PhD position (m/f/d): Unraveling multivalent interactions in the pre-synapse

Job Offer from May 16, 2024

We seek to hire a doctoral student (PhD thesis) for a project in the field of computational biophysics within the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre CRC1551 ( on elucidating the origin and mechanism for condensate formation in the pre-synapse. Signal transmission between neurons takes place at specifically designed contact sites called synapses. Successful transmission strongly relies on the organization of the synapse into functional compartments, including the synaptic vesicle reserve pool and the active zone in the pre-synaptic neuron, as well as the post-synaptic density in the post-synaptic neuron. Importantly, these compartments are not fully enclosed by a phospholipid membrane; they are membrane-less compartments that assemble from a set of specific proteins. In the active zone, synaptic vesicles are tethered to the plasma membrane and maintained in an activated state until an action potential arrives. However, quantitative and mechanistic insights into the formation, maintenance and dynamics of synaptic condensates in general, and the active zone in particular, are missing.

In this project we aim to bundle experimental and computational effort to increase our understanding in this field, in particular how multivalent interactions between pre-synaptic proteins give rise to the observed compartmentalization, in particular the formation of the active zone. Besides, we would also like to address how compartmentalization couples to the transport of vesicle towards the synaptic cleft. The project is a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPIP) and the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU, Prof. Dr. C. Schmidt), where, respectively, the computational and experimental effort will be supervised. The computational side of the project will focus on the definition and parametrization of coarse grained, partially phenomenological models that predict the phase behavior of these proteins and reproduce vesicle dynamics at a continuum level. The modeling will be informed using in-vitro measurements on the isolated proteins and protein mixtures, generated in the experimental effort.

We are looking for a motivated doctoral student (PhD) with i) a masters in physical chemistry, physics, biophysics or similar and ii) a motivation to work on a theoretical and computational topic. Experience with code development is a must. The position is available with immediate effect. The application deadline is 01.08.2024. Please send your application per Email to Dr. Jasper J. Michels ( The application should include:

  • CV, including a publication list
  • motivation letter
  • transcript of your MSc course grades
  • at least two letters of recommendation, including contact details of corresponding 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 to development as an independent scientist. The PhD position is regulated by the Max Planck Society bylaws under the salary stipulated by the DFG.

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