PhD Positions in Biology

University of Zürich

Department of Comparative Language Science

PhD Positions in Biology 

We are looking for two doctoral students to conduct research on how meaning is generated and understood without language. Our goal is to compare primate (sooty mangabey) and non-primate (meerkat) animal signals with non-linguistic sounds humans produce before and after the onset of language.

The position is funded by the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Evolving Language, a Swiss consortium with the ambitious goal of creating a new discipline, Evolutionary Language Science, that targets the past and future of language. The consortium consists of leading scientists from traditionally separated academic domains, which allows us to harvest the diverse expertise from the humanities, social sciences, computational sciences, natural sciences and medicine towards a broadscale interdisciplinary collaboration.

Your responsibilities

The successful candidates are expected to:

  • design and implement observational data collection and field experiments
  • be committed to 24 months of fieldwork
  • carry out (some) administrative duties and teaching assistance

Your profile

The candidates are expected to:

  • hold a Master degree in a relevant discipline
  • demonstrate strong interest in animal cognition
  • possess solid background in statistics and data processing
  • be fluent in English (oral, written)

What we offer

We offer varied and interesting work in an inspiring and socially relevant environment. Salary is according to the pay scale of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

We take gender balance and diversity seriously in hiring decisions.

Place of work

The positions are located at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, Animal Behaviour, and the Department of Comparative Language Science.

Start of employment

Start of employment will be June 1, 2024 or upon agreement. The employment will last for a maximum duration of 4 years.

To apply, please compile the following documents into a single PDF labeled 'YourSurname_human infants.pdf' and send it to
or 'YourSurname_meerkats.pdf' and send it to

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Contact details of two referees (no letters)

The positions are available until filled; we will start reviewing applications from March 1, 2024.

A third position (primates) is advertised separately: PhD Position UniNE

Relevant background reading:

Further information

For further information contact
Sabine Stoll (human infants) or
Marta Manser (meerkats).