The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions

Call for PhD Candidate Vacancies – 2nd recruitment period

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    Universitat Pompeu Fabra - ETIC
    EngineeringBiomedical engineering
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    10/03/2021 22:00 - Europe/Athens
    Spain › Barcelona
    H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions


The European community requires early stage researchers (ESRs) who can work across the boundaries of traditional disciplines, integrating experimental and in silico approaches to understand and manage highly prevalent multifactorial disorders, such as musculoskeletal disorders. The Disc4All training network utilises intervertebral disc degeneration (LDD) leading to low back pain (LBP) as a relevant application for the integration of data and computational simulations in translational medicine, to enable rational interpretations of the complexity of the interactions that eventually lead to symptoms.

LBP is the largest cause of morbidity worldwide, yet there remains controversy as to the specific cause leading to poor treatment options and prognosis. LDD is reported to account for 50% of LBP in young adults, but the interplay of factors from genetics, environmental, cellular responses and social and psychological factors is poorly understood. Unfortunately, the integration of such data into a holistic and rational map of degenerative processes and risk factors has not been achieved, requiring creation of professional cross-competencies, which current training programmes in biomedicine, biomedical engineering and translational medicine fail to address, individually.

Disc4All aims to tackle this issue through collaborative expertise of clinicians; computational physicists and biologists; geneticists; computer scientists; cell and molecular biologists; microbiologists; bioinformaticians; and industrial partners. It provides interdisciplinary training in data curation and integration; experimental and theoretical/computational modelling; computer algorithm development; tool generation; and model and simulation platforms to transparently integrate primary data for enhanced clinical interpretations through models and simulations. Complementary training is offered in dissemination; project management; research integrity; ethics; regulation; policy; business strategy; and public and patient engagement. The Disc4All ESRs will provide a new generation of internationally mobile professionals with unique skill sets for the development of thriving careers in translational research applied to multifactorial disorders.

Disc4All will have three recruitment periods. This call focusses on the 2nd recruitment period. For further details about the 2nd recruitment period, please check our expression of interest form:



Hiring Institution

Hiring Disc4All Members:

• Fundació Institut Mar d’Investigacions Mèdique (https://www.imim.es/ - See job offer ESR 8)

• University of Bern (www.dbmr.unibe.ch – See job offer ESR 10)

• Universitat Pompeu Fabra (https://www.upf.edu/ - See job offers: ESR 13 & ESR 14)

Type of contracts: temporary (36 months)

Job status: full-time

Hours per week: See individual job offers

Offer starting dates: April-May 2021

EU Research Framework: H2020 MSCA-ITN-ETN

Marie Curie Grant Agreement Number: 955735

Open Positions for Early Stage Researchers (ESR)

• ESR 8: Data-driven gene prioritization in LDD & phenome-genome relationships

ESR8 will use network-based disease gene prioritization approaches to understand the pathophysiology of lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration (LDD). (S)he will also apply different computational strategies and tools to reveal comorbidities related to LDD and will integrate data from protein interaction databases to uncover latent connections between comorbid diseases. The candidate will work in the implementation of a model for biomarker recommendation based on genotype-phenotype relationships and related comorbidities.

HOST: IMIM, Spain - Secondments: KCL; PAO - PhD delivered by: UPF - Deadline for recruitment: April 2021

SEE JOB OFFER & APPLY - Application Deadline: 08/03/2021 https://www.upf.edu/documents/236182816/236664378/ESR8-Vacancies-Disc4Al...

• ESR 10: Standardized in vitro dynamic modelling & mechanism- based analyses of gene /protein /SNP at the cell /tissue & organ levels

ESR 10 will involve an interaction of in silico modelling and evaluating parameters in-vitro in organ culture models: e.g., glucose and lactate concentration, cell survival, and proinflammatory cytokines and the evaluation of these models in 3D cell/tissue/organ cultures involving mechanical stimulation (UBern). The crossdisciplinary work will involve direct interactions with the research group of Prof. Dr. Jerôme Noailly from the Department of Information and Communication Technologies, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain. Mesofluidic models of bioreactors will be investigated in collaboration of Prof Dr. Liesbet Geris, Biomechanics Research Unit, Université de Liège (ULG), Belgium. Pathway analysis will be performed in collaboration with ProtATonce Ltd, (PAO), Greece.

HOST: UBern, Switzerland - Secondments: UPF; ULG; PAO - PhD delivered by: UBern - Deadline for recruitment: April 2021

SEE JOB OFFER & APPLY - Application Deadline: 20/02/2021 https://www.upf.edu/documents/236182816/236664378/ESR10-Vacancies-Disc4A...

