New Graduate Training Program


    Würzburg, Germany


    Our new graduate training program “RNA & Infection” is dedicated to inspiring and training the next generation of scientists to undertake cutting-edge research at the interface of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and infection biology. Situated at the recently founded HIRI, students will have the exceptional opportunity to discover the versatile world of non-coding RNAs and its physiological implications in infectious diseases as well as translate insights into new diagnostics, preventives and anti-infectives. The concept of our program inspires and challenges PhD students to develop into independent and highly qualified scientists.



    Cutting-edge research

    The newly founded HIRI is a worldwide unique research institution merging the currently game-changing scientific fields of RNA and infection biology.

    Fully-funded PhD positions

    We offer fully-compensated PhD positions (TVöD 13, 60 %) for an initial term of one year, with the possibility of a two-year extension.

    Innovative technology

    At the HIRI, advanced RNA-sequencing technologies are applied to interrogate host-pathogen interactions down to the single-cell level.

    Interdisciplinary supervision

    PhD students will benefit from an interdisciplinary committee guiding and supporting students throughout their thesis.

    Multinational environment

    The graduate program is taught in English and is well supported by an integrated network of international PhD students and supervisors.

    Workshop & practical courses

    A structured framework of scientific lectures and seminars as well as practical courses and workshops will equip students to successfully complete their PhD thesis.


    To explore the role of RNA in infectious diseases, research at the HIRI concentrates mainly on four scientific areas: bacterial infections, viral infections, host response and RNA delivery. Students can pursue their scientific passion in the following research groups:

    Prof. Jörg Vogel

    RNA Biology of Bacterial Infections

    The first HIRI department was established in June 2017 by HIRI’s founding director, Professor Jörg Vogel. The aim of his department is to develop novel procedures to understand the RNA world of bacterial pathogens and use RNA-centric approaches to target pathogens and manipulate the microbiota.

    Prof. Chase Beisel

    Research group
    RNA Synthetic Biology

    The lab of Prof. Chase Beisel (formerly North Carolina State University, USA) will investigate and harness the functional diversity of CRISPR-Cas immune systems for the development of new foundational technologies. They aim to develop a new generation of CRISPR technologies that can be employed to better understand, diagnose, and combat human infections.

    Dr. Antoine-Emmanuel Saliba

    Research group
    Single-cell Analysis

    The research of Dr. Antoine-Emmanuel Saliba (former maître de conférences, Université Strasbourg, France) and his group is dedicated to using single- cell RNA-seq approaches to study heterogeneity in host responses to infections and its impact on disease outcome.

    Dr. Neva Caliskan

    Research group
    Recoding Mechanisms in Infections

    The research of Dr. Neva Caliskan’s group aims to identify and characterize the mechanisms and regulatory implications of translational recoding in RNA viruses and pathogenic bacteria.

    Dr. Lars Barquist

    Research group
    Integrative Informatics for Infection Biology

    The group of Dr. Lars Barquist will develop systems approaches to RNA and infection, using modern visualization, data science, and machine learning technologies to integrate large-scale functional genomics data.

    Jun. Prof. Alexander Westermann

    Research group
    Host-pathogen-microbiota interactions

    The group of Alexander Westermann focuses on investigating molecular RNA-based mechanisms that allow infecting pathogens to outcompete the resident microbiota. Their research centers on the identification and functional characterization of noncoding RNA molecules in pathogens, microbiota members and the host, to identify those RNAs that may serve as biomarkers for diagnostics or as therapeutic targets.

    Jun. Prof. Redmond Smyth

    Research group
    Genome Architecture and Evolution of RNA Viruses (GARV)

    The genomes of RNA viruses are not just passive carriers of protein coding information, but active participants in the viral infection process through the action of non-coding RNA. We study the structure and function of viral non-coding RNA, with the goal of harnessing the resulting knowledge in the design of next generation RNA-based therapies.


    We invite outstanding students of all nationalities dedicated to working at the interface of RNA and infection biology to apply. Prior to starting the program, applicants are expected to hold a Master’s degree or equivalent in life sciences or a related discipline. A solid background knowledge in microbiology, virology, cell biology, RNA biology, bioinformatics, or biochemistry is helpful but not required.

    The salary of our PhD fellowships is comparable to international standards and includes broad health-care benefits and pension.

    PhD Application Deadline

    AUTUMN 2019

    Online Application
    Graduate School of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

    Your application will be managed by the online application system of the Graduate School of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI). Carefully read and follow the guidelines provided on their website.

    As part of the application, students will provide contact information for at least two academic references.
    References will be contacted separately based on the contact information provided by the applicant.


    Scientists at the HIRI develop RNA-centric approaches to unravel the complex mechanisms associated with infectious diseases. Their major goals involve the following:

    • Resolving the complexity and heterogeneity of infection processes at the single-cell level
    • Identifying novel regulatory RNAs with key roles in pathogenesis
    • Understanding RNA-based mechanisms in virulence and host defense
    • Developing innovative delivery techniques for RNA-based interventions
    • Exploiting RNA knowledge for new diagnostics, preventives, and anti-infectives

    With its integrated scientific concept and modern infrastructure, the HIRI provides a vibrant research environment for both established and young scientists. Combined with the resources of the HZI Braunschweig and the University of Würzburg, the HIRI creates unique opportunities to effectively convert knowledge into applications.


    Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig investigate issues related to bacterial and viral pathogens, immune surveillance, and novel agents. The HZI pursues a translational approach, in which scientists develop results of basic research systematically with an emphasis on medical application. The HZI is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, Germany’s largest scientific organization, and founding member of the German Center for Infection Research e.V. (DZIF).


    Founded in 1402, the Julius-Maximilian-Universität Würzburg (JMU) is an internationally acclaimed university with a 600 year-old history. Numerous accredited scholars and scientists worked at the JMU, including Rudolf Virchow and Nobel laureate Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. The JMU is one of the leading institutions of higher education in Germany and internationally ranks highly in many scientific disciplines including biology, medicine, physics, and psychology. Today, the JMU is home to more than 29,000 students, including over 2,700 from abroad.

    A core activity of the JMU is to foster interdisciplinary research. This successful structural approach has led to the establishment of many highly visible institutions, e.g. the Biocenter, the Institute of Molecular Infection Biology, the Research Center for Infectious Diseases, the Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine, the HIRI and a Max Planck Research Group “Systems Immunology”.


    Würzburg is a picturesque city in the region of lower Franconia (Franken) in Bavaria and is situated on the River Main. Nearly completely destroyed during the last days of World War II, rebuilding activities transformed Würzburg into a vibrant, modern city that retained its historical charm. With the Residence Palace, the Fortress Marienberg, and the cathedral of St. Kilian, Würzburg offers stunning architectural landmarks among many other sights.

    The city and region is inextricably linked to Franconian wine culture and is home to a number of famous vineyards and wineries in Germany. Many “Weinstuben” in the historic center provide a rustic atmosphere where wine specialties can be enjoyed. In fact, one of the most popular after-work activities is to savor a glass of wine on the Old Main Bridge “Alte Mainbrücke” among colleagues and friends.

    Join us in beautiful Würzburg and enjoy the Mainfranken area with its special mix of culture, world heritage and wine festivals.


    The international Graduate Program "RNA & Infection" is directed by Prof. Chase Beisel and Dr. Emmanuel Saliba.

    For further information, please contact Dr. Nina-Vanessa Littwin.


    Josef-Schneider-Straße 2
    Building D15
    97080 Würzburg

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