PhD Scholarship: “Environmental degradation and COVID-19: A case study for planetary health” (ICTA UAB)

PhD fellowship for early-stage researchers of any nationality: “Environmental degradation and COVID-19: A case study for planetary health

Host institution: ICTA – UAB Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (Barcelona, Spain)

Supervisors: Federico Demaria (ICTA UAB) and Cristina O’Callaghan-Gordo (ISGlobal).

More info here and here.

Doctoral INPhINIT Fellowships Programme – Incoming. Call for applications 2021

PhD Scholarship: 3 years

Deadline for submitting applications: 4 February 2021.

Salary 34.800 euro + Research allowance 3.564 euro per year

More details, including eligibility criteria and how to apply, here.


ICTA – UAB Institute of Environmental Science and Technology


Research Project

Human health and wellbeing have improved in the last centuries, but this has been achieved through an unprecedented rate of exploitation of natural resources. These changes define a new geological era: The Anthropocene. The environmental changes induced by human exploitation of the planet compromise any further improvement and maintenance of both human health and wellbeing at a global scale. Following the Planetary Health approach, we aim to investigate the interlinkages between human health and the health of the planet. This refers to the attainment of the maximum level of health of the human civilization worldwide through the integration of various human systems (political, economic and social) that respect the limits of the Earth’s natural systems.

Environmental threats such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and soil degradation endanger basic aspects of human through complex and often unexpected pathways. An example of such complex associations is the link between environmental degradation and the onset of new infectious diseases. There is evidence that environmental degradation has led to increased rates of emerging and re-emerging diseases such as malaria and Ebola. However, the complete causal sequences and impacts of ecological changes are still poorly understood. Frequently these emerging zoonosis appear and spread in circumstances that denote the effects of economic activities that destroys natural habitats and animal populations, in the absence of effective protection and regulatory policies. For instance, in the case of COVID-19, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, came from wild animals, whose meat was sold at the Hankou’s market in Wuhan. In this project, we will use COVID-19 as an example to study such complex interactions, as it has been defined as a paradigmatic case of an Anthropocene disease.

Job position description & Research Group Description

The candidate will join a multidisciplinary team of talented researchers working on socio-environmental sciences and public health. We propose to use COVID-19 as a case study to investigate (i) how environmental degradation -and specifically habitat destruction and biodiversity loss- can facilitate the origin and spread on new infectious diseases; and (ii) how COVID-19 contribute itself to environmental degradation. To address these research questions, the project will (i) explore the drivers of environmental change, the link between biodiversity loss and risk of emerging infectious diseases, and the practical policies and interventions to minimize such risk; and (ii) evaluate the environmental costs at a global scale of treating COVID-19 (e.g. environmental cost of health systems), and the environmental risks related to COVID-19 treatment and prevention (e.g. protective measures including the lockdown). The specific focus of the project will be discussed with the student, according to her/his own research interest, background and expertise. During the first year of the PhD, the candidate will (i) conduct literature reviews, (ii) contribute to define the specific study objectives, and (iii) participate in the selection of the most suitable methods to achieve the study objectives. The candidate is expected to publish at least three research papers in peer reviewed journals.

The project will be carried out from the vantage viewpoint of both ecology and environmental epidemiology. To this end, supervision of the student will be taken care of by the project leader Federico Demaria based at ICTA UAB, together with Cristina O’Callaghan-Gordo based at The Barcelona Institute for Global Health. Ideal candidates would come from public health and/or ecology. Given the interdisciplinary nature of this project, candidates from any discipline are welcome, as far as they are highly motivated. In this case, additional training might be required, i.e. epidemiology and statistics.


AREA OF KNOWLEDGE: Life Sciences Panel

GROUP OF DISCIPLINE: Ecology and Public Health


Dr. Federico Demaria is assistant professor of ecological economics and political ecology at the University of Barcelona, and an associate researcher at ICTA UAB. Find his full profile here.

Dr. Cristina O’Callaghan-Gordo is associate professor of health studies at the Open University of Catalunya (UOC), and associate researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health. Find her profile here.


