PhD position: The transmission, mechanism and impact of covert virus infections in insects

Published on
October 15, 2019
Location Wageningen
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We are looking for

We are recruiting a motivated PhD student to work on a project funded by an NWO Vidi grant.

The project focuses on covert virus infections in insects: latent/persistent infections that do not cause any visible signs of disease. Insects are increasingly mass reared in large scale facilities due to a growing demand for insects for food and feed, biological pest control, pollination and waste management. This intensification leads to a rise in disease outbreaks that frequently result in a complete collapse of production systems. These outbreaks are caused by insect-specific pathogens, including viruses, that may already be present in a covert state within the reared insects. Such covert virus infections can suddenly develop into overt (symptomatic) infections under stress conditions. Within this project we aim to elucidate the (molecular) mechanisms underlying transmission and maintenance of covert virus infections in insects and to determine the impact of covert infections on host fitness and immunity. The project involves 2 PhD students, and the PhD student we are now recruiting for will mainly focus on the role of the host immune system, including RNA interference pathways, in maintaining the covert state. Furthermore, he/she will use molecular tools to verify identified mechanisms. As model system, baculoviruses infecting caterpillars will be used.

The pathology of covert baculovirus infections has been intensively studied in larval stages, however, the effect of covert baculovirus infections and how these viruses are passed on throughout the host life cycle has received little attention. The envisaged project will be among the first to investigate the molecular basis of covert virus infections in insects and will give an in-depth understanding of covert insect viruses. In addition, it will increase our comprehension of the immune defences of insects. Finally, the project will yield valuable information needed to predict, prevent and control diseases in insect mass rearing.

The prospective PhD student will be part of a research team and will collaborate with other PhD students and postdocs on this project and related projects.

We ask

  • An MSc degree in molecular life sciences 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 (genome/sequence analysis and/or transcriptomics).
  • Skills in experimental design and statistical analysis.
  • Ability to work in an international research team in a collaborative spirit.
  • 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.
  • Willingness to assist in the education of BSc and MSc students

We offer

A challenging position, for 38 hours/week for four years, with a go-no-go decision for continuation after one year. Gross salary per month is € 2.325,= in the first year, building op to € 2.972,= in the 4th year, for a fulltime appointment, in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities (Function scale P).

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be determined in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time: the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra and thereby to build up extra leave;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented.
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for own initiative in a learning environment. We offer a versatile job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

More information

For more information about this function, please contact Vera Ros, Assistant Professor Laboratory of Virology, +31-317-484461 or by e-mail;
For more information about the procedure, please contact
General information about the Laboratory of Virology can be found on  

This vacancy is open up to and including Thursday November 21, 2019.
You can only apply online through the following website

The first job interviews will take place in December 2019. Expected starting date is early 2020.

We are

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 the special 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 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, are used to control pest insects, and form a threat to insect mass production. 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, covert virus infections, biological control and host manipulation mechanisms.  

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