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Tenured academic staff / Coordinator, Evolution of mammals and their pathogens - 2020ZAPFWETEX040

Within the framework of the FED-tWIN program for sustainable research cooperation between the federal scientific institutions and the universities, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the University of Antwerp are jointly presenting a combined vacancy:

part-time (50%) structurally independent academic staff (tenure track) at UAntwerp / part-time (50%) scientific researcher (‘coordinator SW2’) at RBINS in the domain of the evolution of mammals and their pathogens more specifically the FED-tWIN profile 'Tracing the origins of recent and future zoonotic epidemics in tropical Africa (OMEgA)'

The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences is one of the ten federal scientific institutions. It conducts intensive scientific research, provides services of public interest and is open to everyone via the Museum of Natural Sciences. The RBINS comprises three scientific operational directorates (OD) who carry out various, often multidisciplinary research on the basis of new or existing biological, paleontological or geological collections. The OD 'Taxonomy and Phylogeny' is specialized in the study of recent biodiversity and its evolution. In addition, the OD attaches great importance to the provision of services and public participation, to supporting citizen science initiatives and to publishing articles on popular science.

With more than 5,500 employees, the University of Antwerp is one of the largest employers in the province of Antwerp. Day after day, the commitment of our employees ensures that innovative education is given to 20,000 students, that groundbreaking fundamental and applied research is carried out and that the university can play its important service-providing role in society. In its pursuit of international excellence, the University of Antwerp is a research university in the true sense of the word, with particularly strong expertise in the following spearhead areas of research: Imaging; Neurosciences; Infectious diseases; Drug research; Material characterization; Ecology and sustainable development; Port, transport and logistics; Metropolis, history and contemporary policy; Socio-economic policy and organization.


The function consists of 2 related appointments in the context of the FED-tWIN funding program of the federal government in particular:

  • Part-time (50%) appointment as scientific researcher (‘coordinator SW2’)at RBINS;
  • Part-time (50%) appointment as independent academic staff - lecturer tenure track at the UAntwerp.

Your duties at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and at the University of Antwerp

  • Your assignment at RBINS consists of research and scientific services.
  • Your assignment at UAntwerp has a structural character in the three core tasks of the Independent Academic Personnel: education, research and services.
  • You develop research, within the framework of a 'One Health' approach, into 'emerging zoonotic diseases' in Afrotropical mammals with an emphasis on the evolution of the pathogens and their mammalian hosts and the ecology of the infections. The two main objectives are (i) to unravel how the phylogeography, evolutionary history and ecology of hosts can provide insight into the diversity, origin and distribution of these pathogens; (ii) to identify which ecological mechanisms and environmental changes (climate, landscape, biodiversity loss, ...) can facilitate a host leap or maintain host specificity, even in the absence of a strong molecular barrier.

In the short term, the aim is to address the first main objective by using newly optimized NGS techniques to screen the technically challenging but unique collections of museum specimens for the presence of multiple pathogens.This will allow to identify the species hosting certain pathogens, to derive the phylogenetic and ecological relationships between these species, and to delineate the ranges of genetically discrete host populations. Combined with the information on taxonomy, biology and the results of the screening of DNA viruses, the results of the screening of the hosts will allow us to start studies on the transmission ecology of selected pathogens, as derived from their presence, diversity, host specificity and evolution. This information will mainly consist of phylogenetic trees and ecological ranges of host species and selected pathogens.

In the long term, the further elaboration of this type of information will be used to study the evolutionary changes of selected mammalian pathogens by means of targeted screening of museum specimens of confirmed host species. For the host species whose specimen collection extends over several decades, targeted pathogen screening and characterization will allow to calibrate the evolutionary rate of rapidly evolving pathogens and to investigate how extensive environmental changes in the last century have influenced the evolutionary ecology of the pathogen.

The further outlines of this research have already been defined in the FED-tWIN profile "OMEgA" and can be requested via the contact address at the bottom of this vacancy notice.

  • You acquire and manage research funds.
  • You will teach at UAntwerp course units in the field of zoology, evolution and parasitology and guide students in these fields.
  • At RBINS, the profile requested includes the role of assistant curator responsible for the mammalian collections, supporting the curator of vertebrates, taxonomic and phylogenetic biodiversity research and contributing to the inventory and description of the diversity of animals on the basis of morphological species descriptions, advanced molecular techniques and ecological data.
  • Scientific services are also part of your responsibilities, more specifically with regard to the management, development and valorization of the specimen and tissue collections of the RBINS and the associated databases. You expand the existing network of actors involved in OneHealth issues.

