We are inviting applications for a 3-year PhD position in the general area of Cell Biology and Cell Biophysics, to commence in October 2019. The student will be physically based within the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN, https://www.pdn.cam.ac.uk) at the University of Cambridge, UK. The Department has significant cell biology, biophysics and imaging infrastructure.
The proposed research project aims to explore how cells control their mechanical properties during cell shape changes. Cellular shape changes are driven by mechanical forces generated primarily by intracellular cytoskeletal networks. The project will focus on a key cytoskeletal network, the actin cortex, and investigate how cortex organization and mechanics are controlled at the molecular level. The project is interdisciplinary and will involve the combined use of live cell imaging, super-resolution microscopy, advanced electron microscopy, as well as molecular cell biology and cell biophysics techniques.
The cell cortex is a thin network of actin filaments, myosin and associated proteins that underlies the plasma membrane. The physical properties of the cortex, and primarily its contractile tension, determine the shape of animal cells. Precisely controlled changes in cortical contractility are at the basis of most cell deformations, and deregulation of cortical tension is implicated in a number of cancers.
The overall aim of the project is to understand how contractile tension is generated from the microscopic organisation of the cortical network. We will develop an interdisciplinary research plan to study:
– the spatial organization of cortical actin filaments, using cryo-electron microscopy and super-resolution optical microscopy,
– the biophysical basis of cortical contractility.
We will investigate these questions in the context of cell division, where the cortex reorganizes to create a tension gradient that drives cell cleavage during cytokinesis.
Candidates should have, or expect to obtain, a first class or upper second class honours degree in subjects such as Molecular Cell Biology or Biophysics. Students with a Physics degree who wish to work at the interface of physics and biology are also strongly encouraged to apply.
Funding is available to UK and EEA candidates. This project is a part of a collaboration with a partner at the University of Zurich (Switzerland) and will necessitate some international travel.
Suitably qualified and enthusiastic candidates interested in performing research in a dynamic multidisciplinary scientific environment should apply online via the University’s Applicant Portal for a PhD in Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (BLPN22).
List the name of your prospective supervisor Professor Ewa Paluch and the project title in the Research section of the form. You will also be required to submit a research proposal (1-2 pages of A4). An application is only complete when all supporting documents, including the 2 academic references, are submitted. It is the applicants responsibility to ensure their referees submit their references before the closing date Monday 27 May 2019.
Informal enquiries can be addressed to Prof. Ewa Paluch (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Chugh P, Paluch EK. The actomyosin cortex at a glance. (2018) J Cell Sci. 131(14)
- Koenderink GH, Paluch EK. (2018) Architecture shapes contractility in actomyosin networks. Curr Op Cell Biol. 50:79-85.
- Chugh P, Clark AG, Smith MB, Cassani DA, Ragab A, Roux P, Charras G, Salbreux G, Paluch EK. (2017) Actin cortex architecture regulates cell surface tension. Nat Cell Biol. 19:689-697.
The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.