1. Vacatures
  2. Wageningen University & Research
  3. PhD position: Viral manipulation of the insect brain

Helaas, deze vacature staat inmiddels niet meer online

Kijk gerust verder naar andere vacatures.

PhD position: Viral manipulation of the insect brain

We are searching for a motivated PhD candidate to execute the research project 'Insane in the brain: How a virus manipulates a caterpillar's brain function and behaviour to enhance transmission', funded by NWO. The ...

ongeveer een jaar geleden


Bornsesteeg, Wageningen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
38 - 38 uur


We are searching for a motivated PhD candidate to execute the research project 'Insane in the brain: How a virus manipulates a caterpillar's brain function and behaviour to enhance transmission', funded by NWO. The project focuses on parasitic manipulation of host behaviour, which is a common strategy exploited by parasites to increase transmission. Although exquisite examples of such behavioural alterations are known, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Baculoviruses, which are viruses specifically infecting insects, provide a unique system to study these mechanisms. Baculoviruses alter the behavior of caterpillars, causing increased locomotion (hyperactivity) and migration to the top of plants (tree-top disease), where the caterpillars liquefy and virus particles are released. Earlier studies have demonstrated that the baculovirus protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) is involved in inducing hyperactivity. The project aims to identify the pathway(s) activated by the baculovirus ptp gene that eventually lead(s) to hyperactive host behaviour. Since locomotion is primarily controlled by the central nervous system, we will focus on the brain of the infected caterpillars. The PhD candidate will combine a proteomic and transcriptomic approach with detailed morphological studies on viral invasion of the host brain and on infection of specific neurons. Identified genes, proteins, pathways and neural networks will be further studied in-depth for their role in host behavioural manipulation. The proposed research will reveal the mechanism of an appealing case of parasitic manipulation of host behavior and contribute to our understanding of insect behavior in general.


We ask:

  • An MSc degree in a relevant field (Biology, Virology, Entomology, Molecular Life Sciences, Biotechnology, or a comparable field);
  • Experience in molecular biological research, a proven ability to organize laboratory experiments and an affinity to work with insects;
  • A candidate who feels challenged by the aims of this project and has a strong drive for experimental research;
  • Experience with bioinformatics and/or virology is advantageous;
  • Proficiency in the English language (both written and spoken);
  • Willingness to assist in the education of BSc and MSc students.
Moreover, we look for someone with excellent interpersonal and communication skills and is able to work in a multidisciplinary team in a collaborative spirit.


We offer:
  • A full-time position (38 hours) for four years, with a go-no-go decision for continuation after one year.
  • Gross salary per month of € 2.222,= in the first year, building op to € 2.840,= in the 4th year, for a fulltime appointment.
  • The PhD candidate will be based at the Laboratory of Virology in Wageningen. The project will be performed in close collaboration with the Laboratory of Entomology (WU) and occasional visits to collaborating institutes world-wide are expected.
  • The PhD candidate will be offered a training course program via the graduate school Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC), which can be tailored to the desires of the candidate and the research team.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact dr. Vera Ros, assistant professor, by e-mail vera.ros@wur.nl or telephone +31(0)317-484461.

Please submit your motivation letter and CV before February 19, 2018. All applications are submitted via the Wageningen University & Research website. For this position you can only apply on line: www.wageningenur.nl/career


The Laboratory of Virology is part of the Plant Sciences Group of Wageningen University and is situated at the Wageningen Campus. Currently, about 25 researchers, including technicians, PhD students and Postdocs are employed at the Laboratory of Virology and contribute to a lively, research-driven work environment. Research at the Laboratory of Virology is focussed at various animal-, insect- and plant viruses. Plant viruses form a major threat for crops and ornamentals and are often transmitted by insect vectors. Arboviruses are transmitted by insects as well and cause disease in humans and animals. Insect-infecting viruses on the other hand are pathogenic to insects and are used to control pest insects. Insect viruses are also in use biotechnologically to produce recombinant proteins for instance for vaccines. Our research concentrates on virus-host and virus-vector interactions, with special attention for defence mechanisms, viral evasion strategies and host manipulation mechanisms.  

Wageningen University & Research
Delivering a substantial contribution to the quality of life. That's our focus - each and every day. Within our domain of good and safe food & food production, food security and a healthy living environment, we search for answers to issues affecting society - such as sustainable food production, climate change and alternative energy. Of course, we don't do this alone. Every day, 5000 people work on 'the quality of life', turning ideas into reality, on a global scale. Could you be one of these people? We give you the space you need.

For further information about working at Wageningen University & Research, take a look at www.wageningenur.nl/career