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PhD Fellowship in Philosophy of Biology (EXPIRED)

Institut Supérieur De Philosophie, Universite catholique de Louvain

Job category Graduate fellowship / Fixed term
AOS Philosophy of (Developmental) Biology
AOS categories Philosophy of Biology
AOC Molecular and/or Developmental Biology
AOC categories Philosophy of Science
Workload Full time
Vacancies 1
Location Louvain-la-Neuve, Walloon Region, Belgium
Start date Negotiable, between September, 2023 and September, 2024
Job description

The UCLouvain ARC (Actions de recherche concertées) project Epistemodevo is hiring a funded PhD fellow in the philosophy of biology (more precisely, the philosophy of developmental biology). The fellowship will last four years, and will involve the candidate working with me as supervisor, as well as being embedded in the labs of three practicing developmental biologists: René Rezsohazy, Françoise Gofflot, and Frédéric Lemaigre.

We are thus seeking a PhD candidate in philosophy of science who has at least some experience with or training in molecular biology, with a serious interest in working in an interdisciplinary team situated between the philosophy of biology and biological practice. If this sounds like an interesting opportunity to you and your skills match (or are even close to!) this description, please get in touch!

  • Application deadline: Rolling; candidates will be evaluated until a selection is made. To have your application evaluated for the first selection period, submit by May 31, 2023.
  • Starting date: Negotiable, between September, 2023 and September, 2024
  • Duration: Four-year PhD fellowship
  • Required skills: Training in philosophy of science and philosophy of biology; interest in working in an interdisciplinary environment; familiarity with or training in molecular biology
  • Other advantages: Familiarity with STS or sociology-of-science approaches could be beneficial for working closely with scientific colleagues, but is not required
  • Language: While the university as a whole is French-speaking, all four lab groups involved in the project use English as their working language. It is expected that the doctoral dissertation would be written in English. Knowledge of English is thus essential; knowledge of French (or desire to learn) could be beneficial socially.

Your Contribution

In short, the biological advances here propose to move beyond the traditional gene regulatory network (GRN) framework for understanding gene regulation in developmental biology. The empirical work of the three biological labs involved in the project will attempt to add to a GRN picture an understanding of what happens to the relevant proteins after translation. The philosophical project, then, is to evaluate the epistemic consequences of this empirical move.

While I will work with the candidate to help refine the particular project in line with their interests, some general possibilities for the dissertation topic could include:

  • What does this empirical work tell us about the nature of idealization in developmental biology? It’s widely recognized that GRNs are an idealization, but what does the process of removing those idealizations look like? The philosophical literature on idealizations largely focuses on the preservation of idealizations rather than their elimination, making this potentially an exciting case study.
  • How does the process of model construction work in biological practice? What can we learn about the choices that our biological colleagues make while designing experiments and moving into a relatively uncharted area like this one? How does knowledge about the protein-stability concerns investigated by the biology groups relate to other kinds of projects to construct alternative models in developmental biology?
  • What is the role and nature of causal inference in these complex, multi-scale network models of regulation? How should we evaluate the relative quality of those inferences, and how does the experimental design work in the everyday practice of these three biological labs relate to the ways in which we might theorize about them?

Eligibility Criteria

Note that you will need to have finished a research (120h) master’s degree (or equivalent) in order to be considered eligible to enter UCLouvain’s doctoral programs. It is possible that an exception could be made for a candidate coming from North America who does not hold a master’s degree (i.e., who would normally get one in the process of getting a doctorate, as is common in the United States); if you are interested in the position and in this situation, please send me an email and we can discuss things further.

Your master’s degree must also be in philosophy or a closely related field. Unfortunately, entrance requirements make it nearly impossible for a student trained only in biology to enter the philosophy Ph.D. program here.

How to apply
Application type Email
Candidates are asked to prepare the following materials: (1) Short cover letter, expressing interest and motivation (maximum 1 page); (2) Curriculum vita; (3) Sample of written work (maximum 30 pages); (4) List of courses and grades from the master’s degree, as well as the grade from the master’s thesis and any report from the thesis defense (if available); (5) The names and email addresses of two professors whom I could contact for a reference, if needed.
Email to apply
Deadline for full consideration: May 31, 2023, 11:59pm CET

(applications under review)

Hard deadline No deadline specified (applications considered on an ongoing basis)
Web address for more information https://pencelab.be/people/2023-epistemodevo-phd/
Contact name Charles Pence
Contact email
Time created April 20, 2023, 6:50pm UTC
Scheduled expiry date October 16, 2023, 11:10am CET
Expired on August 13, 2023, 7:41pm CET
Last updated October 13, 2023, 3:00pm UTC
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