PhD Position - Mechanical structure-function relationships of extracellular matrix proteins

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PhD Position - Mechanical structure-function relationships of extracellular matrix proteins

Beitrag von kerstingblank » 14.06.2019, 11:09

Job description

The extracellular matrix contains a large number of mechanosensitive proteins that undergo force-induced conformational changes. These changes often play an essential role in biochemical signaling between cells and the matrix. They further directly affect the mechanical properties of the matrix itself, which possesses highly non-linear mechanical properties. This project focusses on coiled coils, which are abundant alpha-helical folding motifs in the extracellular matrix and the cytoskeleton. Coiled coils determine the extensibility of tissues and also protect against tissue damage. At a molecular level, it has been proposed that a force-induced conformational transition to beta-sheet structures is critically involved in this protection mechanism.
The aim of your project is to unravel the molecular parameters that control this structural transition and to characterize its mechanical consequences. Towards this goal, you will use synthetic peptide systems and bioinspired, extracellular matrix-mimicking hydrogels. You will combine mechanical with structural characterization methods, both at the ensemble and the single-molecule level to directly observe the effect of an applied force on the structural response of these systems. The methods to be used include rheology and single-molecule force spectroscopy on the mechanical side as well as optical spectroscopy (infrared, Raman and fluorescence) on the structural side. The project is part of the newly extended collaborative research center SFB-TRR 102 and collaborations are planned with research groups at the universities in Halle and Leipzig.


You have completed your MSc in Physics, Chemistry or Biochemistry. Besides having a strong background in at least one of the above-mentioned techniques, you are interested in learning the others. The project is multidisciplinary and involves collaborations with other groups at the institute as well as external collaborations (see above). You should have a strong interest in a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach. Independent thinking, team spirit and communication are crucial for a successful development of the project.

The Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces is located in the greater Berlin/Brandenburg area, which provides a rich scientific environment. The Max Planck Society seeks to employ more women in areas in which they are underrepresented. Hence, we are particularly encouraging qualified women to apply. The Max Planck Society further aims to hire more disabled people and applications of handicapped candidates are welcome.

The project will start in October 2019. Additional information can be obtained from:

Dr. Kerstin Blank

Please send your application (incl. cover letter, CV, names and contact details of 3 references) to Dr. Kerstin Blank. The application deadline is July 31, 2019.