HOSTING INSTITUTION: ICTA – UAB Institute of Environmental Science and Technology


The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is a prestigious interdisciplinary centre of environmental research, ranked 8th in environmental studies by the Center for World University Rankings. It aims to improve our understanding of global environmental change, and the nature and causes of environmental problems. In addition, it studies policies, strategies and technologies to foster a transition to a sustainable economy.

ICTA-UAB researchers devote much attention to climate and global change studies, following a transdisciplinary approach that ranges from the Natural Sciences to Engineering and Social Sciences. ICTA-UAB stands out among the environmental science institutes in Spain and Europe, in that it has achieved a rare balance of Natural, Social and Engineering Sciences in studying the various dimensions of climate and global change and climate policy.

The ICTA-UAB was accredited with the highest institutional recognition of scientific research in Spain (‘María de Maeztu’ Unit of Excellence 2015 (MDM-2015-0552)) by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Currently, the ICTA –UAB is the only research center in environmental sciences that is accredited with this title. It is implementing a strategic research programme (2016-2019) intended to consolidate its scientific capabilities, contribute to the leadership of Spanish research and act as an international pole of attraction for talent.

The ICTA -UABis offering two masters and one doctoral (PhD) programmes within the postgraduate education system of the UAB (  The PhD programme offers the opportunity to start an environmental science research career in a stimulating, dynamic, international, inter-disciplinary and highly qualified working environment. It is adapted to the new European Higher Education Area (EHEA), leading to an EU officially-recognized doctoral degree. The PhD programme has been awarded the official quality label of the Spanish government.

ICTA-UAB PhD practical training courses are specifically devoted to PhD students and early-career postdoctoral researchers, covering topics such as team building and team collaboration for research, scientific writing, effective communication, planning your academic and non-academic career.

The Barcelona Institute for Global Health is the fruit of an innovative alliance between the “la Caixa” Foundation, academic institutions and government bodies to contribute to the efforts undertaken by the international community to address the challenges in global health. ISGlobal is a consolidated hub of excellence in research that has grown out of work first started in the world of health care by the Hospital Clínic and the Parc de Salut MAR and in the academic sphere by the University of Barcelona and Pompeu Fabra University. The pivotal mechanism of its work model is the transfer of knowledge generated by scientific research to practice, a task undertaken by the institute’s Education and Policy and Global Development departments. Its ultimate goal is to help close the gaps in health disparities between and within different regions of the world.

The ISGlobal was accredited with the highest institutional recognition of scientific research in Spain (‘Severo Ochoa’ Centre of Excellence 2019-2023 Program (CEX2018-000806-S) by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and State Research Agency.  ISGlobal is the only centre in epidemiology and global public health accredited as a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence. The accreditation represents therefore a tremendous boost for this research field in Spain and abroad. The Severo Ochoa programme has been integrated into the institutional Strategic Plan to reinforce ISGlobal international leadership through promotion of integrative interdisciplinary science and its translation into significant impact.

Doctoral INPhINIT Fellowships Programme – Incoming. Call for applications 2021

35 PhD fellowships for early-stage researchers of any nationality to pursue their PhD studies in research centres accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence Severo Ochoa, María de Maeztu or Health Institute Carlos III and Portuguese units accredited as “excellent” or “exceptional” according to the evaluation of the Fundação de Ciência e Tecnologia.

INPhINIT “la Caixa” Fellowship Programme at ICTA-UAB

The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT ”la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers—of any nationality—who wish to pursue doctoral studies in Spanish or Portuguese territory.

Sponsored by ”la Caixa” Foundation, it is aimed at supporting the best scientific talent and fostering innovative and high-quality research in Spain and Portugal by recruiting outstanding international students and offering them an attractive and competitive environment for conducting research of excellence.  

Doctorate INPhINIT 
Incoming offers 35 PhD fellowships for researchers willing to carry out their PhD project in research centres accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence Severo Ochoa, María de Maeztu or Health Institute Carlos III and Portuguese units accredited as “excellent” according to the evaluation of the Fundação de Ciência e Tecnologia.

INPhINIT Incoming is addressed exclusively to STEM disciplines: life sciences and health, experimental sciences, physics, chemistry and mathematics.

