Karolinska Institutet, Institutet för miljömedicin

The Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM) is a department at Karolinska Institutet and an interdisciplinary research institution within the broad field of environmental medicine. IMM conducts cutting edge research within the areas of environmental and occupational medicine, toxicology, physiology, epidemiology, and biostatistics with the aim to clarify how environmental and lifestyle factors affect our health and which role genes have. IMM also serves as a scientific advisor to public authorities within the area of environmental medicine and IMM scientists participate in national and international expert groups.

A doctoral position is an available doctoral education project to which a PhD student is to be recruited. After the selection process the process for admission to doctoral education will commence. An admission decision will not be taken until an individual study plan has been approved by the departmental admission board.

For more information regarding doctoral (PhD) education, see: http://www.ki.se/doctoral

Research group 
The project is experimental and the candidate will work in laboratories.  This project is a co-operation between the Unit for Experimental Asthma and Allergy Research (EAAF) at the Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM), and the Integrative Molecular Phenotyping research group (IMP) in the Division of Physiological Chemistry 2 at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics (MBB).

The research groups are located at the Solna Campus of Karolinska Institutet.  Both groups consist of a mixture of post-doctoral and pre-doctoral researchers examining mechanisms in the pathobiology of respiratory disease.  The IMP group focuses on applying mass spectrometry-based technologies to perform molecular phenotyping at the population level.  This work entails the development of both LC/MS and GC/MS methods for the quantification of lipids and other metabolites together with associated bioinformatics approaches.  The EAAF group focuses on determining the role of endogenous and exogenous molecules on airway inflammation and function.  This work includes dissection of animal and human airways for functional studies using tissue baths for measuring smooth muscle contractility, and using in vivo models to assess airway function and inflammation.  Samples collected during the physiological experiments will be analysed by the mass spectrometry platforms of the IMP group.

The overall mission of the collaborative research team is to conduct mechanistic research which will define new targets for better diagnosis (biomarkers) and improved treatment (medicines) of asthma and other airway diseases. We have an internationally leading competence in the use of physiological and pharmacological model systems and bioanalytical approaches to define the role of lipid mediators in asthma.

The doctoral education project and the duties of the student 

The primary aim of this research programme is to define the role of recently discovered omega-3 fatty acid-derived lipid mediators in the pathobiology of asthma.  The candidate will be the champion of a project combining physiological and pharmacological investigations in human and animal models with advanced bioanalysis using mass spectrometry.  At the end of this four-year project, the candidate should have fulfilled the criteria for being awarded a doctoral degree in biomedical sciences.

Asthma is one of the major global non-communicable diseases, with more than 500 million people suffering worldwide.  While efficacious treatments exist for asthma, there is still no cure for the disease.  One treatment modality targets lipid mediators by inhibition of the formation or actions of leukotrienes.  The research environment at Karolinska Institutet supervising the current project has contributed to the establishment of anti-leukotrienes for the treatment of asthma.  The arachidonic acid-derived lipid mediators, which include leukotrienes and prostaglandins, belong to the eicosanoid family of compounds that are generated in inflammatory cells.  These molecules have been extensively studied for their role in inflammation.  However, there has been an increase in interest in the biological roles of a number of recently discovered products biosynthesised from omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., the fish oil lipids DHA and EPA).  These mediators include the resolvins, protectins, and maresins, which have been shown in model systems to be active in the resolution phase of inflammation – and they are therefore collectively known as specialised pro-resolving mediators (SPMs).  The resolution of an inflammatory process is postulated to occur as a balance between the pro-inflammatory and pro-resolution lipid mediators, yet little is known about the potential role of these compounds in asthma and other respiratory diseases.  Consequently, it is vital to describe and quantify the interplay between pro-inflammatory and pro-resolving pathways in order to understand the pathobiology of asthma.  The results of this project will assist in evaluating the role of omega-3 fatty acid-derived lipid mediators as a target for novel disease-modifying interventions.

