PhD position in Theoretical Biology (Marie Curie Research Fellow)

Young Researchers Plön
Developmental and Evolutionary Biology & Genetics Behavioral Sciences Mathematics

Job Code: 01-2021

Job Offer from January 22, 2021

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön (Schleswig-Holstein) consists of three departments: Evolutionary Genetics, Evolutionary Theory, and Microbial Population Biology. It is focused on basic research to unravel general evolutionary processes, such as ecological adaptations, benefits of sexual reproduction, or evolution of cooperation. The scope of the work includes ecological, organismic, molecular, and theoretical approaches.

PhD position in Theoretical Biology (Marie Curie Research Fellow)

Applications are invited for a 36-month, Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network (ETN) ‘EvoGamesPlus’ (EC GA: 955708).

EvoGamesPlus comprises of 15 beneficiaries from academic sectors from 9 European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Netherlands, UK) and a further 15 partner organisations from the academic sector from 7 countries (Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, UK, USA) and comprises a high level research and doctoral level training programme involving a total of 15 ESRs (early stage researchers).

The MPI based ESR will work on the project “Eco-evolutionary dynamics of complex multiplayer games" supervised by Dr. Chaitanya S. Gokhale. The candidate will be a part of the Research Group for Theoretical Models of Eco-evolutionary Dynamics, within the Department of Evolutionary Theory at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.

The advertised project will focus on complex multiplayer evolutionary games. Evolutionary game theory has been extensively developed in both well-mixed and structured populations. While the mathematical underpinnings of the use of games in biological and cultural evolution are processes involved are often starkly different. For example, from an applied perspective incorporation of behavioral complexities of individuals such as learning strategies and cognitive abilities will affect the within lifetime success of an organism but at a biological level, the inheritance patterns of the successful traits are important. Distinguishing between horizontal vs vertical transmission and learned abilities versus ability to learn are important considerations. Such scenarios and their effects on a multi-population model will be analyzed. From spending time in the secondments, the ESR will learn about the dynamics of multiplayer games, decision making under time-delays and applying the knowledge in an epidemiological context. Applications range from enhanced epidemiological models to behavior of animals in interspecific interactions (predator prey dynamics under learning). Learning and applying techniques from computational sciences such as artificial intelligence (specifically unsupervised learning algorithms), cognitive psychology (biases) and using it in a social eco-evolutionary setting via game theory will be the primary aim of this project.

Candidates with a background in mathematics, dynamical systems and computational studies are desired. A strong interest in learning about sociobiological processes is necessary. Knowledge about evolutionary games and learning algorithms is a bonus.

The candidate will undergo extensive training within the EvoGamesPlus network and will carry out 3-month secondments (City University, UK, University of Warsaw, Poland and Consoft Sistemi, Italy). In the secondments the ESR will learn about - CU, the theory of multiplayer games especially pertaining to stability properties, UW: recent advances in stochastic aspects of multiplayer evolutionary games, especially those focusing on time-delays, CS: validate the models developed so far with real data from epidemiology. Like the other 14 Early Stage Researchers trained within EvoGamesPlus, you will be offered extensive training both in domain specific areas (led by experts from the project in the fields of game theory, dynamical systems theory and related fields) and also in transferable and complementary skills.

The eventual doctorate will be awarded by the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural sciences at the University of Kiel. Since the secondments are in different countries, the candidate must be eligible and willing to travel internationally for extended periods of time. To be eligible for a particular position, at the start of that project you should be within 4 years after acquiring your MSc degree (or equivalent degree which allows you to undertake a doctoral study in Germany). Moreover, you should not have lived in the country where the project takes place for more than one year during the past 3 years [in this case - Germany]. Strict eligibility requirements apply: please refer to the person specification for details at

Please feel free to contact Dr. Gokhale at  for any inquiries or details.

The expected start date is no later than August 2021 and will last for three years from the exact start date. Candidates should send their:

  1. CV,
  2. motivation letter (why is this project appealing to you? Which existing skills will you use? Which new skills will you learn?)
  3. contact details of two referees

as a single PDF document to  

Deadline for applications is 15th May 2021.

The Max Planck Society has set itself the goal of employing more severely disabled people. Applications from severely disabled people are expressly welcome. Also, the Max Planck Society strives for gender equality and diversity. We welcome applications from any background.

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