PhD fellowship in Molecular pharmacology and Nutritional Immunology at the Department of Biomedical Sciences

Host-Microbe Mutualism in Diet-induced Liver Disease: When Friends Become Foes.

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

University of Copenhagen

We are offering a PhD fellowship in in vitro and in vivo identification and characterization of diet induced factors affecting gut homeostasis commencing August 15th 2022 or as soon as possible hereafter.

Our group and research         
The PhD study will run as a collaboration between the Molecular pharmacology Lab and the Nutritional Immunology Lab, both situated at Department of Biomedical Sciences, UCPH. The Molecular pharmacology part will be executed in the group of Assoc. Professor Gertrud M. Hjortø, that study chemokine induced signalling and chemotaxis of immune cells and the allosteric action of gut expressed host defence peptides (HDPs) on chemokine receptors. The Nutritional Immunology part will be executed in the group of Assist. Professor Benjamin A. H. Jensen, that study how dietary factors affect organismal, in particular intestinal, immunology at the onset, prevention, and treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. 

In the Hjortø group, we study how we can manipulate human primary immune cell migration to discover new ways to affect organismal immunological reactions to treat inflammatory diseases and cancer. We characterize signalling and chemotaxis of cells expressing various chemokine receptors under the influence of peptides, including HDPs to unravel the molecular mechanism of these peptides on dampening inflammatory reactions in vitro. These findings are translated into an in vivo understanding of HDP action to identify possible medical uses for these peptides and variants thereof in treatment of inflammatory diseases of the GI tract, through in vivo investigations carried out in the Nutritional Immunology Lab run by Benjamin A. H. Jensen. In the Jensen group, the focus is on the dissection of how diet components, gut microbial community structures and compartmentalized immunology synergizes to orchestrate host immunometabolism at both gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal origin. We develop and use experimental systems tailored to model human disease with unmet medical needs; first and foremost to improve our molecular understanding of disease progression, and secondly to identify biological factors of therapeutic relevance. Our research spans from diet-induced liver complications over gastrointestinal dysfunction (including IBD, HDP secretion/function, and bacterial translocation), to respiratory complications such as asthma, pulmonary infections, lung immune function and COPD. We strive to identify key (inter)national industry partners to co-develop early discoveries/molecular drug targets to curb human diseases.

Project description

The aim of the current project is to characterize how naturally occurring HDPs affect inflammatory immune and bacteria cell communities to identify HDPs with potential to curb inflammation of the gut.  Thus, you will design and executive experiments that quantify the effect of HDPs and HDP fragments found in the healthy gut on immune cell activation state and chemotaxis potential. You will unravel what chemokine receptor pairs the identified HDPs interact with employing signalling analysis of cells expressing relevant chemokine receptors under influence of their natural ligands in the presence or absence of identified HDPs. You will design and executive experiments that lead to the discovery of promiscuous microbes that under certain physiological conditions turn from former friends into disease promoting foes in diet-induced obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. We then explore how to utilize the armoury of HPDs (characterized in vitro) to tweak the behaviour of hostile microbes and inflammatory immune cells activated by these pathogens towards an immune resolving path, hence allowing for a peaceful co-existence between commensal bacteria and intestinal immune cells in both lean and obese mice.

Principal supervisor is Associate Professor Gertrud M. Hjortø, Department of Biomedical Sciences, email:, tel: +45 29869220. Co-supervisor is Assist. Prof. Prof. Benjamin A.H. Jensen.

Start:                  15th of August 2022

Duration:          3 years as a PhD student

Job description

Your key tasks as a PhD student at SUND are:

  • Carrying through an independent research project under supervision.
  • Completing PhD courses or other equivalent education corresponding to approximately 30 ECTS points.
  • Participating in active research environments including a stay at another research team.
  • Obtaining experience with teaching or other types of dissemination related to your PhD project
  • Teaching and disseminating your knowledge.
  • Writing a PhD thesis on the grounds of your project

Key criteria for the assessment of applicants
Applicants must have qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree related to the subject area of the project, e.g Medical Biomedicine, Molecular Biomedicine, Immunology or equivalent; obtained before the start of the employment. Please note that your master’s degree must be equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (two years).

Additional required qualifications:

  • Fluency in English and excellent communication skills including scientific presentations
  • Experience in isolation and maturation of primary immune cells
  • Experience in in working with primary immune cells and flow cytometry
  • Experience in in vitro cell signalling assays and time-lapse cell migration assays and analysis thereof
  • Knowledge about the gut microbiota, as well as innate and adaptive immunity
  • A curious mind-set with a strong interest in in fundamental scientific discoveries and their translational potential
  • Strong statistical knowledge including programming skills (statistical and graphical) in R and/or Python.

Place of employment

The place of employment is at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in dynamic and international research environment. Our research facilities include modern laboratories and access to state-of-the-art infrastructure required to conduct the research.

Terms of employment
The employment as PhD fellow is full time and for 3 years.

The employment is conditioned upon the applicant’s successful enrolment as a PhD student at the Graduate School at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant.

The PhD study must be completed in accordance with The Ministerial Order on the PhD programme (2013) and the Faculty’s rules on achieving the degree.

Salary, pension and terms of employment are in accordance with the agree­ment between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. Depending on seniority, the monthly salary starts at approximately 27,800 DKK/Roughly 3,700 EUR (October 2021 level) plus pension.

For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact the principal supervisor.

General information about PhD studies at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is available at the Graduate School’s website:

Application procedure
Your application must be submitted electronically by clicking ‘Apply now’ below. The application must include the following documents in PDF format: 

1. Motivated letter of application (max. one page) detailing your motivation and background for applying. Make sure to include a description for why this particular PhD project is interesting for you.

2. CV incl. education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position

3. Certified copy of original Master of Science diploma and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in other language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted. As a prerequisite for a PhD fellowship employment, your master’s degree must be equivalent to a Danish master’s degree. We encourage you to read more in the assessment database: Please note that we might ask you to obtain an assessment of your education performed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science

4. Publication list (if possible)

Application deadline: 24th May 2022, 23.59pm CET

We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not live up to the abovementioned requirements.

The further process
After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the hiring committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether their application has been passed for assessment by an unbiased assessor.

The assessor makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the above-mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement.

Once the assessment work has been completed each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself.

You find information about the recruitment process at:

The applicants will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities.

Interviews are expected to be held as soon as possible following the dead-line.

The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences comprises approximately 7500 students, 1500 PhD students and 3200 employees. The Faculty advances the field of health sciences through its core activities: research, teaching, knowledge sharing and communication. With basic research fields ranging from molecular studies to studies of society, the Faculty contributes to a healthy future through its graduates, research findings and inventions benefitting patients and the community. The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding community and invites all regardless of personal background to apply for the position. 


Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Gertrud Malene Hjortø


Application deadline: 24-05-2022
Employment start: 15-08-2022
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Department of Biomedical Sciences

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