12 PhD positions in Münster

12 PhD positions in Münster

The DFG-funded Research Training Group “Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease” (EvoPAD) at the University of Münster, Germany, invites applications for 12 PhD Positions and one postdoc in biology, medicine, and philosophy. Full info at https://www.uni-muenster.de/EvoPAD/application/

The positions are fixed term for 36 months, and the expected starting date is 1 April 2020. Currently, the regular working time for full (100%) employment is 39 hours and 50 minutes per week.The DFG-funded Research Training Group “Evolutionary Processes in Adaptation and Disease” (EvoPAD, GRK 2220) unites biological, medical, and philosophical research at the University of Münster. The core idea is to use the theory of evolution to understand processes leading to adaptation and/or disease. The PhD students will make use of evolutionary thinking to address basic and medical questions.  EvoPAD doctoral researchers will perform cutting-edge research in an interdisciplinary environment. Our multidisciplinary qualification program is tailored to individual career tracks, and offers opportunities for international cooperation, summer schools, and courses covering evolutionary and population genetics, bioinformatics, experimental design, philosophy of science, and bioethics. EvoPAD offers a family friendly and international atmosphere. 

TT Position at the ASU Center for Evolution and Medicine

TT Position at the ASU Center for Evolution and Medicine

The Center for Evolution & Medicine and the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University (ASU) invite applications for a full time open‐rank, tenured or tenure track faculty position. Rank and tenure status will be commensurate with experience. The anticipated start date is August, 2020.

The Center for Evolution and Medicine seeks a researcher who will advance our Precision Medicine 2.0 vision and build the evidence that evolutionary approaches produce better health outcomes (http://evmed.asu.edu/research). We value equity and inclusion in our research, teaching, and outreach. All approaches are welcome including field, clinical, lab‐based, or computational research. Clinical relevance and potential collaborations in clinical settings are encouraged. Preference will be given to candidates who enhance the Center’s current strategic research efforts (the role of sex differences in reproduction and health outcome, processes that buffer non-industrial populations from cardiometabolic diseases, mechanisms of disease tolerance and resistance, and/or long-term coevolution of humans and pathogens), and/or lead a new team-based strategic initiative. Evidence of effective teaching and interest in teaching evolutionary medicine and engaging in outreach is desired. Learn more about what The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has to offer by visiting https://thecollege.asu.edu/faculty.

This position is part of an ASU presidential initiative to advance the field of evolutionary medicine. ASU is an institution that rewards transdisciplinary, team research and innovation. The Center for Evolution and Medicine currently includes faculty members from the School of Life Sciences, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, the Department of Psychology, and the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. ASU has clinical partnerships with providers including the Mayo Clinic and Banner Hospitals and has successfully obtained clinical privileges for practicing physicians with local care providers. Newly remodeled facilities include offices, collaboration spaces, meeting rooms and laboratories in the Center for Evolution and Medicine that encourage interactions and provide space for events.

The successful candidate will be expected to develop or maintain an innovative, independent, extramurally funded research program, provide inclusive classroom instruction, contribute to curriculum development, mentor students and postdoctoral fellows, interact with a transdisciplinary group of colleagues, and provide service to the department, college and university. A competitive start‐up package will be provided.

Minimum Qualifications: a doctoral degree or an MD by the time of appointment, a track record of successful research, and an interest in using evolutionary biology to address questions about health and disease. Candidates for rank of Associate or Full Professor must have a demonstrated record of extramural funding.

Desired Qualifications: publications in refereed journals; experience working in a transdisciplinary, team environment; capacity to enhance one or more of the Center’s strategic research efforts or to generate a new transdisciplinary, team science effort consistent with the Center’s goals; ability to conduct laboratory-based research; access to or capacity to generate clinically relevant populations; demonstrated excellence in teaching and/or mentoring; demonstrated success of inclusive research and education, for example, by meeting the needs of diverse student populations and/or engaging with diverse communities.

The application deadline is November 19, 2019. For details and the application procedure, click here.

The Boeing 737 Max and Evolutionary Medicine

The Boeing 737 Max and Evolutionary Medicine

The recent Boeing 737 Max crashes provide a tragic illustration of how the core principle of evolutionary medicine can be useful for understanding failures of machines as well as bodies.

On October 29, 2019 Lion Air flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 aboard. Initials explanations focused on what was different about that individual plane and its pilots. This is a mechanic’s approach, much like most medical research. It asks what part of the mechanism failed in this individual instance.

