Naturalis is looking for a PhD student. To study the functional microbial diversity and biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) diversity in sponges.

Website Naturalis

A position is available for an independent and highly motivated individual to work as a PhD-student. This position is part of the Horizon 2020 Programme Consortium ‘MARBLES – Marine Biodiversity as Sustainable Resource of Disease-Suppressive Microbes and Bioprotectants for Aquaculture and Crop Diseases’ led by Prof Dr Gilles van Wezel (Leiden University).
The aim of the PhD-project is to link global sponge biodiversity patterns to both overall microbial diversity and biosynthetic gene cluster (BGCs) diversity in selected sponge families and orders in a variety of marine environments, such as the deep sea, coral reefs and large enclosed water bodies. Marine sponges are invertebrate animals that harbour a diverse and often specific microbiome. These serve both as degraders of organic compounds providing nutrients to the sponge host, but also as producers of secondary metabolites acting as defence mechanism. The sponge microorganisms have a large potential for the production of bioactive compounds. The identification of biosynthetic gene clusters (BGC’s) in bacterial genome sequences has become a powerful tool for natural product discovery. So far, many different BGC’s have been identified in a variety of sponges that play a key role in microbiome/sponge interactions and distinct chemistry of certain sponge species. In the present study, functional diversity of BGC’s will be assessed using metagenomics sequencing and metatranscriptome analysis to detect global biodiversity patterns within sponges to be linked to both overall microbial and BGC diversity.
The PhD position fits within the research of Prof Dr Nicole de Voogd (Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Leiden University) and Dr Detmer Sipkema (Wageningen University and Research) who will act as daily supervisors. Prof Dr Nicole de Voogd investigates microbial communities of sponges in tropical marine ecosystems (for more information: and Dr Detmer Sipkema research is focusing on metagenomics, cultivation and bioactivity of sponge-associated microbes. Scientific director of Naturalis Prof Dr Koos Biesmeijer and Prof Dr Nicole de Voogd will act as promotors. The PhD candidate will be housed in Naturalis (Leiden, the Netherlands), but regular short-term visits to WUR are required. A PhD training program is part of the agreement and you will be enrolled in the Graduate School of Leiden University

General requirements and skills Preferably the candidate has the following skill set:

A general interest in marine invertebrates and symbioses, ideally with an affinity to sponges and experience with scientific diving and willingness to do fieldwork is a pre, but not a prerequisite;
background in molecular techniques, preferably some expertise in next-generation sequencing methods;
eager to do molecular lab work;
excellent knowledge of the English language (written and verbal);
scientific and critical attitude, excellent time management and organizational skills;
ability to work independently as well as collaboratively within the team;
good communication skills;
willingness to supervise BSc & MSc students.
Fixed-term contract: One year, to be extended with three more years after a successful first year evaluation (4y in total).

A contract (36 hours per week) for a period of one year, to be extended with three more years after a successful first year evaluation (4y in total), and a monthly starting salary of € 2,840.- (circa € 37,500.- gross per year). The successful candidate will be employed by Naturalis in Leiden. Naturalis Biodiversity Center offers an inspiring working atmosphere with effective and efficient supervision of our PhD candidates. Our Research Coordination Office also provides ample support to our scientific staff. Our institute promotes gender equality and wants to enhance the diversity of staff members. Feel free to contact Prof Dr Nicole de Voogd with questions about the position: [email protected]
Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden is the Dutch national research institute for biodiversity and systematics. With our collection of 42 million specimens, one of the world’s largest natural history collections, and our state-of-the-art research facilities we offer the (inter)national research infrastructure for species, identification and monitoring (for example in the ARISE and DiSSCo projects). We closely collaborate with many Dutch universities, research institutes, industry and government. We host over 120 researchers including 13 academia embedded professors and 40 PhD students. We present the history of our planet, and the diversity of life on Earth, through permanent and temporary museum exhibitions, educational programmes and online presence, with more than 400,000 visitors per year. All in all, a unique combination of science and culture in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world!
The research department is organised in 9 research groups comprising researchers and their postdocs and PhD-students. The current position will be in Marine Biodiversity, led by Prof. Dr. Willem Renema. Naturalis has a completely new lab building, including state-of-the-art molecular facilities, microCT scanners and electron microscopy (SEM and TEM).
Applicants are invited to submit their application, including a cover/motivation letter, CV and two letters of recommendation. Please use the Apply button for your application no later than August 27, 2021, 17.00h CEST. Interviews are foreseen to take place in the second week of September. The PhD position is expected to start October 1st 2021 at the earliest. Naturalis endorses the Cultural Diversity Code. In the case of equal suitability, preference is given to the candidate who reinforces diversity within the team. Acquisition is not appreciated.

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