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PhD Fellowship in Pre-clinical Medicine at the Department of Experimental Medicine (AEM)

University of Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Hovedstaden (DK)
Agreement for state-employed academics between the Danish Ministry of Taxation and the Danish Confed
Closing date
22 May 2024

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Biomedicine, Clinical
Job Type
PhD Position
Employment - Hours
Full time

We are offering a PhD fellowship in pre-clinical medicine/meta-analysis commencing 1 September 2024 or after agreement.

Our group and research
The Department of Experimental Medicine researches animal model development, with a particular focus on optimizing animal welfare, on the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) of animal experimentation, and on strengthening the validity of animal models as research tools in biomedical science.

Project description: Studying pain without causing pain – using meta-analysis in preclinical pain research
Preclinical pain research is still heavily reliant on animal experiments. Cell cultures feel no pain, and we still do not have good computer models for simulating pain signaling. Consequently, although it is an expressed goal to reduce pain and suffering in laboratory animals within the EU, we still find that a number of animals need to experience pain. But there are situations where we might be able to replace animal studies with something smarter. With hundreds of studies on just about every aspect of pain being published each year there is a broad, pre-existent, evidence base that we can probe for answers to new questions. In essence, we may sometimes be able to answer questions regarding animal pain without causing it.

When researchers want to test a new painkiller that could help patients suffering from, for example, chronic pain, they often find themselves struggling to find an appropriate way of testing it in animals. A rat cannot tell us what it is feeling. Moreover, there are different pains – sharp pain is different from dull pain, aching pain is different from soreness – and similarly the tests we use in animals investigate different types of pain and different aspects of pain. So which one should we use? Do we test an evoked pain response, by stimulating the affected area, or do we instead study the rat’s behavior to see how affected it is from its pain? Which one tells us if our new painkiller is effective? Often we see researchers trying all of the tests, covering all bases. But what if we could use previous evidence to point to the right tests? Here, combining evidence from previously published studies using methods like network meta-analysis could spare droves of rats from suffering in tests that will ultimately not answer the researchers’ questions.


The potentials for using meta-analysis in combating needless pain does not stop with the testing of pain treatments, however. We can do more. Many aspects of rheumatoid arthritis can only be studied in animals. But like in human patients, the condition is painful also in rodents. How we best manage that pain in rodents is another question we could use meta-analytical methods for answering. Many studies have tried different drugs and different doses. But what is the best approach? Few studies have compared multiple drugs and no study has tried all pain relief protocols. All we can say for sure is that most – if not all – rodents used in arthritis research today are receiving subpar pain relief. By systematically searching the literature and combining all of the available evidence, we could work towards changing this.


The troubles of treating pain in rats and mice can of course be expanded beyond arthritis research. In many situations, laboratory rodents need to be treated for pain. In all of these situations, we come across the problem of duration. Mice, in particular, do not care for being handled by researchers, so we try not to bother them more than necessary. But at some point we need to resupply the pain relief we are administering. We do not want to do this too early, since we risk overdosing the animals, but also because our presence stresses them. On the other hand, we know that untreated pain causes even more suffering. As a result, we need to know how long our drugs are effective. But information on how long a certain dose of a certain drug is effective in a mouse is all but completely missing for most painkillers. What there is, however, is a lot of incidental evidence published in studies over as much as the last 60 years. If we could combine this evidence, meta-analytically, we could potentially establish indirect pharmacokinetic profiles of a number of painkillers for both mice and rats. Although challenging, a project such as this could be a singularly effective one at improving laboratory animal welfare worldwide. If we are up to the task.


In attempting to address these challenges, we are looking for a motivated PhD candidate to take a central role. They would be working in a group with extensive knowledge of pain studies, but also a group that has previously made similar successful meta-analytical investigations within preclinical neuroscience. We expect the PhD candidate to be instrumental in scoping the studies: which scenarios, tests and drugs should we be focusing on? We are also interested in the perspective that a prospective candidate brings to this project. Given the cross-disciplinary nature of the project, a particular emphasis is placed on the candidate having an open, curious, creative, and detective-like mindset.

