Water in living cells contains a high concentration of biomolecules, that can significantly alter its properties (see https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00858-0
). There are even cells (bacterial spores, for instance) in which all chemistry is put to a standstill: these cells can survive for years in a dried-out, chemically 'frozen' state, from which they can recover completely and continue living as if nothing happened. The physical and chemical mechanisms underlying this suspended metabolism are still a mystery. In this PhD project, you will help to solve this mystery by using state-of-the-art experimental methods to investigate the structure and dynamics of water and proteins in living cells capable of surviving extreme circumstances, such as drought and thermal shock. Knowledge of how some cells manage to survive complete desiccation for such long periods of time can help to develop strategies for the dry, room-temperature storage of blood and vaccines (important for third-world countries), but potentially even for the dry storage of entire organisms. The project will be carried out at the University of Amsterdam, in cooperation with the Max-Planck Institute in Mainz. What are you going to do?
You will use various methods to investigate the structure of water and proteins in living cells and model systems: time-resolved and two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy, terahertz and gigahertz spectroscopy, and different types of microscopic imaging. You will learn how to use these methods, how to analyze the results, and write articles and give presentations reporting on your results. This is an interdisciplinary research project, and you will be part of a team consisting of chemists, physicists and biologists.