PhD position in cryo-Electron Microscopy and Tomography of microtubules in mammalian sperm cells (1.0 FTE)

PhD position in cryo-Electron Microscopy and Tomography of microtubules in mammalian sperm cells (1.0 FTE)

Published Deadline Location
10 Mar 15 May Utrecht

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Are you motivated to work with cutting edge technologies for high-resolution analysis of cellular components? Join our team and see what makes sperm work!

Job description

Microtubules play a key role in controlling cell shape, organelle distribution and cell motility. Microtubules are intrinsically dynamic polymers, however some cellular components are based on stable microtubules. Depolymerisation of stable microtubules can be prevented by specific factors, but the mechanisms of their action are unknown. We are now seeking a motivated PhD candidate to study microtubules stabilisation in vitro and in mammalian cells with a special interest in sperm cells. In this position you will become part of a consortium supported by an NWO-OCENW-XL grant to study microtubule structure and dynamics in situ using a combination of innovative cryo-Electron Tomography (cryo-ET) and advanced cryo-fluorescence microscopy.

You will join the research group of Tzviya Zeev-Ben-Mordehai which combines biochemistry, biophysics and advanced cryo-electron microscopy to unravel the molecular basis of fertilization. Her group was the first to resolve the in-cell structures of mammalian sperm flagella that revealed remarkable species-dependent differences in microtubule inner proteins (for more information, read Leung et al. (2021) and Leung et al. (2022). The natural variation between species and the specific architecture of the sperm cell makes sperm a prime model to study microtubule organisation and stabilisation in different organelles within the same cell. In your research you will combine sophisticated in vitro reconstitution assays with correlative cryo-light-microscopy and cryo-ET/cryo-EM approaches to advance our knowledge of the cytoskeletal organisation and stabilisation.

Pursuing a PhD in our group will offer you the opportunity to:

  • learn cryo-EM single particle analysis grid preparation, data collection and processing;
  • acquire skills in cutting-edge cryo-electron-tomography and sub-tomogram averaging;
  • develop workflows for correlative cryo-light microscopy and electron microscopy (cryo-CLEM);
  • gain a deeper understanding of the biology of sperm;
  • develop academic skills such as effective scientific communications (written and oral), building collaboration networks and teaching.


Utrecht University


To be successful in the application you should:

  • have (or will soon complete) a Master's degree in Structural Biochemistry, Biophysics or a related field;
  • have advanced (theoretical) knowledge of multiple of the following subjects: Structural Bioinformatics, Molecular Imaging, Cryo-Electron Microscopy, Biophysics, Biochemistry and Cell biology;
  • be highly motivated, creative and able to deal with challenges;
  • like to work in a collaborative environment;
  • have excellent oral and written skills in English (C1).

Previous hands-on experience in cryo-Electron Microscopy is not required, but will be considered a significant advantage.

Conditions of employment

  • an academic environment with several world-class scientists, where English is the main language;
  • academic training in our Molecular Life Sciences programme;
  • a supportive environment with a commitment to academic development and maintaining a healthy work-life balance
  • a position for 4 years;
  • a full-time gross salary ranging from € 2,541 in the first year to €3,247 in the fourth year in scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao);
  • 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.
In addition to the employment conditions from the CAO for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. These include agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment through the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we encourage you to grow.

For more information, please visit working at the Faculty of Science. 

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A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

At the Faculty of Science, there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes that work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects. Find out more about us.

The work will be performed in the research group of Dr. Zeev-Ben-Mordehai, which is part of the Structural Biochemistry section. The group offers a collaborative environment with an extensive computing infrastructure for data processing. We have access to the in-house Electron Microscopy Centre, which houses advanced instrumentation for cryo-EM and particularly cryo-ET. Including a Talos Artica, equipped with K2 direct electron detector, energy filter and a Volta phase plate. In addition, it is equipped with a dual beam instrument for sample thinning by focus ion beam (FIB) milling (Aquilos) under cryogenic conditions and with an integrated cryo-fluorescence microscope (Meteor).

The Structural Biochemistry group is part of the Bijvoet Centre for Biomolecular Research which coordinates the Molecular Life Sciences PhD programme and offers regular seminars by scientists from all over the world, access to advanced courses and regular PhD evenings for PhDs and postdocs to present their work and enhance social cohesion within the Bijvoet Centre. The Bijvoet Centre comprises six research sections that form a collaborative environment focussing on elucidating the structure of the biomolecules that make up all living organisms. In addition, The Bijvoet Centre has a state-of-the-art Protein Research Centre that is equipped for protein production, purification and analysis. 


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • 38—40 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1207065



Heidelberglaan 8, 3584CS, Utrecht

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