Introducing the Young CAS Fellows 2023/2024

Victor Greiff and Benjamin Schneider are the two new early career scholars selected for the Young CAS Fellow programme.


The CAS Board of Directors has selected two Young CAS Fellow projects for the period of January 2023 to December 2024.

The projects will be enrolled in CAS’ two-year programme for young scholars. During the first year, the fellows will organise three intensive workshops, enabling them to develop their research projects and professional networks. The second year is a condensed version of what regular CAS project leaders do, namely gather a core group of scholars for a research stay with time and space to focus fully on their research. The stay lasts for two months. We spoke with Greiff and Schneider about their project and their thoughts about having been selected for the Young CAS Fellow programme for 2023/2024.

EVOIMMPRINT: Evolutionary imprints on human adaptive immunity

Victor Greiff is an associate professor at the University of Oslo and will lead the Young CAS Fellow project EVOIMMPRINT: Evolutionary imprints on human adaptive immunity.

The goal of the EVOIMMPRINT project is to achieve a comprehensive overview and perform an in-depth analysis of the current evidence for evolutionary imprints on the language of adaptive immunity. To achieve this objective, Greiff will create a network of researchers with world-leading expertise in immunology, structural and evolutionary biology, and machine learning to develop conceptual tools that help resolve the evolutionary imprint on adaptive immunity. EVOIMMPRINT has fundamental and ground-breaking implications for the understanding, prediction, and engineering of adaptive immunity.

Congratulations! Could you briefly tell us about your project?

Deciphering the evolutionary principles of adaptive immunity is key to understanding how our immune system adapts to pathogens and how we need to strengthen it to make it more resilient to emerging unknown threats (e.g., SARSCoV-2). However, counter to current simplified textbook illustrations, the adaptive immune response to recognizing evolutionarily new (that means, only recently encountered antigens by humans) pathogens is poor. This is exemplified, for example, by the diseasedriven decimation of South Americans after the Spanish invasion (1500 and 1600s) or the generally poor immune response to HIV. In contrast, pathogens that humans have continuously interacted with, such as influenza, are generally handled well or at least better by the immune system. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that historical environmental antigen exposures have imprinted on adaptive immunity over evolutionary time, rendering our immune system more adept at recognizing those pathogens our ancestors have repeatedly encountered in the past.  So far, however,  causal and fundamental understanding of the variation in the quality of the adaptive immune response to different pathogens as a function of evolutionary history is missing.  

The main objective and research question of my project is to achieve a comprehensive overview of the evidence of evolutionary imprints on adaptive immunity.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your research interests and your career path.

I performed my doctoral research on serum antibody specificity at Humboldt University Berlin before moving to ETH Zürich for my postdoc on developing methods for the analysis of antibody highthroughput sequencing. In 2018, I started my group (Laboratory for Computational and Systems Immunology) at the Department of Immunology at UiO. My lab develops machine learning, computational and experimental tools for the in silico design immunotherapeutics. The red thread throughout my scientific career has been the fascination with the evolution of specificity of adaptive immunity despite its enormous diversity in sequence, structure, and reactivity. 

Why did you apply to the Young CAS Fellow programme?

My lab’s primary research question is about understanding the specificity of adaptive immunity. With the help of the Young CAS Fellow programme, I am expanding this question to understand its evolutionary origin. Specifically, it enables me to complement my current interdisciplinary research in linguistics and machine learning-driven deciphering of the molecular language of adaptive immunity (UiO Convergence Environment ImmunoLingo) with novel insights into evolutionary immunobiology. The Young CAS fellowship will help pave the way to establishing my research in the global community at the interface between very fundamental research (understanding of immune specificity) on the one hand and interdisciplinary applied research (antibody and vaccine engineering) on the other hand.

What in particular are you looking forward to as a future Young CAS Fellow? 

I very much look forward to conceptualizing cutting-edge ideas and projects with old and new collaborators at the interface of immunology, evolutionary biology, and machine learning.

Work and Wellbeing in History

Benjamin Schneider is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Oslo Metropolitan University and will lead the Young CAS Fellow project Work and Wellbeing in History.

