We are recruiting a PhD student

We have gotten funding from the Swedish Research Council for a fully funded PhD student to study the evolutionary origins of developmental programs in multicellular organisms. We are looking for a student with a masters degree in mathematical or computational discipline interested in modeling evolution.

Image credit: C elegans from Wikipedia


The Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics is opening a PhD position in computational science and engineering with a specialization in mathematics and a focus on modeling the evolution of developmental programs in early multicellular organisms. The position covers four years of third-cycle studies, including participation in research and third-cycle courses. The last day to apply is April 2, 2023.

Apply here

Apply here

Project description and tasks

The evolution of multicellular organisms has fundamentally shaped the biosphere by giving rise to complex forms of life that can operate across tremendous scales. Yet, not all forms of multicellularity are the same: some have hundreds of types of cells arranged in intricate body plans, while others are simple balls of undifferentiated cells. Though there may not be a single feature explaining such differences in complexity, one striking candidate is the presence/absence of a developmental program. Developmental programs connect the function of cells or the expression of phenotypes to information and thus enable the construction of elaborate structures from a single template. The field of evolutionary developmental biology has revealed how changes to developmental programs can produce diverse types of multicellular life, but this requires the a priori existence of some type of development program. We do not know how such multicellular developmental programs originate, and tackling this problem is the purpose of this Swedish Research Council-funded PhD position. The PhD student will address this problem using a variety of mathematical modeling techniques, including systems of differential equations and evolutionary simulations. The proposed work will feature interdisciplinary projects as part of a collaborative team.


The PhD student will be admitted to third-cycle studies in computational science and engineering (CSE) with a specialization in mathematics.

To be admitted to studies at third-cycle level the applicant is required to have completed a second- cycle level degree or completed course requirements of at least 240 credits, of which at least 60 credits are at second-cycle level, or have an equivalent education from overseas or equivalent qualifications.

To fulfill the specific entry requirements to be admitted to studies at third-cycle level in CSE, the applicant is required to have completed at least 90 credits in computational science and engineering courses, of which at least 30 credits shall have been acquired at second-cycle level. CSE courses refer to courses with major quantitative, statistical or computing science elements, such as courses in computing science, mathematics and mathematical statistics. Applicants who, in some other system either within Sweden or abroad, have acquired largely equivalent skills are also eligible.

Candidates need to be highly skilled in both oral and written communication in English, and must be able to work independently as well as part of an interdisciplinary collaborative team.

Candidates also need to have proficiency in working with computers and programming, e.g. in Matlab, Python, Julia, C++, etc. A good background in mathematics, modeling, differential equations, computer science, and/or programming is qualifying. Interest in and knowledge of evolutionary biology, microbiology, and/or molecular biology are desirable but not necessary.

The PhD student is expected to play an active role in developing this doctoral project and in the department. In addition, the PhD student is expected to have a scientific, structured, flexible, and result-oriented approach to their work.

The assessments of the applicants are based on their qualifications and their ability to benefit from the doctoral-level education they will receive.

About the employment

The position is intended to result in a doctoral degree. The main task of the PhD student is to pursue their doctoral studies, including participation in research and doctoral courses. The duties can include teaching and other departmental work (up to a maximum of 20%). The employment is limited to the equivalent of four years of full-time (48 months) or up to five years for teaching part-time. Salary is set in accordance with the established salary levels for PhD position. The employment starts in the fall of 2023 or according to an agreement.


You apply via our e-recruitment system Varbi. Log in and apply via the button at the bottom of the page. The deadline for applications is April 2, 2023.

The application should include the following documents:

  • a personal letter with a brief description of qualifications, research interests, motivations specific to this project or research area, and contact information (1-2 pages)
  • a curriculum vitae
  • authenticated copies of degree certificates, diplomas or equivalent, including documentation of completed academic courses, received grades, and other certificates.
  • copies of relevant work such as master’s thesis or articles you have authored or co-authored. If the master’s thesis has not been completed before the application deadline, a summary of the master’s thesis project and current progress shall be included. The summary can, at most be five pages, including figures and references.
  • Your GMAT (or GRE) and TOEFL/IELTS test scores if available.
  • Contact details for at least two reference persons.

The Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics values the qualities that gender balance brings to the department. We are therefore particularly keen to hear from female applicants.

Pursuant to Chapter 12 Section 2 of the Swedish Higher Education Ordinance (SFS 1993:100), the decision regarding the position cannot be appealed.

Further information Further information is provided by Associate Professor Eric Libby. You can also contact the Head of Department Åke Brännström for additional questions.

Further information about the Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics: https://www.umu.se/en/department-of-mathematics-and-mathematical-statistics/

Umeå University strives to offer an equal environment where open dialogue between people with different backgrounds and perspectives lay the foundation for learning, creativity and development. We welcome people with different backgrounds and experiences to apply for the current employment.

Eric Libby
Eric Libby
Associate professor

My research addresses how simple organisms evolve to be complex.