ERC IDEM Summer School:

Microbiota, Symbiosis and Individuality: Conceptual and Philosophical Issues


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Most multicellular organisms from plants to animals are hosts to a vast array of microorganisms. In recent years it has become apparent that the microbiota is not just a silent tenant to the host, but that its presence can shape the development, health and behavior of the host. Thus the question of individuality arises. To what extent does our microbiota influence who we are? And is our microbiota part of ourselves?

From July 1st-5th 2019 the ERC IDEM team organizes a summer school exploring conceptual issues related to Microbiota, Symbiosis and Individuality. 20 young philosophers, biologist and medical students will meet to learn, discuss and develop new interdisciplinary approaches.

Course leaders

Yasmine Belkaid, Immunologist and Senior Investigator at the NIH. Her research aims to understand the mechanisms controlling host-microbe interactions at barrier sites such as the skin and the gut.

Scott Gilbert, Professor emeritus at Swarthmore College, he is a specialist of ecological developmental biology, developmental genetics, embryology, and the history and critiques of biology.

Rob Knight is a Professor at the University of California San Diego and the co-founder of the American Gut Project. He is also a co-founder of the Earth Microbiome Project, and the founding Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation.

Jan-Pieter Konsman is a CNRS investigator in neuroscience (neuroimmunology) at the INCIA lab, Bordeaux, France. He also works in philosophy of science.

Samir Okasha (to be confirmed) is a Professor of philosophy of science at the University of Bristol. His research interestes focus mainly around evolutionary theory and epistemology.

Thomas Pradeu is a Senior CNRS Investigator in philosophy of science and PI of the ERC IDEM project. He focuses on philosophy of immunology, especially immune-microbiota interactions, developmental biology, and physiology.

Preliminary program

The program of this summer school is set up to leave room for discussion and active exchanges between senior lecturers and students and postdocs. Participants will not be asked to give a presentation of their individual work. Rather, participants will engage in working groups and might be asked to present the results of these.

Day 1

Monday, July 1st

Arrival of participants

Welcome and first work session

Day 2

Tuesday, July 2nd

Plenary lecture followed by discussion

Working groups

Presentation of results followed by discussions

Day 3

Wednesday, July 3rd

Plenary lecture followed by discussion

Working groups

Presentation of results followed by discussions

Day 4

Thursday, July 4th

Plenary lecture followed by discussion

Working groups

Presentation of results followed by discussions

Day 5

Friday, July 5th

Final work session

Closing remarks

Departure of participants



Application deadline: March 7th 2019


Send a short CV and a detailed abstract (1,500 words) of your research

OR a short CV and an expression of interest (1,500 words) to


MA / MSc / PhD and postdocs in:

    • > Philosophy of Science
    • > Medicine
    • > Biology, including (but not limited to) Developmental biology, Immunology, Microbiology and Neurosciences.


The summer school will be held in the seaside town of Biarritz, in the south of France.


Fee: €250 (the fee includes housing and all meals, but not travel expenses.)

Qualified individuals can be exempted from the fee. In some cases the organizers can grant financial support for travel, provided that no other means of funding exist.

To apply for an exemption from the inscription fee or for financial support to travel expenses, send a letter of motivation along with your application. Please detail why you would like to participate and why you would like to be exempted / obtain financial support.


The ERC IDEM (“Immunity, DEvelopment, and the Microbiota”) project explores the problem of biological identity at the interface between immunology, microbiology, and developmental biology. It has been funded by the European Union with an ERC starting grant.