Job ID: 86176

PhD position in microbiota-gut-brain axis signalling at Medical University of Graz

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 20 September 2022

Contract Length: 3 years

City: Graz

Country: Austria

Institution: Medical University of Graz

Department: Division of Pharmacology


The Reichmann lab is looking for a motivated PhD student to work on the following project in the field of microbiota-gut-brain axis signalling.

Project Title:  Effects of positive environmental modulation on microbiota-gut-brain axis signaling

Background: Gut-brain axis signalling describes the dynamic, bidirectional communication between visceral
organs and the brain. Signals from the brain are essential to maintain gut homeostasis and
gut-derived neural, humoral, immunological and microbial signals are able to influence many
brain functions and neurobiology. While aversive environmental factors such as chronic
stress are known to have a marked impact on the microbiota-gut-brain axis, it is unknown
whether beneficial environmental factors have a similar strong effect.

Hypothesis and Objectives:

This project sets out to investigate , whether and how positive environmental interventions influence the microbiota -gut-brain axis with a focus on gastrointestinal microbiota and microbial metabolites. We hypothesize that (i) positive environmental factors known to improve
animal behavior and neurobiology, are able to change the gastrointestinal microbiome and levels of microbial metabolites. We further hypothesize that (ii) microbial alterations are essential in mediating the well-known beneficial behavioural and neurobiological effects and that (iii) identified microbial changes/metabolites can mimic the beneficial effects of the intervention.
The recruited PhD student will use mice and zebrafish models to investigate the
connections between the gastrointestinal microbiome and environmental stimulation across species. Interventions
include antibiotics to deplete the gastrointestinal microbiota, germ -free animal models and
fecal microbiota transplantations between the treatment groups. Readouts include big data
analysis such as bacterial community profiling (16S and/or shotgun metagenomics) within the
gut and RNAseq of intestinal cells and neurons. Potential circulating mediators will be identified
by flow cytometry, ELISAs and MS-based metabolomics. A battery of behavioural tests will be
used to assess the effects of the experimental interventions on brain functions such as anxiety,
cognition, social and depressive- like behaviour. These readouts will be complemented with
gene/protein expression profiling of mediators known to be altered by EE and newly identified
target genes/proteins of interest.


Research environment

Join our cutting-edge PhD program at one of Europe’s leading universities in the field of medical research.

The thesis projects focus on aspects of neuroscience, inflammation, cancer research, pregnancy related diseases and cardiovascular diseases that integrate basic research and clinically oriented sciences utilizing a wide spectrum of state-of-the-art techniques. As a PhD student, you will be embedded in an interdisciplinary community of supervisors, fellow students and will enjoy broad administrative support.

PhD students receive a fully funded working contract (30 hours/week) for three years (1 initial year + 2 years extension) including health insurance and social benefits.

Who can apply?

Applicants must hold (or be close to obtaining) an undergraduate degree equivalent to a Master in any discipline of natural or life sciences or medicine which included a written master thesis.

Students who have not yet finished their Masters’ degree can apply but have to be graduated until February 2022.

The language of instruction is English and applicants are expected to be highly proficient in this language. A certificate of English proficiency is not mandatory for application but must be provided by the selected students before admission to the PhD program.

Students of all nationalities are encouraged to apply. Our Welcome Center will be readily available to help you with the visa application process and residence permit. Candidates are selected irrespective of sex, race or nationality.

How to apply?

Please apply through the online platform Glowbase.

You do not need to contact the supervisors directly and do not send any documents by regular mail or e-mail unless you are explicitly asked to do so by our staff.

There is no application fee.