For doing their research in Spanish institutions, candidates must have resided or carried out their main activity in Spain for less than 12 months in the last 3 years while for Portuguese institutions, candidates must have resided in Portugal for less than 12 months in the last 3 years.

The doctoral INPhINIT fellowships offer a highly competitive salary and complementary opportunities for training on transferrable skills (in annual training sessions), temporary stays in industry, incentives upon completion of the thesis, among other elements that make these fellowships some of the most attractive and complete in Europe.

“la Caixa” Foundation will select international candidates. Subsequently, the selected candidates, will propose the Research Centre and the predoctoral position in which he/she would like to do the research project. If there is agreement between the Centre, the supervisor (predoctoral researcher who presented the position) and the candidate, the fellowship will be awarded to the candidate.

Download complete information about the programme here

Eligibility criteria and call rules

The INPhINIT programme will be open to Early-Stage Researchers (ESR) of all nationalities. In order to be eligible, candidates must meet the following criteria (in accordance with the Marie Skłodowska-Curie eligibility conditions):

    • 1. At the call deadline, candidates must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree.
    • 2. At the time of recruitment, candidates must comply with one of the following options:

To have completed the studies that lead to an official Spanish (or from another country of the European Higher Education Area) university degree awarding 300 ECTS credits, of which at least 60 ECTS credits must correspond to master level.
To have completed a degree in a non-Spanish university not adapted to the European Higher Education Area that gives access to doctoral studies. The verification of an equivalent level of studies to the ones mentioned above will be made by the university when the admission procedure starts.

    • 3. Candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date. Short stays such as holidays will not be taken into account.
    • 4. Candidates must have a demonstrable level of English (B2 or higher).
    • 5. Only candidates whose submitted application fulfil all the requirements will be eligible.

For details of the grant, applications and selection criteria process, and other general questions, please visit the INPhINIT programme website

Evaluation criteria

INPhINIT aims to recruit excellent Early-Stage Researchers with very solid theoretical backgrounds, with curiosity and ambition; with incipient skills to express themselves clearly and defend their ideas with creativity, independence and originality. Researchers may be focused on the academic side or be more industry-oriented. The evaluation criteria and scores defined to achieve this goal are:


    1. Qualifications and Curriculum Vitae (weight 50%): academic and/or professional curriculum in relation to the stage of the candidate’s career;
    1. Motivation and statement of purpose (weight 30%): the originality, innovation and potential impact of the proposed statement of purpose, and the choice of the Research Centre and/or research line will be assessed;
    1. Letters of reference (weight 20%): reference letters supporting the candidacy will be assessed taking into account the specificity of the content with regard to the candidate as well as the profile of the people who sign them.


    1. Candidate’s potential (weight 40%): in order to have a general perception of the candidate’s potential, experts will pay attention to “soft” skills, ability to present easily a complex reasoning, team working; and capabilities such as independent reasoning, originality, entrepreneurship, leadership, among others.
    1. Motivation and statement of purpose (weight 30%): experts will assess the impact of the statement of purpose for the candidate and the society; innovation, originality and feasibility; and candidate’s capabilities with regard to the scope of the statement of purpose.
    1. Academic and professional background (weight 30%): experts will assess the consistency of the candidate’s academic background and CV in the area chosen to carry out the PhD.

Depending on the number of eligible applications, during this stage, selection may be based on the final mark obtained for the bachelor’s studies.

Useful dates

No applications nor additional documentation can be submitted after the deadlines set in the call rules.

    • 4 February 2021 Deadline for submitting applications.
    • 18 February 2021 Deadline for submitting the language certificate.
    • 22 April 2021 Notification of the shortlist results and arrangement of interviews.
    • 25, 26 and 27 May 2021 Face-to-face interviews in Barcelona.
    • 7 June 2021 Communication of the final result
    • From 7 to 30 June 2021 Matching research centre – fellow.

How to apply

If you want to apply for an INPhINIT fellowship, click on the link below to create your personal account and fill in the on-line application form.

Website for “la Caixa” fellowships applications

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