Genève, Switzerland
Date Posted
23 Nov 2024

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PhD Project
University of Geneva

PhD position opened in Switzerland for a developmental / cell biologist: Evolutionary developmental genetics of reptile scales

Genève, Switzerland
23 Nov 2024

NOTE: this position listing has expired and may no longer be relevant!

Position Description

In the context of evolutionary developmental biology analyses of reptilian skin appendages (scales), we offer one PhD position for an outstanding, highly motivated, and creative experimental wet-lab biologist with strong skills in developmental biology and cell biology. The successful candidate will preferably start in March 2016, but not later than September 2016.

Michel Milinkovitch’s group at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) integrates the expertise of developmental biologists, evolutionary biologists, computer scientists and physicists for an improved understanding of the mechanisms generating a diversity of skin appendages in amniotes.
We have recently shown (Milinkovitch et al. 2013) that, contrary to skin appendages in other amniotes (as well as body scales in crocodiles), face and jaws scales of crocodiles are random polygonal domains of highly keratinised skin, rather than genetically controlled elements. These scales result from a physical self-organising stochastic process: cracking/bulging of the developing skin in a stress field.
In this new project, we will investigate the generative mechanisms associated with the extensive variation of scale morphologies (flat, nodular, keeled, spiny, etc.) in snakes and lizards. The selected candidate will use molecular/cell/developmental biology methods (microscopy, immuno-histochemistry, in-situ hybridisation, transcriptomics, in-vivo assays, ex-vivo cultures, etc.) to characterise the biological (signalling, proliferation) and physical (mechanics) processes that affect scale morphogenesis. The new PhD student will use multiple new model species of reptiles developed in our laboratory.
Candidates must have a Master in biology or biochemistry or biophysics. Skills and experience with developmental biology and/or cell biology are mandatory. Skills in biophysics are useful. The successful candidate will have a genuine interest for organismal biology and will appreciate interactions with physicists and computer scientists.

The University of Geneva (UNIGE) is world-renowned for its research in Biology and Physics. UNIGE is among the top 1% best universities in the world and the Faculty of Sciences is ranked 32th world best (Shangai Academic Ranking of World Universities).
PhD students are remunerated according to the standards of UNIGE, which are very generous when compared to other international programs.
Geneva is an international city occupying a privileged geographical situation.

Refs: Milinkovitch, Manukyan , Debry, Di-Poï, Martin, Singh, Lambert & Zwicker. Crocodile Head Scales Are Not Developmental Units But Emerge from Physical Cracking. Science 339, 78-81 (2013) ; Di-Poï & Milinkovitch. Crocodylians Evolved Scattered Multi-Sensory Micro-Organs. EvoDevo 2013, 4:19. Teyssier Saenko van der Marel & Milinkovitch. Photonic Crystals Cause Active Colour Change in Chameleons. Nature Communications 6: 6368 (2015).

How to Apply

Candidates must send their application (before January 31, 2016) - in the form of a single PDF file including a brief letter of interest, a CV, and contact information (not support letters) of two persons of reference - to: Prof. Michel Milinkovitch (, Laboratory of Artificial & Natural Evolution (, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Position Category: Medical & Biological Sciences. Position Type: PhD Project. Position Tags: evolution, evo-devo, development, scale, and reptile. Salary: €50'000 and above.