PhD position (m/f/d): Multi-component Phase Behavior in the Development of Huntington’s Disease

Job Offer from February 21, 2023

We offer a position for a PhD/doctoral student interested in cellular and molecular biophysics to work with us on computational modelling of phase separation in cellular biology, with a particular interest in the phase transitions underlying Huntington’s Disease (HD). HD is a neurodegenerative disease caused by an aberrant expansion of CAG repeats and polyglutamine (polyQ) stretches in the huntingtin (HTT) gene and protein, respectively. This mutation results in the formation of liquid- or solid-like condensates that ultimately lead to the pathological aggregates observed during later stages of the disease. In contrast to the molecular mechanisms behind HD, the phase behavior of mixtures of HTT RNA and protein are to date only marginally understood. We hypothesize though, that to understand and to be able to predict these phase transitions is key to the development of effective therapeutic strategies.

This interdisciplinary project is a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPIP) and the University Medical Center Mainz of the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU), whom are, respectively, responsible for the computational and the experimental side of the project. In further collaboration with the Institute for Molecular Physiology of the JGU, the phase behavior of the HTT components will be studied in in-vitro, giving results that will be compared with, translated or mapped onto in-cellulo observations. The computational effort will focus on the development of statistical mechanical models that mimic the ability of biomolecules to interact with their environment via non-specific interactions, as well as specific binding motifs. The primary targets are i) to construct multicomponent phase diagrams that match the experimentally obtained ones and ii) numerically simulate the observed liquid-liquid and liquid-solid phase transitions.

We are looking for a doctoral/PhD student with i) a master in physics, physical chemistry, biophysics or similar and ii) an interest in computational modeling. We only consider candidates with top-level scores at both the bachelor and master degree. Experience with code development is a strong advantage The position is available with immediate effect. The application deadline is 31.03.2023. Please send applications per Email to: Dr. Jasper J. Michels ( Applications should include:

  • CV, including a publication list (if applicable)
  • motivation letter
  • transcript of your BSc and MSc course grades
  • contact details of at least two references

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

The MPIP, where the successful candidate will primarily work, is a world-renowned institute in macromolecular science and soft matter. The institute offers a highly international environment where the working language is English and the scientific and technical infrastructure is excellent. The access to resources and scientific expertise for this project provide every opportunity for development as an independent researcher. The PhD position is regulated by the Max Planck Society bylaws.

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