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  3. PhD position in Quantitative Genetics of Human Life-History (1.0 FTE)

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PhD position in Quantitative Genetics of Human Life-History (1.0 FTE)

You will conduct research on the quantitative genetics of human life-history evolution in collaboration with Virpi Lummaa’s Human Life History Group (https://human-life-history.science/) at the University of Turku, Finland, Erik Postma’s Research Group (http://www.erikpostma.net)

ongeveer 2 maanden geleden


Broerstraat, Groningen, Groningen
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur
€ 3061 - € 3061 per maand


You will conduct research on the quantitative genetics of human life-history evolution in collaboration with Virpi Lummaa’s Human Life History Group (https://human-life-history.science/) at the University of Turku, Finland, Erik Postma’s Research Group (http://www.erikpostma.net) at the University of Exeter, UK and the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Supervision is by Hannah Dugdale, Virpi Lummaa and Erik Postma. You will have access to two long-term, pedigreed, human datasets of rural Finns and the Swiss canton of Glarus. You will be part of a team of PhD students, postdocs, and staff who are using these individual-based historical archives to improve understanding of human life-history evolution.

In addition to conducting research, there will be some teaching duties (~10% of your time).

One of the most profound challenges we all face is our deterioration with age - a process known as senescence. Individuals clearly senesce differently, in both the age they start to deteriorate and the rate they decline at. However, the underlying causes of these differences in senescence patterns remain poorly understood. In particular, this may be due to trade-offs underlying senescence, and the interaction of genetic and environmental effects on senescence patterns. Understanding the quantitative genetics of life-history traits is important as it will potentially highlight deleterious effects that individuals could mitigate to live longer healthier lives.

For your PhD, you will investigate the relative impact of environmental and genetic factors on senescence using two exceptional human archive datasets from rural Finland and the Swiss canton of Glarus. You will first investigate the accuracy of selection measures by asking how well standard fitness measures, such as lifetime reproductive success and the number of grand-offspring, reflect expected genetic contribution to future generations. You will then investigate, though a quantitative genetic framework, the heritability of fitness metrics and genetic trade-offs in life-history traits, such as the age of first reproduction and longevity. You will then test whether these genetic trade-offs vary across environmental conditions, between the sexes and with age. Finally, you will quantify how quantitative genetic parameters change in relation to the demographic transition.

Bolund E, Lummaa V (2016) The effects of resource availability and the demographic transition on the genetic correlation between number of children and grandchildren in humans. Heredity, 118, 1–7.
Bolund E, Hayward A, Pettay JE, Lummaa V (2015) Effects of the demographic transition on the genetic variances and covariances of human life-history traits. Evolution, 69, 747–755.
Evans SR, Waldvogel D, Vasiljevic N, Postma E (2018) Heritable spouse effects increase evolutionary potential of human reproductive timing. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285, 20172763.


You are expected to:

• hold a (research) master degree (or will graduate before appointment date) in a relevant field, such as Evolutionary Biology
• be curiosity driven and passionate about fundamental research in the context of quantitative genetics and life-history evolution
• have strong quantitative skills (training will be provided)
• ideally have experience in extracting and analysing data from databases or large datasets (training will be provided)
• be a team player, willing to work with a diverse group of researchers and technicians, and can also work independently
• have strong communication skills and are motivated to disseminate results to both scientific peers and a broad audience
• be proficient in the English language (oral and written) e.g. with a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 overall and 6.5 on parts
• be strongly motivated to obtain a PhD degree.


We offer you in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities:

- a salary between a range from € 2,395 per month in the first year to € 3,061 gross per month in the fourth year (in case of fulltime employment); fulltime is considered to be 38 hours per week
- a holiday allowance of 8%, a year-end bonus of 8.3%
- a minimum of 29 holidays and additional 12 holidays in case of full-time employment; substantial tax benefits may apply to non-Dutch citizens, conditional on permission granted by the Dutch Tax Office
- a position for a period of four years. First you are offered a temporary position of one year with the option of renewal for another three years. Prolongation of the contract is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the contract period is to be expected. A PhD training programme is part of the agreement and you will be enrolled in the Graduate School of the Faculty.

The conditions of employment are available at the University of Groningen website under Human Resources: http://www.rug.nl/about-ug/work-with-us/information-for-new-staff?lang=eng

The preferred starting date is 1 February 2021

Additional information

Prof. Hannah Dugdale

Prof. Virpi Lummaa