PhD summer course

Host-microbe symbioses: from functional to ecological perspectives

Location - Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência

Dates – July 9-21, 2017

Applications are open until March 20, 2017.

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Course Description

In the Summer School “Host-microbe symbioses: from functional to ecological perspectives” we will explore stable host-microbe interactions as a spectrum from parasitic to mutualistic. Animals and plants live together and establish stable interactions with a large number of symbiotic microbes. These microbes largely influence the physiology of the host, from nutrition to behavior. Although many microbes are deleterious to the hosts and cause disease (pathogens), most are actually neutral or even beneficial (commensals and mutualists). The study of the biology of animals and plants, from functional to evolutionary perspectives, has to take into account their set of microbial symbionts. The course will explore this field with leading scientists that bring a broad range of expertise and approaches. The Summer School will be targeted at second or later years PhD students. The main aim of this meeting is to help them define their future research interests.

The course will last two weeks (from July 9-21, 2017), and will consist of general lectures, research seminars and development of a project research proposal. The students will have close contact with leading scientists on host-microbe symbiosis. The Summer School will take place in Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Portugal. The IGC has approximately 30 research groups in diverse areas of biology. Many of these groups work on topics related with host-microbe symbiosis. IGC has a long tradition in postgraduate education and has run several innovative and successful PhD programmes for the last 20 years. The institute is located in Oeiras, by the sea, and 20 minutes away from Lisbon by train.

This summer school is supported by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and VolkswagenStiftung.

Main Topics of the course

Host-microbe symbiosis is a multidisciplinary field with the input of different perspectives essential for its understanding. The course will cover the subject from complementary perspectives: from the host and the microbe perspective, from a functional, ecological, or evolutionary approach, looking at microbes as pathogens or mutualists, and as one-to-one interactions or complex multi-organisms consortiums. Participants will be exposed to leaders in the field with different expertise and experience in studying symbiosis from all these different angles. Ecology will be discussed from lecturers applying it to study host and symbionts but also from a fundamental point of view, unbiased from current host-microbe research.

The course will consist of general lectures, research seminars and development of a research grant proposal. Lectures will cover the state of the art in specific areas of the field and will give the students a broad view of that area. Lecturers will also present their own research on these topics giving the students insight on how specific problems are currently addressed. Finally, students will develop a research proposal throughout the two weeks. Students will identify important questions in the field and propose a research project to address them. The work will be based on literature research and daily discussions with the lecturers.


The Summer School will be targeted at second or later years PhD students. Participants are limited to 30 students.


Applications are open until March 20, 2017

To apply send an email with a single pdf file to

Application documents - Applicants should submit a letter explaining why they want to participate in the course, CV, a letter of reference from the PhD supervisor, and the registration form.


We are committed to admitting talented students from diverse backgrounds.

Accepted applicants will have to pay a registration fee of 300 Euros. Registration will include lodging and meals during the full duration of the course. Upon selection, a small number of fellowships will be available for students who cannot afford the registration fee.

This course is organized by Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência. For further information and administrative support contact Anna Fejfer or Pedro Alves at We are looking forward to receiving your application!

Confirmed Lecturers

  • Martin Blaser (New York University, USA), Resident microbes and the ecology of human diseases

  • Amanda Birmingham (University of California, San Diego, USA), Bioinformatics, genomics and metagenomics

  • Thomas Bosch (Kiel University, Germany), Evolution and the ecology of development

  • Jocelyne Demengeot (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), Lymphocyte physiology

  • Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello (New York University, USA), Microbiota in early life and microbial anthropology

  • Kevin Foster (University of Oxford, UK), Social Lives of Microbes

  • Isabel Gordo (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), Evolutionary Biology

  • Jonathan Howard (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), Host-Pathogen Co-evolution

  • Nicole Hynson (University of Hawaii), Community Ecology

  • Rob Knight (University of California, USA), High-throughput sequencing to study microbial diversity

  • Margaret McFall-Ngai (University of Hawaii, USA), Invertebrate-microbe symbiotic interactions

  • Nancy Moran (University of Texas, USA), Evolution of biological complexity

  • Vojtech Novotny (Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic), Tropical Ecology

  • Howard Ochman (University of Texas, USA), Microbial Evolution - Dynamics of bacterial genomes and microbiome co-evolution with hosts

  • Ned Ruby (University of Hawaii, USA), Biology of the squid symbiont Vibrio fischeri

  • Miguel Soares (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), Inflammation

  • Luis Teixeira (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), Host-Microorganisms Interactions

  • Karina Xavier (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), Bacterial Signalling

Course Organizers

  • Martin Blaser (New York University, USA), Resident microbes and the ecology of human diseases

  • Margaret McFall-Ngai (University of Hawaii-Manoa, USA), Invertebrate-microbe symbiotic interactions

  • Luis Teixeira (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência), Host-microbe interactions

  • Karina Xavier (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), Bacterial Signalling