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PhD scholarship on Adaptationism, Evolution and Engineering, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2015



September 10, 2015


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PhD scholarship on Adaptationism, Evolution and Engineering

The Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, invites applications for a 3-year PhD scholarship. The successful candidate will be a member of the research project Living Machines? Prospects and Limitations of the Engineering Approach to the Organism sponsored by the Danish Research Council. The candidate will be expected to begin on November 1, 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The general question guiding the research project is how we should understand thinking about organisms as engineered systems? What is the theoretical and practical significance of the machine model of the organism? The project will analyze the engineering approach to living systems in the context of synthetic biology, systems biology, and evolutionary theory. More specifically the project will investigate a cluster of interconnected yet distinct philosophical questions about (1) the fundamental nature of living beings, (2) our understanding and explanation of biological systems, (3) the methods and metaphors used in the life sciences and biotechnology.

The PhD-project will investigate the usefulness of the machine model in evolutionary biology as framed within the adaptationism debate. While few would question that the adaptationist assumption has some value as a heuristic tool in inferring the evolutionary histories of organisms, there is much discussion about the extent of this value. Thus the PhD will primarily focus on the following general research questions: (1) How far can we rely on the machine model to reverse engineer organismic traits and infer evolutionary history? (2) In which ways is the evolutionary perspective on the machine model of organisms relevant for synthetic and systems biology? (3) How do certain design methods (e.g. directed evolution) and desired traits (e.g. functional modularity) in the development of artefactual organisms interact with natural evolutionary processes?

The successful candidate will be working in close cooperation with the other members of the project. It is expected that the successful candidate will be present, part of the team and partake in the activities of the project on a daily basis.

The application should include a proposal outlining the overall themes, sources, methodology, theories and expected outcomes of the PhD project as well as a time-plan.

For further information, please contact Associate Professor Sune Holm,

Deadline: September 10, 2015

Application procedure:

Applicants need to hold a two-year Master's degree (120 ECTS) or the equivalent. Applicants shall have submitted their thesis at the time of application, to the extent the thesis forms part of their Master program. In case you have not obtained your diploma by the application deadline, you must include a statement (pre-approval) from your university that declares that you have been awarded the master degree.

Applications must be submitted via the electronic application system (you may find the link below).

The following enclosures to the application must be submitted:

• A copy of the applicant's Master's degree diploma and transcript of records

• Bachelor degree diploma and transcript of records

• If the MA diploma and/or examination records are in another language than English, German, French, Danish, Norwegian or Swedish, please include a translation into either of these languages in your application.

• Documentation of English proficiency. (You may find more information below.)

• Curriculum Vitae

• Project proposal (must not exceed 12,000 characters. For further information see below)

Do not upload ZIP files and do not submit any publications, recommendations or your Master thesis.

The Faculty will dismiss applications, which do not adhere to the formal requirements.

Diploma and transcript of records: The translation of diplomas/certificates and transcripts may be made by or approved by either:

• a state-authorized translator and interpreter

• the embassy or consulate of the country where the original document was issued or where the translation was made

• a Danish consulate/embassy

The PhD administration encourages applicants from within the EU to enclose a Diploma Supplement. The Diploma Supplement is part of a common European framework for transparency of competencies and qualifications – the EuroPass framework. For more information, click here.

Applicants with a non-Danish Master's degree will have their degree assessed by The Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalisation in order to establish, if the Master's degree is equivalent to a Danish Master's degree. Read more at the website ofThe Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalisation.

Project proposal requirements: Please note that the research proposal must not exceed 12,000 characters in Microsoft Word (including spacing, punctuation, footnotes and references, title, study plan, figures etc., but excluding bibliography). Please specify the amount of characters used at the top (left/right) of your research proposal. Guidelines on how to make a research proposal and information about required enclosures are available here.

Documentation of proficiency in English: You need to document proficiency in English. For information about the specific language requirements and applicants who are exempt from these requirements, please read more on the PhD website. Applicants who have not submitted documentation of English proficiency (and who are not subject to the exemptions listed on our website) will be dismissed. Read more about language requirements here.

Further information: Employment as a PhD scholar occurs pursuant to the applicable rules of the Faculty of Humanities, as well as between the Ministry of Finance and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC). Under this agreement, the PhD student is obliged - without further remuneration - to carry out allotted work to an extent corresponding to a total of 840 working hours in the course of a three-year contract.

Please note that it is normally a precondition for employment that the applicant in question does not already have a PhD degree. Applicants who have already obtained a PhD degree will, as a main rule, be dismissed.

For further information on employment terms please see the collective agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (AC) as well the protocol to the agreement covering staff with university degrees in the state sector (in Danish). Read more here.

Enrolment as a PhD student at the Faculty of Humanities' PhD School is a precondition for employment as a PhD scholar: For more information about the PhD School, clickhere.

Application deadline: September 10, 2015 at 23.59 (CET).

No supplementary documents will be taken into consideration after this deadline.

As an equal opportunity employer, the Faculty of Humanities invites applications from all interested candidates regardless of gender, age, ethnic origin or religion.

For any further questions, please contact the PhD administration by e-mail ( If you have specific questions concerning your submitted PhD application please use the following e-mail address:

Apply here

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