PhD position in Delft, Koenderink lab: Disentangling cytoskeletal crosstalk in cell mechanics


The Koenderink lab studies cell and tissue mechanics by combining synthetic biology with physical measurement techniques such as optical tweezer and AFM force spectroscopy, rheology, and quantitative microscopy. We are particularly interested in the question how living cells can combine a superior mechanical strength with the ability to dynamically deform themselves during cell division and migration. Cells owe this paradoxical mechanical behaviour to actin, microtubules, and intermediate filaments. These filaments have traditionally been regarded as independent systems with separate cellular tasks. However, recent evidence suggests that they function in a coupled manner through physical interactions and biological regulation. We will for the first time take a systems view on cell mechanics by asking how the composite nature of the cytoskeleton enables the cell to balance the opposing demands of mechanical strength and deformability. In this PhD project, you will measure the collective mechanical (viscoelastic, fracture, and contractile) properties of synthetic cytoskeletal networks reconstituted from purified components to understand how physical interactions generate mechanical synergy, and develop a technique to image force propagation inside the networks based on engineered molecular force sensors that light up when stretched. You will compare these experiments on simplified synthetic networks with corresponding mechanical measurements on single living cells. We are looking for outstanding experimentalists with a keen interest in research at the interface between physics and biology. Experience in fields such as biophysics, soft matter, single-molecule techniques, optical imaging, nanosciences, and molecular/cellular biology is welcomed. The Ph.D. position is for 4 years. Applicants are invited to submit an email including cover letter, CV with publication list, and names/email addresses of 3 or more references, to professor Gijsje Koenderink:

back to positions