PhD fellowships at CSIC, Barcelona

Professor Dr. Carlos Barata of CSIC, Barcelona, is looking for candidates for a PhD working on the project  “Mechanistically-based environmental risk assessment: towards an omics-driven solution for an effective management of chemical risks” 

Summary of the project:

EU lawmakers have implemented and legislated environmental quality standards for chemicals and for all ground and surface waters in Europe (REACH, WFD). This has created an enormous waiting-list of chemicals to be assessed for potential environmental and human health hazards. The scale of the current problem and realistic future projections, deserve a shift to next-generation assays to be cost effective and timely. One of the proposed solutions is to use state of the art omic technologies for performing high-throughput toxicity tests on phylogenetically distant model. However, the power of these omic technologies to predict apical endpoints that are relevant for environmental or human risk assessment needs to be carefully evaluated. Adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) have been recently proposed as frameworks to link direct, molecular-level initiating events to adverse outcomes at higher levels of biological organization. Once identified, AOPs can be used to develop high-throughput omic technology-based predictive assays, providing valuable information for human and environmental risk assessment. By comparing AOPs across species it would be possible to identify specific and shared mechanisms of toxicity, and hence use this information in understanding and managing environmental risks. Moreover, AOPs in zebrafish have also a predictive value in human risk assessment by themselves. The Objective of the present project is to develop new predictive assays and testing strategies for regulatory (eco)toxicology by analyzing the linkages between direct molecular-level initiating events and adverse effects of regulatory relevance using the conceptual framework of AOPs in Daphnia magna and Danio rerio. Different groups of environmental pollutants targeting specific biological processes and hence sharing similar Modes of Action (MoA), will be selected in this project. Such MoA would include non-conventional endocrine pathways (as peroxisome proliferation, retinoic acid, ecdysteroids, terpenoids), neurotoxicity, and neuroendocrine disorders. Their adverse effects will be studied across different levels of organization (from molecular to populations) using transcriptomic, metabolomics, histopathological, behavioral and individual and population growth rate responses. The study of gene expression profiles of unexposed and exposed organisms using microarrays or RNA seq tools will allow to identify the specific molecular initiating event involved in the toxicity of each studied compound. Microarray or RNAseq responses will be further confirmed using real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Differential gene expression profiles in the two model systems will then be linked with adverse outcomes at higher levels of biological oganization (metabonome- cellular, organ, organism and population responses) and hence to establish both common and distinct AOPs between vertebrates and invertebrates. This multi-level and multi-species information will ultimately be used to build AOP-based MoA categories. Finally, AOP-based MoA will be used to establish risks of chemical mixtures of similarly and dissimilarly acting compounds and of pollutants in real-field exposures using transplanted organisms. Thus, this project will provide an integrated set of tools that can be used to aid management-decision making by improving the capability to gauge environmental stress of contaminants within aquatic ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: risk assessment, omic, transcriptomic, metabolomic, Daphnia, zebrafish, contaminants, water, system biology

Deadline for application 29th of June. You have to submit your CV and full academic scores at

First, however you have to register as “investigador” in english is “researcher”

If you are a foreigner you need all documents in English, and you need to send them to “SUBDIRECCION GENERAL DE RECURSOS HUMANOS PARA LA INVESTIGACIÓN. MINISTERIO DE ECONOMÍA Y COMPETITIVIDAD, C/ Albacete 5 (28027 MADRID)”. Thay need to arrive before 29th of June 2015.

In case of questions, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Barata.