PhD Project in Biophysics

The Niels Bohr Institute invites applicants for a PhD fellowship in biocomplexity under the supervision of professor of physics Kim Sneppen. The project will be part of the PandemiX Center of Excellence which is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF) and led by professor of epidemiology Lone Simonsen at Roskilde University. The position will be both at Niels Bohr Institute and at Statens Serum Institut (SSI), where PandemiX has offices.

Start date is 1st of September 2024 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The project

Development of mathematical and computational models of disease spread and mitigation, in the context of historical and contemporary infectious diseases. The project focuses on the development of mathematical models of diseases with widely different epidemiological characteristics (such as the degree of heterogeneity in spreading dynamics) as well as the development of algorithms to model patterns in pathogen evolution. We will also explore pathogen proliferation inside hosts as a dynamic and stochastic process influenced by the host immune defense systems. The approach is a tight coupling between observational and theoretical research.   

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for a talented, highly motivated and creative applicant who is interested in quantitatively exploring fundamental questions in the exciting field of infectious disease dynamics and other spreading and competition processes in the physic of life. The successful candidate must be imaginative, have strong skills in physics/computation/mathematics and be interested in learning about the biology of the host and disease under study. The candidate must have excellent English skills, both written and orally, and hold a Master's degree in physics, or applied mathematics. If you are considering or already enrolled at one of the faculty’s master programs in physics, it is also an option to be enrolled in the integrated MSc and PhD program (a 4-5 year long program, see below).

Our group and research- and what do we offer?

PandemiX Center of Excellence: The overall research objective of the Center is to investigate signature features of pathogens with pandemic potential (including historical outbreaks), to better prepare for future pandemics. We strive to make breakthroughs not hitherto possible or attempted, ranging from a profound understanding of how to control transmission in the short run, to how best to secure robust population immunity in decades to come. The PandemiX Center will give rise to a new field, pandemiology, home to a growing cadre of interdisciplinary researchers ready to address the inevitable next pandemic. The PandemiX partners include labs at Roskilde University (RUC), the Niels Bohr Institute  at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and North Zealand Hospital (NOH).

The Niels Bohr Institute: The Sneppen lab at the biocomplexity section at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen is a partner in the PandemiX Center. We conduct research on the science of complex phenomena in physics and biology. We engage on topics ranging from epidemics, network processes, virus-host interactions, biological pattern formation, microbial ecology and evolution, and development of stem cells. We formulate models based on physical and mathematical principles, study these models with analytical and numerical methods and test them against laboratory experiments or historical observations. We expect the successful candidate to visit and work with our close international collaborators at top universities and government agencies in the US and the UK.

The work environment at the Niels Bohr Institute and at the PandemiX Center is very exciting, interdisciplinary and allows fantastic scientific and social interactions with many talented researchers.

Principal supervisor is Professor Kim Sneppen, Biocomplexity Section, The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.  E-mail: Lone Simonsen, professor of Epidemiology will be a co-supervisor of the project.

The PhD programme

Depending of your level of education, you can undertake the PhD programme as either:

Option A: A three year full-time study within the framework of the regular PhD programme (5+3 scheme), if you already have an education equivalent to a relevant Danish master’s degree.

Option B: An up to five year full-time study programme within the framework of the integrated MSc and PhD programme (the 3+5 scheme), if you do not have an education equivalent to a relevant Danish master´s degree – but you have an education equivalent to a Danish bachelors´s degree.

Option A: Getting into a position on the regular PhD programme

Qualifications needed for the regular programme
To be eligible for the regular PhD programme, you must have completed a degree programme, equivalent to a Danish master’s degree (180 ECTS/3 FTE BSc + 120 ECTS/2 FTE MSc) related to the subject area of the project, e.g. Physics and Mathematics. For information of eligibility of completed programmes, see General assessments for specific countries and Assessment database.

Terms of employment in the regular programme
Employment as PhD fellow is full time and for maximum 3 years.

Employment is conditional upon your successful enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant.

Terms of appointment and payment accord to the agreement between the Danish Ministry of Taxation and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure.

Option B: Getting into a position on the integrated MSc and PhD programme

Qualifications needed for the integrated MSc and PhD programme

If you do not have an education equivalent to a relevant Danish master´s degree, you might be qualified for the integrated MSc and PhD programme, if you have an education equivalent to a relevant Danish bachelor´s degree. Here you can find out, if that is relevant for you: General assessments for specific countries and Assessment database.  

Terms of the integrated programme
To be eligible for the integrated scholarship, you are (or are eligible to be) enrolled at one of the faculty’s master programmes in Physics.

Students on the integrated programme will enroll as PhD students simultaneously with completing their enrollment in this MSc degree programme.

The duration of the integrated programme is up to five years, and depends on the amount of credits that you have passed on your MSc programme. For further information about the study programme, please see:, “Study Structures”.

Until the MSc degree is obtained, (when exactly two years of the full 3+5 programme remains), the grant will be paid partly in the form of 48 state education grant portions (in Danish: “SU-klip”) plus salary for work (teaching, supervision etc.) totalling a workload of 150 working hours per year.
A PhD grant portion is currently (2022) DKK 6.397 before tax.

When you have obtained the MSc degree, you will transfer to the salary-earning part of the scholarship for a period of two years. At that point, the terms of employment and payment will be according to the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State (AC). The position is covered by the Protocol on Job Structure.

Responsibilities and tasks in both PhD programmes

  • Complete and pass the MSc education in accordance with the curriculum of the MSc programme  (ONLY when you are attending the integrated MSc and PhD programme)
  • Carry through an independent research project under supervision
  • Complete PhD courses corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS / ½ FTE
  • Participate in active research environments, including a stay at another research institution, preferably abroad
  • Teaching and knowledge dissemination activities
  • Write scientific papers aimed at high-impact journals
  • Write and defend a PhD thesis on the basis of your project

We are looking for the following qualifications:

  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project
  • Relevant publications
  • Relevant work experience
  • Other relevant professional activities
  • Curious mind-set with a strong interest in Models of Living Systems
  • Good language skills

Application and Assessment Procedure

 Your application including all attachments must be in English and submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.

Please include

  1. Motivated letter of application (max. one page)
  2. Curriculum vitae including information about your education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position
  3. Original diplomas for Bachelor of Science or Master of Science and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in another 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.
  4. Publication list (if possible)
  5. Reference letters (if available)

Application deadline:

The deadline for applications is 20. April 2024, 23;59 GMT +2.

 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 deadline, a number of applicants will be selected for academic assessment by an unbiased expert assessor. You are notified, whether you will be passed for assessment.

The assessor will assess the qualifications and experience of the shortlisted applicants with respect to the above mentioned research area, techniques, skills and other requirements. The assessor will conclude whether each applicant is qualified and, if so, for which of the two models. The assessed applicants will have the opportunity to comment on their assessment. You can read about the recruitment process at

Interviews with selected candidates are expected to be held in week 22 & 23.

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

General information about PhD study at the Faculty of SCIENCE is available at the PhD School’s website:

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.


Application deadline: 20-04-2024
Employment start: 01-09-2024
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Niels Bohr Institutet

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