PhD position: Covert DNA virus infections in insects

PhD position: Covert DNA virus infections in insects

Published Deadline Location
3 Nov 26 Nov Wageningen

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Job description

The recent revolution of large-scale sequencing technologies has unveiled a vast amount of covert virus infections in insects, including also DNA viruses. In addition to pathological 'overt' infections, many viruses produce silent or 'covert' infections in their hosts, which are often vertically transmitted from parent to offspring. Under certain conditions, such covert infections can switch to overt, lethal, infections. Here we aim to determine the mechanism by which large dsDNA viruses are maintained as covert infections in insects. The project includes baculoviruses (infecting caterpillars), hytrosaviruses (infecting flies) and nudiviruses (in a range of insect species). The candidate will look into the molecular mechanisms maintaining a covert state and will investigate whether homologous mechanisms exist for these related insect viruses. In addition, the conditions and mechanism facilitating a transition from covert to overt infections will be studied. Furthermore, the effect of covert viruses on host fitness are investigated. Understanding these processes is needed to predict, prevent and control diseases in insect mass rearing, enabling sustainable rearing of insects. The knowledge obtained will be fundamental to develop tailored detection methods and to optimize insect mass rearing methods.

The PhD candidate will work under the supervision of Dr. Vera Ros (Wageningen University & Research) and Dr. Salvador Herrero (University of Valencia, Spain). The candidate will be based at Wageningen University & Research, and will perform a secondment for a minimum of 9 months at the University of Valencia.
The PhD position you are applying for is part of a large Double Degree Programme called INSECT DOCTORS, funded by the European Commission. The overall aim of the INSECT DOCTORS' training programme is to educate a new generation of scientist that have in-depth knowledge on insect pathogens, as well as the skills to assist the upcoming industry of insect mass rearing to prevent disease outbreaks in their insect cultures.

In total, 15 PhD candidates participate in this programme, and each PhD candidate is enrolled at two universities in different European countries. Each PhD candidate has his/her own research project involving stays in at least two countries. Several novel PhD courses will be offered to all PhD candidates of INSECT DOCTORS. The intended start date for this PhD position is January 2021. To learn more about the training network please visit our website:

In order to be eligible for a place within INSECT DOCTORS, strict rules are set out by the European Commission. So please make sure you comply with these rules when applying.
  • You must be an Early-Stage Researcher (ESR), meaning that at the day of your recruitment (= start date of your contract) you must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career, after obtaining your MSc degree.
  • You have not been awarded a doctoral degree before.
  • Mobility Rule: You must not have resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the recruiting organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the day of your recruitment. For this particular PhD position the country of the recruiting organisation is The Netherlands. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention 1, are not taken into account.
Please note, that these rules are not negotiable.


Wageningen University & Research


  • An MSc degree in Biology, Molecular Life Sciences, Biotechnology or a related field.
  • Experience in virology and/or entomology is advantageous.
  • Excellent skills in molecular biological techniques and a proven ability to organize laboratory experiments.
  • Experience with bioinformatics is advantageous.
  • Ability to work in an international research team in a collaborative spirit and eagerness to participate in the INSECT DOCTORS training program.
  • Willingness to carry out research in different European countries.
  • Fluency in English, both written and spoken. This position requires an excellent English language proficiency (a mininum of CEFR C1 level). For more information about this proficiency level, please visit our special language page.
  • Eligibility based on the rules set by the European Committee (see above).

Conditions of employment

  • A challenging position with a gross salary per month of € 2.325,= in the first year, building op to € 2.972,= in the 4th year for a full working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities.
  • A full-time PhD position (38 hours per week) for four years, with a go-no-go decision for continuation after one year.
  • You will primarily be based at the Laboratory of Virology at Wageningen University & Research. During your PhD study, you will spend 9 months at the University of Valencia (Biological Control of Pests group) in Spain, and you will pay research visits to other European institutes involved in INSECT DOCTORS.
  • A double degree PhD programme involving Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands) and University of Valencia (Spain)
  • As a PhD candidate, you will participate in the INSECT DOCTORS training program. Additional courses, tailored to your desires and those of the supervising team, will be offered via the Graduate School Production Ecology and Resource Conservation, and the University of Valencia.


Wageningen University & Research

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is "To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life". Within Wageningen University & Research, nine specialised research institutes from the Wageningen Research Foundation and Wageningen University have joined forces to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With approximately 30 locations, 6,000 employees, and 12,000 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the unique approach of Wageningen.

For further information about working at Wageningen University & Research, take a look at thespecial career site.

Equal opportunities employer
We are an equal opportunities employer and welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons regardless of their race, sex, disability, religion/belief, sexual orientation or age.

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 concentrates on various animal-, insect- and plant viruses, with special attention on virus-host and virus-vector interactions. We focus on defence mechanisms, viral evasion strategies, covert virus infections and host manipulation mechanisms. 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 form a threat to natural populations and mass reared insects. In addition, insect viruses are used to control pest insects and in biotechnology to produce recombinant proteins for instance for vaccines.

The University of Valencia (UV) is one of the oldest universities of Spain. It is a public, modern and innovative university, focused on teaching and researching in most academic fields. The group of Biotechnological Control of Pest ( is placed at the campus of Science and is next to the scientific park of the University. The CBP group is composed of about 20 researchers at different stages of their career studying multiple aspects of the interactions of bacterial and viral pathogens with their hosts (arthropods).
  • Are you a connecting person willing to collaborate with researchers and companies in an innovative European training network?
  • Are you interested in unravelling the molecular mechanisms underlying seemingly harmless virus infections?
  • Do you want to join an ambitious project to find answers to challenges in the upcoming industry of insect mass rearing?


  • PhD
  • Agriculture
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • 666812


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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