Project synopsis
This project will determine the capacity of the lung to produce both pro-inflammatory and pro-resolving lipid mediators, and to map their profiles associated with specific interventions.  The student will employ a combination of in vivo animal asthma models and isolated airways from guinea pigs in vitro as well as fresh isolated human bronchi to investigate the role and production of lipid mediators in asthma.  Biological mass spectrometry will be used to quantify the range of lipid mediators produced and their regulation.  Accordingly, this project integrates multiple subjects including physiology, pharmacology, mass spectrometry, and fundamental lipid biochemistry towards the goal of understanding the pathobiology of asthma.  The research program will provide an unprecedented analysis of the homeo-dynamics and interplay of the pro-inflammatory and pro-resolving lipid mediator pathways in asthma.  The results will define the roles of these novel pathways in relation to established mechanisms.  The overall aim of the project is to identify the most beneficial sites of new therapeutic interventions to alleviate sufferings by individuals and to reduce the global burden of disease. 

Entry requirements for doctoral education at KI
To be eligible for doctoral education following requirements has to be met:

General entry requirements
A person meets the general entry requirements for doctoral/third-cycle/PhD education (according to Higher Education Ordinance Chapt 7, section 39) if he/she:

  1. has been awarded advanced/second-cycle/master qualification (i.e. master degree) or
  2. has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second-cycle/master level, or
  3. has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

Specific entry requirements
Proficiency in English equivalent to the course English B/English 6 at Swedish upper secondary school:
Proficiency in the English language can be documented by an internationally recognized test such as TOEFL or IELTS, see web-link below for more information.
Applicants who meet the general entry requirements (1 or 2 above) from a university in one of the Nordic countries fulfill the requirements in English. 

For more information regarding general and specific entry requirements: http://ki.se/en/education/entry-requirements-eligibility-for-doctoral-education

For this particular position, fluency in spoken and written English is a prerequisite as the work environment is international (see below).

Skills and personal qualities 
Broad biomedical undergraduate training is desired.  Practical experience of laboratory work, and in particular in a pharmacologic or physiological research settings is a useful merit. We are looking for a highly motivated candidate who want to work in a stimulating co-operative environment to address a new challenge in cutting-edge respiratory research. You should like team-work and international contacts, yet be prepared to assume responsibility to deliver on your own parts in the project and fulfil the requirements of the doctoral training programme.  The daily working environment will include animal handling, tissue dissection and instrumental work using in vivo and in vitro methods for evaluating airway responses. It is therefore a merit if the applicant already has good animal handling skills. 

Assessment criteria
A selection will be made among qualified applicants on the basis of the ability to benefit from doctoral education. Karolinska Institutet uses the following bases of assessment:
- Documented subject knowledge of relevance to the area of research
- Analytical skill
- Other documented knowledge or experience that may be relevant to doctoral studies in the subject

The qualifications of the applicants will be evaluated on an overall basis.

Terms and conditions
The most common way of financial support for doctoral students at KI is doctoral grant the first year and a doctoral studentship (doctoral employment) for year 2, 3 and 4. During the time between recruitment and admission a short-term employment can be offered for up to 6 months.

Application process
An application must contain the following documents in Swedish or English:

  • A personal letter (no longer than 2 A4 pages, font size 11 or larger), explaining why the applicant wants to do a doctoral education, with specification of previous experiences that may contribute to the development of the proposed project, and declaration of how soon you can start.  We hope to have the candidate in our team no later than during the second quarter of 2016.)
  • A curriculum vitae focusing on experiences of relevance to this position
  • A copy of degree certificates and associated certificates
  • A copy of degree projects and any previous publications

The application is to be submitted through the MyNetwork recruitment system.

Type of employment PhD placement
Contract type Full time
Reference number 2-4436/2015
  • Prof. Sven-Erik Dahlén, Head of unit, Supervisor,, sven-erik.dahlen@ki.se
  • Associate Professor Craig E. Wheelock, Supervisor,, craig.wheelock@ki.se
  • Associate Professor Mikael Adner, Supervisor,, mikael.adner@ki.se
Union representative
  • Anna-Lena Marcus, OFR, +46 8 524 875 68
  • Malahat Mousavi, SACO, +46 8 524 875 24
  • Gunnar Stenberg, SEKO, +46 8 524 880 75
Published 11.Dec.2015
Last application date 29.Feb.2016 11:59 PM CET

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