In his Young CAS Fellow project, Schneider seeks to l improve and extend historical wellbeing measurement for one of the most important parts of life—work—and link with present-day job quality metrics. The interdisciplinary approach will combine qualitative history and econometrics, and the project will contribute to labour history, economic history, and wellbeing measurement with ground breaking new methods and scientific findings.

Congratulations! Could you briefly tell us about your project?

Thank you! I’m very excited to start the Work and Wellbeing in History project at CAS in 2023.

The project aims to improve our tools for answering a simple question: how good were jobs in the past? Most people have an intuitive sense of what a “good” job is and that some occupations are better than others. In the last few decades, economists and work researchers have formalized these ideas in a variety of job quality indices (available from e.g. the International Labour Organization and the European Trade Union Confederation). While these indices allow researchers and practitioners to understand and compare present-day jobs, their context-specific data sources and methodologies mean they cannot be extended into the past. Therefore, social scientists attempting to understand what factors improve or degrade jobs have been unable to use historical comparisons. Some indices also use a high level of aggregation (such as measuring job quality for all workers in a sector of the economy), which masks important differences between occupations.

To analyse the quality of jobs in historical contexts, in my PhD thesis I used evidence of historical workers’ preferences about the aspects of work that they valued to construct the Historical Occupational Quality Index (HOQI). The Work and Wellbeing in History project will improve and extend the HOQI, and link historical work research with the many present-day indices of good work. My collaborators Professor Jane Whittle (Exeter), Dr Judy Stephenson (UCL), Dr Robin Philips (Utrecht), Dr Meredith Paker (Grinnell), and Dr Vincent Delabastita (Radboud) and I encompass a breadth of perspectives and approaches from labour history, labour economics, and economic history. We will use qualitative and quantitative methods to improve the description and quantification that underpins historical job quality measurement, add areas of work-life not considered in the original HOQI, and connect this historical index with the contemporary indices.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, your research interests and your career path.

I am a historical social scientist and my research focuses on economic and labour history. My past work has analysed the incentives for innovation in the British Industrial Revolution, and my PhD thesis at the University of Oxford examined how new technologies changed jobs in the US and Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries. I am now a postdoc at the Centre for Research on Pandemics and Society and the Centre for Welfare and Labour Research at Oslo Metropolitan University, where I am investigating how disease outbreaks impact occupations.

Why did you apply to the Young CAS Fellow programme?

Collaboration is crucial in an interdisciplinary field like historical social science. Every scholar in our discipline has a different mix of skills from history, economics, and other social sciences, and high-quality research demands a diversity of approaches and expertise. Young CAS enables early career scholars to build a network of colleagues to investigate major research questions, which is ideal for social science history. When I developed the HOQI in my doctoral thesis I wanted to ensure that it would become a shared enterprise with many inputs and applications, like the Maddison Project on historical national income. As a result, applying to the Young CAS programme was the perfect opportunity to build a team to continue developing the HOQI, to expand systematic analysis of historical work, and to broaden the range of researchers interested in using this tool.

What in particular are you looking forward to as a future Young CAS Fellow?

In addition to the importance of our project for history and historical social science, I am excited to use the Work and Wellbeing in History project to promote dialogue between past and present work researchers and to support the continued development of economic history in Norway. As my colleague Hillary Vipond and I argue in a forthcoming working paper, present-day work research can benefit significantly from the long-run perspective provided by historical analysis, and historical social scientists can learn methods and communications strategies from our contemporary research colleagues. This project will also be a focal point for engagement between Norwegian economic historians and the global research, which will build on the long tradition of economic and social history in Norway.

The Young CAS Fellow programme

The aim of the Young CAS Fellow programme is to support outstanding younger researchers by giving them the opportunity to build independent research networks and gain experience as research leaders. Young CAS Fellows can invite colleagues from all over the world to participate in group-based, independent and outstanding fundamental research.

The Young CAS Fellows receive funding and support for their research projects and gain valuable experience from organising multiple workshops and a two-month research stay. CAS provides funds, office space and administrative support.

Read more about the Young CAS Fellow programme here >

Published 19 September 2022, 12:00 | Last edited 23 March 2023, 1:09