Principal supervisor is Associate Professor Otto Kalliokoski, Department of Experimental Medicine


Start:                  1 September 2024 or after agreement.


Duration:          3 years as a PhD student

Job description
Your key tasks as a PhD student at SUND involve:


  • Carrying out an independent research project under supervision Completing PhD courses or other equivalent education corresponding to approx. 30 ECTS points Participating in active research environments including a short-time stay with another research group Obtaining experience in teaching or from other types of dissemination related to your PhD project Writing a PhD thesis

Key criteria for the assessment of applicants
Applicants must have qualifications corresponding to a master’s degree related to the subject area of the project e.g., medicine/biomedicine, pharmacology, neurobiology, biostatistics, data science, or the veterinary sciences. Having worked previously with behavioral testing gives the candidate a leg up on the project. Furthermore, an interest in animal welfare and open science is greatly premiered.

Other important criteria are:


  • Professional qualifications relevant to the PhD project Relevant work experience Other relevant professional activities English language skills Coding and statistical analysis skills

Place of employment
The place of employment is at the Department of Experimental Medicine (“Afdeling for Eksperimentel Medicin” – AEM), Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. We offer creative and stimulating working conditions in dynamic and international research environment. Our research facilities include modern laboratories and state-of-the-art laboratory animal facilities.

Terms of employment
The average weekly working hours are 37 hours per week.

The employment is conditioned upon the applicant’s success­ful enrolment as a PhD student at the Graduate School at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen. This requires submission and acceptance of an application for the specific project formulated by the applicant.

The PhD study must be completed in accordance with The Ministerial Order on the PhD programme (2013) and the Faculty’s rules on achieving the degree.


Salary, pension and terms of employment are in accordance with the agree­ment between the Ministry of Taxation and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State. Depending on seniority, the monthly salary starts at approximately 30,700 DKK/roughly 4,050 EUR (April 2024 level) plus pension.

For specific information about the PhD fellowship, please contact the principal supervisor:


General information on PhD studies at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences is available through the Graduate School’s website:

Application procedure
Your application must be submitted electronically by clicking ‘Apply now’ below. The application must include the following documents in PDF format: 

1. Motivated letter of application (max. one page)

2. CV incl. education, experience, language skills and other skills relevant for the position

3. Certified copy of original Master of Science diploma and transcript of records in the original language, including an authorized English translation if issued in other language than English or Danish. If not completed, a certified/signed copy of a recent transcript of records or a written statement from the institution or supervisor is accepted. As a prerequisite for a PhD fellowship employment, your master’s degree must be equivalent to a Danish master’s degree. We encourage you to read more in the assessment database: Please note that we might ask you to obtain an assessment of your education performed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

4. Publication list (if available)

Application deadline:  22 May, 2024, 23.59 CET
We reserve the right not to consider material received after the deadline, and not to consider applications that do not live up to the abovementioned requirements.

The further process
After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the hiring committee. All applicants are then immediately notified whether their application has been passed for assessment by an unbiased assessor.

The assessor makes a non-prioritized assessment of the academic qualifications and experience with respect to the above-mentioned area of research, techniques, skills and other requirements listed in the advertisement.


Once the assessment work has been completed each applicant has the opportunity to comment on the part of the assessment that relates to the applicant him/herself.

You can read about the recruitment process at

The applicant will be assessed according to the Ministerial Order no. 242 of 13 March 2012 on the Appointment of Academic Staff at Universities.

The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences comprises approximately 7500 students, 1500 PhD students and 3200 employees. The Faculty advances the field of health sciences through its core activities: research, teaching, knowledge sharing and communication. With basic research fields ranging from molecular studies to studies of society, the Faculty contributes to a healthy future through its graduates, research findings and inventions benefitting patients and the community. The University of Copenhagen wishes to reflect the surrounding community and invites all regardless of personal background to apply for the position. 

Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.

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