CALL FOR APPLICATIONS open now for CSSM PhD School in September 2023!

We warmly invite doctoral researchers to apply for our PhD School Social Study of Microbes at CSSM Helsinki, September 27-29, 2023!

At present, research on microbes – whether in social sciences or in life sciences and biomedicine – is undergoing dramatic changes. A boom of microbiome research since the early 2000s has shown that microbes are vastly more abundant in the environment and inside our bodies than previously thought. In contrast to a Pasteurian notion of bacteria as merely pathogenic, microbes are seen to have important supporting roles for health and well-being. Deficit of microbes is now associated with everything from mental health to autoimmune diseases. There is also increasing awareness of microbes’ vital role in maintaining the balance in different ecosystems and ecological relations to the extent that imbalanced microbial ecologies are associated with global warming, soil depletion, and biodiversity loss.

Contributions from social sciences and philosophy of biology have capitalised on these advancements by challenging the one-sided definition of microbes as pathogenic, proposing the advent of a ‘post Pasteurian age’ that takes into account their multivalent and context-specific nature. This shift in understanding human-microbe relations is pushing the emergence of new social forms such as fermentation, often anchored in century-old practices. These developments highlight that microbes are not biological objects only, and that we lack methods and concepts that can account for the complex, multi-scalar sets of practices that characterise human-microbe relations.

Aims and objectives

The aim of this PhD school is to support participants to develop their ongoing research in the area of the social study of microbes. Together, we will explore the necessary theoretical and methodological developments to study changes in human-microbial relations from the social sciences and humanities. Additionally, the PhD school will accommodate the building of international networks for academic collaboration.

Participants will be mentored by a team composed of CSSM and international researchers.

Accepted participants will be expected to submit a draft paper/chapter for discussion two weeks before the PhD school and read other participants’ drafts (approx. 2-4).

Preliminary Programme

The PhD school will last for three days and involve group work together with the mentoring team.
The first two days will consist of group work, including the presentation and discussion of individual papers, an international keynote lecture, and general discussions about the social study of microbes. On the third day, the participants will have a chance to participate in the CSSM Day when the Helsinki team and all international visitors spend the day together – discussing relevant themes, holding workshops, and mingling.


We welcome applications from PhD students interested in the social study of microbes. Applicants from the Global South and members of minorities are especially welcome to apply.

Applications should contain:

1) a cover letter of interest (max 1 page),
2) a formal abstract of your PhD project, including a reflection on how your research project engages with theoretical and/or methodological developments for the social study of microbes (max 2 pages),
3) CV (max 2 pages).

Accepted participants are asked to submit a paper or chapter draft (max 8.000 words) by September 13, 2023.

The application should be sent to by July 31, 2023.
Successful applicants will be notified latest by August 15, 2023.

Economic support
Accommodation during your stay and travel to Helsinki is fully covered by CSSM. Please indicate in your cover letter if you do not need such economic support.

For more information, please contact:

Please spread the call in your local networks, thank you.