PhD-student: Biophysical analysis of bistable cell fate switches.

PhD-student: Biophysical analysis of bistable cell fate switches.

Published Deadline Location
29 Mar 28 Aug Amsterdam

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Job description

Networks of interacting proteins collectively form bistable genetic switches that control each cell’s fate during development. These genetic switches are not only responsible for proper cell differentiation when exposed to developmental signals, but also for maintaining each cell’s identity long after its fate is chosen. The ability to maintain cell fate is particularly important for neurons, that are not renewed during our lifetime and thus live for many years. How do neurons ensure that during this entire time they never accidentally lose their cell fate identity?

You will use advanced, quantitative microscopy and computer simulations to uncover the mechanisms that maintain neuronal cell fate in the simple nematode C. elegans. You will use techniques such as time-lapse microscopy, single molecule FISH and FRAP to measure levels and dynamics of cell fate proteins in a range of different neuron types, and auxin-induced depletion to remove cell fate proteins at will and examine the subsequent impact on cell fate. You will use stochastic computer models of the underlying genetic switch networks to study how fluctuations in cell fate protein levels affect the ability of the switch to maintain its differentiated state.

This project will form a tight collaboration with the C. elegans neurobiology group of Dr. Gert Jansen (Dept. of Cell Biology, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam), involving regular exchange and joint meetings. You will help analyze and interpret ChIP-seq and RNA-seq data, that will be collected by a PhD student in the Jansen group, to elucidate how cell fate maintenance depends on the binding and unbinding of cell fate proteins to the DNA.




We seek candidates with a background in (bio)physics or biology, ideally with experience in fluorescence microscopy, quantitative data analysis and computational approaches to biology. Candidates with a background purely in theoretical/computational physics or biology, but a strong desire to combine this with biology experiments are also encouraged to apply. Excellent verbal and written English skills are essential. You will need to meet the requirements for an MSc-degree, to ensure eligibility for a Dutch PhD examination.

Conditions of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years, with a starting salary of gross € 2,590 per month and a range of employment benefits. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at a Dutch university . Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. AMOLF assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.


Quantitative Developmental Biology

The ‘Quantitative Developmental Biology’ group uses a quantitative, physics-inspired approach to study problems in developmental biology, focusing both on the small nematode C. elegans and intestinal organoids. The aim of the research is to elucidate how living organisms reliably build their bodies, maintain their tissues or respond to their environment despite the considerable underlying variability on the molecular level. 


  • PhD
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • 1208034


Science Park 104, 1098 XG, Amsterdam

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