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PhD project

Predicting Severe and Enduring Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Outcomes: Genes and Environment

The National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University (Denmark) invites applications for one PhD position in genetic epidemiology with a focus on eating disorders, commencing in September 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter. The position is fully funded for three years by a grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark (DFF).

The successful candidate will gain valuable experience within psychiatric epidemiology, human genetics, statistics, and analysis of large genomic and epidemiological datasets. The candidate will join a collaborative team of PhD students/postdocs and senior researchers from the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University—a vibrant and dynamic multinational and multidisciplinary department with established successful long-term international research collaborations. Additionally, the candidate will have the opportunity for research stays in other institutions in Denmark or abroad.

The National Centre for Register-based Research is a section at Aarhus BSS, financed mainly by external research funds. The Centre houses an internationally acknowledged group of researchers in psychiatric epidemiology and genetics, regularly publishing scientific articles (http://econ.au.dk/the-national-centre-for-register-based-research/publications/). In addition to its own research, the Centre also conducts guidance and counseling related to register-based research projects, validation and data management of register data, as well as development of methods for analysis of register data. The centre has 48 employees – including 28 statisticians, 4 PhD students and 4 data managers. More information on the National Centre for Register-based Research: http://ncrr.au.dk

Project description 

Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric disorder that is difficult to treat and profoundly affects multiple aspects of an individual’s functioning. Despite the public health burden, we lack the ability to identify individuals at risk for severe and enduring anorexia nervosa with poor treatment outcome. In this project, we plan to investigate genetic and environmental risk factors associated with anorexia nervosa severity and health-related and social outcomes. Combining epidemiological data from the Danish registers with genetic data from the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative, Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative and Lundbeck Foundation iPSYCH project, this study will focus on: (1) identifying epidemiological risk factors associated with severe and enduring anorexia nervosa and associated outcomes; (2) investigating the genetic risk associated with anorexia nervosa severity using modern genomic methods (e.g., genome-wide association studies); and (3) and developing multifactorial prediction models of anorexia nervosa severity and related outcomes by combining genetic and epidemiological data. There will be opportunities to collaborate with researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and replicate the findings in an independent Swedish dataset.

The successful applicant will work on a 3-year research project, taking advantage of population-based Danish registers as well as genetic data as a part of the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative, Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative, and iPSYCH. The candidate will focus primarily on summarizing relevant existing literature on this topic, preparing the study protocol with the assistance from existing members of the research team, and leading the analysis of the epidemiological and genetic data. The candidate will also collaborate with other members of the team on risk prediction modeling and the application of more complex statistical genetic methods and machine learning algorithms.

Principal supervisor

Zeynep Yilmaz, PhD, Senior Researcher

E-mail: zyilmaz@econ.au.dk

National Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus BSS, Fuglesangs Allé 26, DK-8210 Aarhus V, Denmark.


Dr. Liselotte Vogdrup Petersen, PhD, Senior Researcher, Aarhus University

Prof. Bjarni Jóhann Vilhjálmsson, PhD, Professor, Aarhus University

Dr. Loa Clausen, PhD, Senior Researcher, Aarhus University Hospital


Besides the supervisory team, the candidate will work closely with experts in psychiatric epidemiology, psychiatric genetics, statistical genetics, biostatistics, and register-based research that are collaborators of the projects (e.g., Prof. Preben Bo Mortensen, Aarhus University; Prof. Esben Agerbo, Aarhus University; Dr. Loa Clausen, Aarhus University Hospital; Prof. Cynthia Bulik, Karolinska Institutet).


Required qualifications

  • MD or Master’s degree in human genetics, biology, epidemiology, public health, health sciences or a related quantitative field
  • A special interest and competencies in topics such as eating disorders, psychiatric genetics, psychiatric epidemiology, and analysis of large genomic and epidemiological datasets
  • High level of motivation, responsibility and flexibility
  • Highly enthusiastic, ambitious, collaborative, friendly, and team-oriented personality
  • Excellent communications skills in English (written and oral)    

General job description

  • Manage, plan, carry through, and conclude your research projects
  • Actively participate in PhD courses
  • Write scientific articles and finalize your PhD thesis
  • Participate in national and international congresses
  • Conduct a research stay at an institution abroad
  • Teach and disseminate your research

 We offer

  • Possibility to advance professionally by developing skills and competencies within genetic epidemiology, advanced statistics, psychiatric epidemiology, analysis of large genomic and epidemiological datasets, statistical genetics, teaching, and scientific publications.
  • International collaboration
  • Research stay abroad (e.g., Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)
  • The opportunity to contribute with new knowledge within a highly relevant question
  • A great working environment, with a mix of epidemiologists, statisticians, geneticists, postdocs, PhD students, and research assistants and good office facilities

How to apply

Please submit your application via this link. Application deadline is 1 August 2022 23:59 CET. Preferred starting date is 1 September 2022. Note that only short-listed candidates will be contacted.

The application must be submitted in English and should contain the applicant’s curriculum vitae, a cover letter detailing your motivation and background for applying for the specific PhD project, diploma and detailed transcripts of records, any previous research experience, a list of scientific publications (if any), and the names of at least two academic referees.

For information about application requirements and mandatory attachments, please see our application guide 

Further information

If you have any questions, please contact Senior Researcher Zeynep Yilmaz (zyilmaz@econ.au.dk). Your place of work will be the National Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus BSS, Fuglesangs Allé 26, DK-8210 Aarhus V, Denmark.

Formalities and references

Further information on the appointment procedure can be found in the Ministerial Order on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities. The appointment is in accordance with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (Akademikerne). Remuneration is in accordance with the above, and the Salary agreement catalogue for staff at Health.

Further information on qualification requirements and job description can be found in the Memorandum on Job Structure for Academic Staff at Danish Universities (in Danish).

International applicant?

Aarhus University offers a broad variety of services for international researchers and accompanying families, including relocation service and career counseling to expat partners. Please find more information about entering and working in Denmarkhere. Aarhus University also has a Junior Researcher Development Programme. You can read more about ithere.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background. Salary and terms of employment are in accordance with applicable collective agreement.