On March 10, 2019 Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, another Boeing 737 Max, crashed six minutes after take-off. The similarities to the previous crash turned attention to shared traits of Boeing 737 Max planes. This is an engineer’s approach. It poses the question asked by evolutionary medicine: why did the forces that shaped the design leave it vulnerable to failure?

The course of events that led to the tragedy began a decade ago when airplane manufacturers were in a desperate competition to reduce fuel costs and increase range. Airbus had the advantage. The competition created strong pressure on Boeing to create a new model fast, in much the same way that pathogens can induce strong selection pressures.

Planes, like bodies, have path dependent designs that make starting from scratch nearly impossible.  So, Boeing decided to adapt an older 737 model.

Longer-range and better fuel efficiency required larger engines that could not be mounted on the older 737 models, so the wings were shifted forward on the fuselage to accommodate the larger engines. The trade-off gave fuel cost and range benefits that increased linearly with larger engine size, but risks that increased exponentially, especially stalling during the climb after take-off. A cliff-edged fitness function resulted.

In recognition of the risks, engineers added a defense system to monitor angle and airspeed and automatically push the nose down when a stall is imminent. As is the case for bodily defenses, dire risks were manifest only in unusual circumstances. Sensor failure activated the automatic stall prevention mechanism and pushed the nose down even as the plane plummeted.

Engineers who recognized the risk suggested adding redundant sensors and controls, but the changes were rejected because they would add cost and delay.  If a sensor failed, pilots could turn off the automated system.

However, the rapid change in design was not fully coordinated with pilot training so some did not know about the automatic stall prevention system and how to turn it off. Catastrophic failure required failure of only one component combined with inability of the pilot to respond quickly and accurately in an emergency situation.

Test pilots reported related problems two years ago, but their experiences were never analyzed in a way that revealed the inherent vulnerability of the Boeing 737 Max.  Today’s news suggests that their concerns may have been concealed to avoid costly delays in production.

Could the principles of evolutionary medicine have helped to prevent the tragedy of Flights 610 and 302?  We can’t know, but system failures, whether bodily or mechanical, make more sense in light of careful attention to the forces shaping the design, the historical sequence and path dependent constraints, trade offs, fitness functions, and the vulnerabilities imposed by defense systems.

Articles in The Economist, The Atlantic and other media sources provided background for this essay; it is intended to be illustrative, not definitive.

TB Old Friend, Recent Foe

TB Old Friend, Recent Foe

Adrian C. Williams and Robin I.M. Dunbar just published an interesting article titled “Big Brains, Meat, Tuberculosis, and the Nicotinamide Switches: Co-Evolutionary Relationships with Modern Repercussions?” It suggests that TB may have originally been a symbiont that provided essential nicotinamide and that nicotinaminde supplementation could reduce TB rates. See the authors’ commentary below and take a look at their paper.

Commentary by Adrian Williams and Robin Dunbar
Tuberculosis (TB) has traditionally been viewed as a major historical plague that has wreaked havoc on human populations unequally hitting resource limited countries or classes the hardest. We have, however, argued 10.4137/IJTR.S12838 that there are grounds for considering that originally TB was a beneficial symbiont rather than a pathogen. We suggested that increasing supplies of  nicotinamide, the precursor to nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide (NAD(H)),  from meat was an important element in our evolution of big, high energy and better connected brains and that TB , as a net exporter of nicotinic acid, originally co-evolved over a million years ago as a back-up source. Later as meat variances increased and became longer-term for some TB became a major pathogen, even though as many as 90% infected are in fact asymptomatic. TB immunology is unusual in that it allows proliferation in macrophages and granulomata and is rarely eliminated.  Nicotinamide was the first anti-TB antibiotic described and its analogues, such as Isoniazid, are still in use. Using contemporary and historical data we showed that TB largely disappears as meat and nicotinamide dosage increases – almost immediately followed by an increase in auto-immune diseases compatible with modern versions of the “hygiene hypothesis”. The opposite happens when meat intake declines, in the extreme causing pellagra – that may be a model for human history and progress in reverse. 

