisciplinary collaborations amongst YAG members.

Job description

How do living organisms transmit their characteristics to the next generation?

The textbook answer is: by passing on their DNA, which encodes all heritable traits. In recent years, however, biologists have discovered that this is not the whole story. Evidence is accumulating that environmental influences during the lifetime of an individual, such as nutrition or stress, can influence the phenotype of their progeny across several generations. This phenomenon reminds us of the concept of ‘inheritance of acquired characters’, already formulated in 1809 by the French naturalist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck in his Philosophie Zoologique. Lamarck’s ideas have often met with skepticism, but recent developments in molecular genetics, such as epi-genetics, have inspired a re-evaluation of his legacy. Indeed, we seem to witness a renaissance of Lamarckian thought.

In this project, we aim explore the Lamarckian nature of recent discoveries in the transmission of inherited traits, and the evolution of biological complexity. In this way, we aim to evaluate what modern biology can, or cannot, learn from the original ideas of Lamarck, and whether or not the works of Lamarck offer lessons that change the way we think about evolution. This project will contribute to that debate by bringing together the disciplines of evolutionary biology, and the history of science and philosophy.

Do you want to be part of our team?


• you have a Master’s Degree
• you have experience in the field of either biology or the history of science or philosophy. You are prepared to be trained in the other as a part of your PhD trajectory.
• you have good oral and written communication skills, including proficiency in English.

Conditions of employment

Contract length: 48 months.

You will enroll in the UG PhD Scholarship Program and will receive a gross scholarship of EUR 2120 per month of which wage tax and social security premiums will be deducted. You can find General information on the programme at http://www.rug.nl/education/phd-programmes/phd-scholarship-programme/about/

Do you meet our Qualification criteria? If yes, your application should include:
1. letter of motivation
2. CV (including contact information for at least two academic references)
3. transcripts from your bachelor’s and master’s degree.
4. A research proposal of max. 1500 words
5. A certified transcript of records.

Please submit your application until 14 May 2019 23:59 h / before 15 May 2019 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our University. We are committed to building a diverse faculty so you are encouraged to apply. Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code and European Commission's: European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers.

For more information about the project
Supervisors: Dr. Martine Maan (Evolutionary Biology - Faculty of Science and Engineering) and Dr. Han Thomas Adriaenssen (History of Philosophy - Faculty of Philosophy)

it is highly recommended to contact the Young Academy members stated above to discuss the project.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact:

For practical information please contact:

In your application, please always include the job opening ID B010219

Digital application form