We are hiring! A 2-year post-doc position to work on viral landscape phylogeography at the SpELL

Published on December 20, 2021, by Simon Dellicour

We are hiring! A 2-year post-doc position to work on viral landscape phylogeography.


A 2-year post-doc position is open at the Spatial Epidemiology Lab (SpELL) of the University of Brussels (ULB) to work on landscape phylogeographic approaches. The position is available immediately and should start no later than June 1, 2022. The researcher will work on a research project funded by an Incentive Grant for Scientific Research awarded by the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS, Belgium).

The fight against high-impact viral diseases would benefit from a better understanding of the drivers of virus spreads, which could in turn help designing intervention strategies. There is a need for analytical approaches allowing to formally test the impact of environmental (e.g. ecologic, climatic or anthropogenic) factors on the dispersal of viruses. Recent advances in genomics, mathematical modelling and computational biology have led to evolutionary approaches becoming key methods to investigate the spread of infectious diseases. In particular, the development of a spatially-explicit phylogeographic method has enabled to reconstruct dispersal history of epidemics on a continuous space, using only a relatively limited number of viral sequences sampled from known locations and times. At the Spatial Epidemiology Lab (University of Brussels, ULB), one of our main research projects consists in exploiting such spatially-explicit phylogeographic to unravel the impact of external factors on the dispersal history and dynamics of viral spreads. Specifically, we aim to develop, test, compare, apply, and share novel approaches to analyse the impact of environmental factors on the dispersal history and dynamic of viral lineages.

The researcher will work on the development, test, and application of new methodological approaches to combine phylogeographic inference and analyses of the impact of environmental factors. Once tested with simulation procedures, the best methodologies will be applied on several case studies associated with notable wildlife and socio-economic impacts (e.g. West Nile virus, Lassa virus, avian influenza viruses, and rabies virus).

The researcher will be affiliated and work within the Spatial Epidemiology Lab (SpELL), which has a recognised expertise in spatial and molecular epidemiology. Globally, the Spatial Epidemiology Lab aims to study the effect of spatial factors on the emergence, spread, persistence and evolution of diseases, as well as invasive species. The understanding of key spatial factors, such as environmental or anthropogenic variables, and their integration into spatial models is used to predict the geographical distribution of risk, which can contribute to better targeted prevention, surveillance and control measures.

Qualifications & eligibility

The candidate should hold a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology, molecular epidemiology or phylogeography/population genetics, should have a strong interest in epidemiology and ecology, and should have demonstrated computational, communication and writing skills (English). Knowledge and use of the programming language R is required.


Applications should include a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, PDFs of the three most representative publications, and a list of three references with e-mail contact information. Applications should be submitted as soon as possible.


  • Dellicour S, Lequime S, Vrancken B, Gill MS, Bastide P, Gangavarapu K, Matteson N, Tan Y, du Plessis L, Fisher AA, Nelson MI, Gilbert M, Suchard MS, Andersen KG, Grubaugh ND, Pybus OG, Lemey P (2020). Epidemiological hypothesis testing using a phylogeographic and phylodynamic framework. Nature Communications 11: 5620
  • Dellicour S, Troupin C, Jahanbakhsh F, Salama A, Massoudi S, Moghaddam MK, Baele G, Lemey P, Gholami A, Bourhy H (2019). Using phylogeographic approaches to analyse the dispersal history, velocity, and direction of viral lineages – application to rabies virus spread in Iran. Molecular Ecology 28: 4335-4350
  • Dellicour S, Baele G, Dudas G, Faria NR, Pybus OG, Suchard M, Rambaut A, Lemey P (2018). Phylodynamic assessment of intervention strategies for the West African Ebola virus outbreak. Nature Communications 9: 2222
  • Dellicour S, Rose R, Faria NR, Vieira LFP, Bourhy H, Gilbert M, Lemey P, Pybus OG (2017). Using viral gene sequences to compare and explain the heterogeneous spatial dynamics of virus epidemics. Molecular Biology & Evolution 34: 2563-2571