Since we wrote, TB has been shown to have a toxin that cleaves NAD 10.1038/nsmb.3064; 10.1111/cmi.13115; 10.1074/jbc.RA118.005832 as a NAD and NADP glycohydrolase. This enzyme  depletes macrophages of NAD but releases nicotinamide on a pathway to a type of programmed cell death (necroptosis) that (unlike apoptosis) allows proliferation and dissemination of the organism. Furthermore host NAD depletion, as in pellagra, activates this pathway. Nicotinamide supplementation and NAD levels in at risk populations with poor meat intake could be a test of this evolutionary inspired hypothesis. As many other more classic pathogens use similar NAD- glycohydrolases being nicotinamide-replete could improve host resistance overall. This is of public health importance given over a million deaths per year from TB alone where vaccine programs are largely ineffectual and chemotherapeutic interventions are either unavailable or plagued with six months or more courses and non-compliance or have significant side-effects many immunologically mediated (but notably include pellagra) or fail due to the evolution of  multi-drug resistant strains.    

Postdoc position at Baylor

Postdoc position at Baylor

The Laboratory for Evolutionary Medicine (www.biologicalanthropology.org) at Baylor University is searching for a postdoctoral fellow, with a generous contract renewable for multiple years, to work with Dr. Michael Muehlenbein on a variety of projects relating to ecological immunology and One Health. The position provides a mix of laboratory (biomarker application and development), data management/analysis, and grant writing experiences. Interested candidates should contact michael_muehlenbein@baylor.edu with any questions, as well as provide a cover letter detailing qualifications and past/future research plans, a current CV, and contact information for three potential references.

The Laboratory for Evolutionary Medicine also has multiple graduate student positions, available through the Department of Biology at Baylor University. Positions are fully-funded, and the preferred candidates will have research interests (broadly) in evolutionary medicine, including various aspects of ecological immunology, behavioral endocrinology, or global/One health. Contact michael_muehlenbein@baylor.edu for more details.

Anthropology of Health position at Baylor

Anthropology of Health position at Baylor

Assistant Professor in Human Genetics

The Department of Anthropology within the College of Arts & Sciences at Baylor University is accepting applications for an assistant professor (tenure-track).  This position is open to applicants with research and teaching interests in human genetics, including molecular anthropology, genetics of modern diseases, genetic epidemiology, evolutionary/population genetics, behavioral genetics, epigenetics, the microbiome, ancient DNA, bioinformatics, and all related topics.  Preference will be given to those who use genetic methods to study human health, and who are capable of teaching laboratory-based courses to undergraduate and graduate students.  Someone with a combination of active field and laboratory research is preferred.  The candidate should possess an earned doctorate (at the time of appointment) in an appropriate field of study.

The new faculty member will join a growing department with interest in applied perspectives on the anthropology of health, broadly conceived.  Interest in contributing to a new PhD program (in the Anthropology of Health) is required, and skills appropriate for training graduates for non-academic jobs are preferred.  Faculty members are required to contribute to teaching, research, and service.  Expectations for an active research agenda include publishing and granting, as well as involving students as appropriate.

The Department of Anthropology values diversity and is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of our academic community through research, teaching, and service.  We also accept the American Association of Physical Anthropologists’ Code of Ethics, the Society for Applied Anthropology’s Statement of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities, and the American Association of University Professors’ Sexual Harassment Policy.  We pledge to respect each other, our students, and the people, animals, and places we study.

Applications will be reviewed beginning 08/19/2019 and will be accepted until the position is filled. To ensure full consideration, complete applications must be submitted by 10/01/2019.  The following materials should be uploaded into Interfolio (https://apply.interfolio.com/66961): letter of application (explaining your qualifications, current and future research plans, and teaching experience and philosophy), current curriculum vitae, transcript of highest degree earned (or if PhD is in progress, a copy of official transcript showing completed PhD hours), and the contact information (names, email addresses, and phone numbers) for three potential references.  Finalists for this position will be required to submit official doctoral transcripts in advance of a campus visit.  Employment will be contingent upon the successful completion of a background check.

To learn more about the above position, the Department of Anthropology, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Baylor University, please visit www.baylor.edu/anthropology/ .  Please contact Dr. Michael Muehlenbein (Michael_muehlenbein@baylor.edu) with any questions.

Baylor University is a private not-for-profit university affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  As an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, Baylor is committed to compliance with all applicable anti-discrimination laws, including those regarding age, race, color, sex, national origin, marital status, pregnancy status, military service, genetic information, and disability.  As a religious educational institution, Baylor is lawfully permitted to consider an applicant’s religion as a selection criterion.  Baylor encourages women, minorities, veterans, and individuals with disabilities to apply.