Until death do us apart: living in a symbiotic world

Until death do us apart: living in a symbiotic world

Presential; if needed may change to remote


Symbiosis is a key strategy for life on Earth. Nevertheless, although many research groups have long been committed to the study of symbiosis, its definition and functioning are not fully understood, and its ecological role and relevance are still underestimated.

Symbiotic associations vary from parasitism to mutualism and even simple persistent biological interactions, making the knowledge fragmented and focused on the details of single symbiotic systems. Knowledge of the various symbiotic relationships is rapidly increasing with the development of -omics tools, but without efforts to find common grounds.

The concept itself of symbiosis can be faced by different points of view, spanning from biology to evolution, from philosophy to artificial intelligence.

In this course, we promote a multidisciplinary approach presenting the most recent findings on the topic and challenging the traditional way of considering symbiotic associations as exceptions and not as the rule.

This course can have a recognition of 6 ECTs for FCUL PhD students enrolling in it as part of their first doctoral year. For students only requiring 5 ECTs recognized in their specific PhD programmes the last 6 hours of the course are not mandatory and the certificate will be on 'Topics in Until Death do us apart: living in a Symbiotic World’.

Minimum formation: Bachelor (“Licenciatura”) in Biology, Natural Science or related areas

Directed to: PhD or MSc students in Biology, Microbiology, Ecology, Environmental Studies or related areas, and postdocs and other professionals working in related topics

General Plan

Note: This course is intended to be presential, but if needed (e.g. due to COVID-19 security measures by the time of the course) it may be adapted to be given remotely

Starting from the definition of symbiosis, we’ll analyze the role of symbioses in evolutionary terms.

Plant-fungal-bacteria symbioses will be presented to illustrate ecological networks and ecosystem services. Examples of different symbiotic associations (lichens, biofilm, mycorrhizas) will be given by specialists in the field in theoretical-practical lessons taking in consideration morphological, physiological and ecological aspects. Part of the course will be devoted to the human microbiome and insect-bacteria symbioses and their consequences on/potentialities for human and environmental health. Philosophical aspects and challenges brought by the new discoveries in the area will be discussed. Potential applications in technology like evolutionary algorithms and industrial symbiosis will be considered as well as sociological aspects associated to agroecology.


Students fees




Free for 1st year PhD students in Doctoral programmes at FCUL (e.g. Biologia), Biodiversity, Genetics and Evolution (BIODIV UL; UP) and Biology and Ecology of Global Changes (BEAG UL, UA) when the course counts credits for their formation, in which case the delivery of a final report done after the course is mandatory; the course is also free for more advanced PhD students of the BIODIV programme (ULisboa or UPorto); 50 € for more advanced PhD students of cE3c of other programmes; 80 € for PhD students of the PEERS network (CFE); 125 € for FCUL Master students and unemployed; 180 € for BTI, BI and other PhD students; 250 € for Professional and postdocs.

When the maximum number of students is reached 8 vacancies will be available for non-paying 1st year PhD students mentioned above, being, by order of preference: 1) cE3c students; 2) BIODIV students (not from cE3c); 3) FCUL students (not from cE3c); 4) BEAG students (not from FCUL).

Contacts for Inscription

Candidates should send an e-mail to Silvana Munzi (ssmunzi@fc.ul.pt)  with a short cv and motivation letter. The cv and letter should be named as 1st-lastNAME-CV.pdf and 1st-lastNAME-ML.pdf (that is personalize the name of each file with your first and last name).

In the email please add the following information:

Full Name:



Professional activity: Professional/Postdoc, BTI, BI (or other non-post-doc research grant), PhD student (with/ without scholarship), Lic. (Bachelor)/Master student

PhD student of the 1st year of a Doctoral programme at FCUL, BIODIV (FCUL/FCUP), or BEAG (FCUL or UA)?

If yes to the above question, PhD student doing the Course to count credits for 1st year?:

PhD student of cE3c or CEF (Centro de Ecologia Funcional)?:

Name of the PhD programme: