PhD students, Postdocs Visits and Secondments

Research Exchange Program – Short-term collaborative research exchanges


The “SymbNET Research Exchange Program” funds short-term visits of PhD students and Postdocs to another SymbNET partner institution.

These visits consist of collaborative research projects in host-microbe symbioses focusing on genomics and metabolomics and involving at least one group from FCG-IGC or ITQB NOVA and one group from EMBL, UNIL, or CAU.

PhD students or Postdocs from FCG-IGC or ITQB NOVA can apply to visit collaborators at CAU, UNIL or EMBL, and doctoral students or Postdocs from CAU, UNIL or EMBL can apply to visit collaborators at FCG-IGC or ITQB NOVA.

The collaboration may be based on wet-lab research or bioinformatics and should last between 1 to 4 weeks.

SymbNET will cover the travelling and lodging expenses. The cost of research reagents will be covered up to €2.000 per project.

The call for proposal submissions is continuous. SymbNET will fund 12 projects over the three years of the project (2021-2023).

Scroll down for detailed information. For any enquiries please contact: [email protected]




Eligibility rules and other provisions

1. Eligible researchers include doctoral students and postdocs affiliated with one of the SymbNET participating institutions.

2. The project must be developed by the doctoral student or Postdoc applying to the program. It should focus on host-microbe symbiosis and involve collaboration between FCG-IGC or ITQB NOVA and the other SymbNET partner institution (i.e.: doctoral students or Postdocs from FCG-IGC or ITQB NOVA can apply to collaborate with CAU, UNIL or EMBL, and doctoral students or Postdocs from CAU, UNIL or EMBL can apply to collaborate with FCG-IGC or ITQB NOVA).

3. Doctoral students and Postdocs that have participated once are not eligible to apply a second time.

4. Applications to the program are independent of any other SymbNET programs supporting researchers and projects (e.g., PhD Project Award, Research Grants).

5. Applicants can request max. €2000 of funding. The requested funds need to be justified in the application and can be used on research expenses that are essential for the completion of the project, such as consumables or facility services. Any other costs (i.e., indirect costs) are not eligible.

6. Travel and lodging expenses of the participant will be covered for a duration of 1-4 weeks. Extensions of the visit (max. total duration is two months) will be considered upon request.

7. SymbNET must be acknowledged in publications/communications that may arise from research funded by this award, by including the following text: “This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 952537  (SymbNET Genomics and Metabolomics in a Host-Microbe Symbiosis Network)”.

8. Publications that arise from work funded by this exchange program must follow the open access procedures described in Article 29 of the Grant Agreement. For detailed information, see SymbNET Short Term Visits_Regulation.

9. Projects to be developed must comply with the relevant ethical and legal provisions described in article 34 and Section 5 of the Grant Agreement.  For detailed information, see  SymbNET Short Term Visits_Regulation.

10. The participant should use all funds within 6 months counting from the moment the fund is awarded.

11. The participants must provide an activity report, including a data management plan and expenses description up to one month after completion of the project.

12. The participants will get the opportunity to present the research of their visit at the SymbNET online seminar series and the final SymbNET meeting.




Procedure and Selection

1. The call for proposal submissions is continuous. It opens on the 1st of January 2022 and closes on the 31st of March 2023, or when all 12 projects have been funded.

2. Proposals should be submitted here.

3. The proposal must consist of a single PDF document. The applicants must provide the following items:

a) Name and affiliation.

b) The state of the art of their field of interest and the question(s) they want to address in their proposal (maximum of 3.000 characters, including spaces).

c) Summary of the experiments they want to perform using the funding and how it will help them to answer their scientific questions (maximum of 3.000 characters, including spaces).

d) Budget indicating how the €2.000 will be spent on consumables.

e) Two letters, one from the PhD/Postdoc supervisor and the other from the collaborative Group Leader/Head of Facility, confirming their support for the application and compliance with ethics regulations. These letters should state the following:

” I [Name of PI/Collaborator] support the application of [Name of applicant] to the SymbNET research exchange program. The research to be developed at [Name of Institute] within the scope of this program complies with all national and European ethical and safety rules. The Laboratory/Facility where the project will be developed follows all national and European ethical and safety rules, and all licenses required for experimentation have been acquired. [date] and [signature]”.

This statement must be filled, even if the project does not raise ethical questions or licenses are required.

4. Eligibility requirements will be verified by the task leader (Philipp Engel, UNIL) with the support from the Project Manager (Mariana Simões, FCG-IGC) and the Project Coordinator (Luís Teixeira, FCG-IGC).

5. Each proposal will be evaluated by three Postdocs together with three of the five SymbNet PIs contributing to this task: Philipp Engel (UNIL); Isabel Gordo (FCG-IGC); Isabel Abreu (ITQB NOVA); Michael Zimmermann (EMBL); and Thomas Bosch (CAU). The two SymbNet PIs from the institute involved in the exchange will be excluded. The Postdocs will be selected by the three SymbNet PIs involved in the evaluation. The evaluation of each SymbNet PI/Postdoc couple consists of a half-page text summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. The three reports will be discussed among the three Postdocs and three PIs to come to a final decision.

6. Reviewers from research groups or services involved in the application will be excluded from the evaluation process.

7. Reviewers will be asked if they have any conflict of interest (COI), as described here. Those who declare such COI will be excluded from the evaluation process.

8. Selection will be based on:

a) The relevance of the question being addressed (is the proposal addressing an important topic in the scientific areas represented in SymbNET?).

b) The scientific strength of the proposal (are the experiments proposed well designed and able to address the scientific question?).

c) The feasibility of the proposal (are the experiments possible to do within the time of collaboration ? Are the experiments possible to complete with the awarded money?).

d) The Added value of the collaborative project to the PhD/Postdoc research.

9. The decision for submitted projects will be communicated at the end of every other month, starting in February 2022.

10. The evaluation process will be coordinated by the SymbNET project manager.


Conflicts of interest (Selection committee)*

– The following conflict of interests must be declared and prevent from being part of the selection committee:

– Having a personal relationship with the candidate or with his/her supervisor or collaborator;

– Having a significant past or ongoing academic relationship with the candidate; this includes having jointly published a research paper in the last five years;

– Having a current or planned close scientific collaboration with the candidate;

– Having commercial/financial interests in relation to the candidate/proposal;

– Having been involved in the preparation of the proposal;

– Benefitting directly or indirectly from the acceptance or rejection of the proposal/candidate;

– Being in any other situation that could cast doubt on the evaluator’s ability to evaluate the proposal impartially, or that could reasonably appear to do so in the eyes of an external third party.


Updated on 06 january 2022