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COS PhD Program

LGFG Research Training Group
Evolutionary novelty and adaptation – from molecules to organisms

The research training group “Evolutionary novelty and adaptation – from molecules to organisms” is funded by the Baden-Württemberg Landesgraduiertenförderung Program and located at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS), Heidelberg University. It unites nine international research groups with complementary expertise in evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and ecology employing state-of-the-art molecular tools and imaging technology as well as field research in diverse habitats such as desert caves, coral reefs, and alpine systems. Our goal is to educate a generation of young scientists beyond existing boundaries and models at ecological, genetic, and mechanistic levels of evolutionary biology. 



The research training group is founded on a structured curriculum with special emphasis on collaborative activities. The participating research groups will combine their shared interest in evolutionary novelty and adaptation and offer expertise that connects cutting-edge technology and field research in habitats ranging from desert caves to coral reefs to alpine systems. This unique research environment will be complemented by a supervision program, individual training, lab rotations, seminars, workshops and an interdisciplinary symposium. Fellows of the Promotionskolleg will be members of the PhD program under the umbrella of the Hoffmann-Berling International Graduate School (HBIGS) of the Heidelberg Life Sciences.



The phenotype of an organism and its interaction with the ecosystem depends on its genetic, epigenetic, and environmental context. New organisms arise during evolution in two subsequent steps: first, development produces phenotypic variants, and then heritable phenotypic variants are fixed or eliminated by drift or selection. Population genetics has shaped a detailed and rigid understanding of filtering phenotypic variants, but the origin and nature of phenotypic variation as an essential component of evolution are less well understood. Within the research training group we unite comparative approaches at various evolutionary scales, individual plasticity, population variation, species’ diversity, orders, and phyla) to systematically approach the genetic processes required for adaptation, phenotypic variation and their contribution to manifest phenotypic novelty.


Support & Supervision 

Each PhD research project is supervised by a thesis advisory committee (TAC). This committee consists of the direct supervisor of the thesis and two additional PIs. At the beginning of the PhD, TAC and student will discuss the preliminary outline of a PhD project. The TAC then attends PhD project and students through annual meetings, where it ensures progress and, if necessary, provides advise and guidance. 



For questions regarding the graduate school please contact the spokesperson, Dr. Steffen Lemke ( 


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