Although the past decade has seen a wave of breakthroughs in light-based imaging and stimulation techniques to probe neuronal organization and activity at high spatial and temporal resolution, these techniques suffer from dramatic optical distortions as one proceeds deeper inside the tissue. Currently, wavefront shaping methods are emerging that could correct for these tissue-induced aberrations and allow deeper imaging at improved resolution. Within the Neurophotonics programme, experts in the field of single-neuron physiology (Kole, Wierenga) join forces with experts in advanced imaging and wavefront shaping technology (Mosk, Vellekoop, Gerritsen, Kapitein). The goal is use advanced light-based methodology to unravel the physical principles underlying signal generation, propagation and integration in neurons embedded in functional circuits.
Understanding how the brain orchestrates our thoughts and actions and how it is affected during disease are arguably among the most important and challenging questions facing science today. Although classic biophysical work has firmly established how neuronal signals can emerge from the interplay between different types of (voltage-gated) ion channels, much less is known about the precise generation, propagation and integration of electrical signals within the highly branched and extended morphology of individual neurons embedded in intact neuronal systems. For example, how the nanoscale spatial organization of ion channels at the initiation site shapes action potentials (APs) is unknown. In addition, how signals propagate reliably through neuronal branch points and how signals can be spatially shaped by modulating inputs is poorly understood. This is largely due to the difficulty of obtaining dynamic information with subcellular resolution from neurons within intact brain circuits.
This position is one of the five PhD positions of the Neurophotonics programme and will benefit from the interactions between local partners (Wierenga, Mosk, Gerritsen) and the other consortium members (Kole and Vellekoop).
In this PhD project, STED microscopy and Single Molecule Localization Microscopy will be used to understand how the spatial distribution of ion channels modulates the initiation and propagation action potentials. Different forms of wavefront-shaping will be employed to improve contrast and resolution.
For this project, wave-front shaping technologies and innovative labeling strategies will be developed and applied to enable optical nanoscopy on brain tissue, in order to understand how the distribution of ion channels determines action potential propagation. As such, the position is at the heart of the Neurophotonics programme and will require collaboration with the Vellekoop group on wavefront-shaping, the Wierenga group on labeling strategies and the Kole group on action potential propagation. Based on your strengths and interests, the balance between these topics can be tuned.
You will be part of the Biophysics group led by Lukas Kapitein, which is embedded in the Institute of Biodynamics and Biocomplexity at Utrecht University. Within the Kapitein lab, an enthusiastic team of physicists, biologist and biochemists join forces to develop and exploit innovative methodologies to unraveling the physical principles underlying cellular organization.
We are looking for a creative and open-minded physicist with a strong interest in optics and microscopy, as well as cellular neuroscience/neurophysiology. Experience with biological microscopy and some formal training in neuroscience and molecular biology is considered advantageous.
Scientific curiosity, conceptual clarity and experimental creativity are important properties of successful members of the Kapitein lab. In addition, because you will be part of a multidisciplinary consortium, good communication skills are also very important.
Conditions of employment
When fulfilling a PhD position at the NWO Institutes Organisation (formerly FOM), you will get the status of junior scientist. You will have an employee status and can participate in all the employee benefits the NWO Institutes Organisation (NWO-I) offers. You will get a contract for four years. Your salary will be up to a maximum of 2,834 euro gross per month. The salary is supplemented with a holiday allowance of 8 percent and an end-of-year bonus of 8.33 percent. You are supposed to have a thesis finished at the end of your four year term with NWO-I. A training programme is part of the agreement. You and your supervisor will make up a plan for the additional education and supervising that you specifically need. This plan also defines which teaching activities you will be responsible (up to a maximum of ten percent of your time). The conditions of employment of NWO-I are laid down in the Collective Labour Agreement for Research Centres (Cao-Onderzoekinstellingen), more exclusive information is available at this website under Personeelsinformatie (in Dutch) or under Personnel (in English). General information about working at NWO-I can be found in the English part of this website under Personnel. The 'Job interview code' applies to this position.
Please use the form below and upload a motivation letter, CV and the contact details of two references.