Your profile

  • You hold a doctoral degree (PhD) in a research domain that relates to the vacancy (e.g.: ecology, evolutionary biology, mammalian taxonomy, pathogenic biology, ...), and which is obtained maximum 12 years before the end date of the term in which you want to candidate for this vacancy. This 12-year period can be extended by one year for every absence due to pregnancy, parental or adoption leave, as well as any long-term absence due to illness of the candidate or a long-term absence due to illness of a first-degree family member.
  • In your teaching, you will be putting the right accents that fit in with the University of Antwerp's vision on education.
  • Your research qualities are in line with the policies of the University of Antwerp and with the research strategy of the KBIN.
  • You have (potential) leadership qualities.
  • You are quality-oriented, conscientious, creative and cooperative.
  • If you do not master Dutch, you should be willing to obtain a CEFR B2 level of proficiency in Dutch. As soon as you take on teaching duties as a course unit coordinator, you should be able to demonstrate a CEFR C1 level of proficiency in the language of instruction. The University of Antwerp supports international staff members on an integration trajectory and offers tailor-made language coaching in compliance with Flanders’ statutory language regulations.
  • The profile is intended for a researcher with extensive experience and a multidisciplinary background (taxonomy, ecology, (phylo)genomics, pathogenic biology, epidemiology).


  • At least 5 years of research experience at postdoc level at the start of the appointment.
  • Good publication process (also as first author) in A1 journals on relevant themes. Worked in different, preferably foreign, research environments.
  • Experience in working in multi-partner projects and networks, cooperation with researchers from other (developing) countries.
  • Experience with fieldwork in tropical rainforests.
  • Familiar with concepts and practices of biosafety.
  • Documented ability to acquire research funding (grants, scholarships).
  • Good communication skills to present research at international conferences, but also to disseminate results through various (digital) media.
  • Good writing skills to publish research results in leading scientific journals or to prepare grant applications for projects.
  • Skills in science communication with a wider audience.

Specific knowledge:

  • Management of specimen/sample collections.
  • Knowledge (and use) of relevant online molecular and taxonomic databases (GIS-referencing).
  • Molecular diagnosis of pathogens, bio-informatics analysis (genome assembly, mapping, SNP-calling, annotation, phylogenetic analysis...) of large-scale genomic datasets (next-generation sequencing) in an evolutionary and taxonomic context.
  • Application of bioinformatics tools (analytical and/or graphical methods) to analyze genomic datasets; programming skills (Linux, Perl/python, R).
  • Preparation of genomics libraries.


The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences offers

  • a half-time appointment of at least 10 years as a scientific researcher (‘coordinator SW2’) with an employment contract of indefinite duration, within the operational directorate 'Taxonomy and Phylogeny' (Vertebrates);
  • a dynamic, challenging, varied and stimulating research framework;
  • a full-time gross monthly salary for a lecturer varies from € 4,534.66 to € 6,877.39;
  • full reimbursement for commuting by public transport, or a bicycle allowance.

The University of Antwerp offers

  • a part-time position as a lecturer with a structural assignment in a temporary employment under the tenure track system for a period of five years. This period results in an immediate permanent appointment as a senior lecturer (50%), if the university management assesses the performance of the person concerned b on the basis of predetermined and announced assessment criteria;
  • a gross monthly salary of a full-time lecturer varies from € 4,255.06 to € 6,272.13; a gross monthly salary of a full-time senior lecturer varies from € 4,872.61 to € 7,654.80;
  • a dynamic and stimulating working environment.

The expected date of commencement of employment with both institutions is 1 September 2020.

How to apply?

  • Applications may only be submitted online, and this until 29 March 2020 at the latest.
  • A pre-selection is made on the basis of the submitted applications; the further selection procedure is function-oriented and is determined by the selection committee.
  • For information about filling in the application form, please contact
  • If you have any questions about the content of the position, please contact Dr Erik Verheyen (  +32 (0) 478 47 47 43) and Prof. Dr. Herwig Leirs (, +32 (0) 474 48 53 56 ).

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