• ESR 13: Multiscale modelling of IVD cell activity & potential tissue turnover

ESR 13 will work on the multiscale modelling of the mechanisms of intervertebral disc regulation. Specifically, the PhD project will target the modelling and simulation of bottom-up processes of tissue regulation, through which the dynamics of cell activity contributes to disc tissue turnover in specific regions of interest, in response to multifactorial cell stimulations. Different types of intervertebral disc network models will be used and combined to successively incorporate cell culture experimental data, proteomics measurements and gene variant effects. Interplays of biochemical, mechanical and nutritional cell stimulation will be modelled in representative volume elements through agent-based modelling. Eventually, collective cell activity will be linked with heterogeneous cell environments predictable through disc tissue and organ finite element models.

HOST: UPF, Spain - Secondments: PAO; SHU; UBern - PhD delivered by: UPF - Deadline for recruitment: April 2021

SEE JOB OFFER & APPLY - Application Deadline: 20/02/2021 https://www.upf.edu/documents/236182816/236664378/ESR13-Vacancies-Disc4A...

• ESR 14: Bottom-up simulations of spatio-temporal degenerative events in the IVD & biological LDD stratification

ESR 14 will work on the systematization of multiscale modelling of the intervertebral disc regulation for improved LDD stratification. Existing regulatory network and multiphysics models, at the molecular/cell and tissue/organ scales will be locally integrated in relevant regions of interest of the IVD. Such integration will be coupled with different disc model morphologies and molecular signature inputs, from the Twins UK and Northern Finland Birth cohorts. A smart atlas of simulated data will be generated, to eventually enable efficient calculations through metamodeling. Metamodeling will further allow the mining of simulated and real word data altogether, to establish different fingerprints of LDD and the spatio-temporal evolution thereof, characterised by specific hierarchies of risk factors and exploitable clinically.

HOST: UPF, Spain - Secondments: OULU; University of Tampere; InSilicoTrials - PhD delivered by: UPF - Deadline for recruitment: May 2021

SEE JOB OFFER & APPLY - Application Deadline: 20/03/2021 https://www.upf.edu/documents/236182816/236664378/ESR14-Vacancies-Disc4A...



More Information

Eligibility criteria

Selection Criteria

The selection committee uses a number of indicators to evaluate the applicant’s preparedness, motivation and potential.

1st phase, remote pre-selection:

The Scientific, Technological & Academic excellence will be considered at first, based on:

  • Quality of the CV, in general
  • Any demonstrated research experience, particularly if supported by evidences such as scientific publications, patents, participation in scientific congresses, …
  • Undergraduate performance: overall, with a special focus on relevant field-specific courses
  • Any demonstrated previous recognitions (grants, awards, …)
  • Reference letters provided by professors and senior scientists: Three refence letters are expected. At least two letters must be issued by scholars. The third letter can be provided either by a scholar or by a relevant professional of the industrial sector. Referees are asked to address analytical capabilities, technical proficiency, ability to work independently and motivation/commitment.
  • Statement of purpose: past research experience, motivation for applying to this particular PhD project, academic fit, contribution of the project to the candidate’s future careers plans, ...
  • Additional relevant skills (field-specific): demonstrated, e.g. through previous projects, and or through previous participation in scientific contests, trainings, ...


2nd phase, interview(s):

Should the candidate be preselected at phase 1, a second phase will consist in at least one interview through which the motivation, the proactive behaviour, the capacity to work collaboratively, the organizational skills, the communication skills and the capacity to engage in a scientific discussion and manage problems, will be assessed, among other aspects.

The final decision will be the result of a consensus of an evaluation committee that will take into account the results of both recruitment phases 1 and 2. The candidate will be informed of the section results by email.

Selection process

Application Process:

All the documents that prove the eligibility of the candidate and should be provided. As for the selection process candidates are expected to provide at least the following documents:

  • A brief introduction letter (no more than one A4 page) that summarizes the documents and the nature of the information provided for the selection
  • A full CV
  • The three requested reference letters
  • The letter of purpose (no more than two A4 pages)

All documents must be sent by email to the Principal Investigator of the proposed project (see individual job offers) and to the Management of the Disc4All project (disc4all@upf.edu) before the application deadline (see individual job offers)

IMPORTANT: Though mandatory, the aforementioned application process might have to be completed, in certain cases, by a formal institutional online application process as indicated by the hiring institutions (see individual job offers)

Offer Requirements

    Engineering: Master Degree or equivalent
    ENGLISH: Excellent
Work location(s)
4 position(s) available at
Universitat Pompeu Fabra - ETIC
Roc Boronat 138

EURAXESS offer ID: 603615


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