Postdoctoral position to characterize how fibroblasts interact with complex extracellular matrices

Updated: about 2 months ago
Job Type: Permanent

100%, Basel, fixed-term

The Biophysics Group of Prof. Daniel Müller is part of the strongly interdisciplinary Department Biosystems Science and Engineering. The aim of the department is to explore fundamental properties of biosystems and to use them for the development of tomorrow's biotechnological and medical applications.


Project background

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex three-dimensional network of fibrillar proteins, water, and proteoglycans and is critical for cell fate and function regulation in tissues. Cells sense the biochemical composition and the biophysical properties, such as the architecture and stiffness, of the ECM to regulate a wide variety of cellular functions including adhesion, migration, differentiation, metabolism, mechanics, and growth. In this highly challenging and interdisciplinary project we aim to decipher how cells sense the complexity of the ECM, structurally and biochemically relay the ECM properties into the cell and use this information to establish adhesion. To address this challenge, we will engineer biomimetic fibrillar, multicomponent ECM matrices, apply ultrasensitive atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based single-cell force spectroscopy (SCFS), and engineer cell lines to elucidate the dynamics of cell adhesion initiation and strengthening. To elucidate the molecular pathways regulating adhesion initiation and strengthening, we will use gene editing (CRISPR/Cas), RNAi silencing, and chemical inhibitors. We aim to unravel in molecular detail the decisional processes of how cells establish adhesion to complex ECM compositions and architectures. By MINFLUX nanoscopy, which reaches an optical resolution of ~ 1 nm, we aim to determine how ECM properties determine the molecular architecture of cellular adhesions and their functional implications for signaling. Therewith, we will focus on changes in the molecular adhesion architecture during adhesion maturation, how tension is distributed in the adhesive and on protein dynamics within adhesions.


Job description

This postdoctoral position is embedded in an SNFS-funded research project at the interface of quantitative biophysics, cell biology, materials science, and protein/cell engineering.

Your responsibilities include:

  • managing your research and conducting innovative research on integrin-mediated cell adhesion to complex ECMs
  • publish your research in peer-reviewed journal articles
  • reporting your research to the group and the PI in regular meetings
  • presenting your research and representing the biophysics group at international conferences

Your daily work will include:

  • engineering multicomponent fibrillar ECMs
  • characterizing these matrices by different methods, including AFM and optical microscopy.
  • characterizing how fibroblasts interact with these fibrillar ECMs over different timescales, ranging from seconds to hours
  • conducting SCFS experiments
  • engineering and validation of cell lines
  • sample preparation for MINFLUX nanoscopy

You will have the opportunity to work in a highly innovative and collaborative environment with an outstanding scientific infrastructure, including microscopy, flow cytometry, and genomics facilities. The position is funded for 48 months and is located in the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel, the planned start date is January 1, 2024. Extension is possible.


Your profile

We are seeking an open-minded, curious, inclusive Postdoc, who:

  • holds a PhD in tissue engineering, cell biology, cellular biophysics, or related fields
  • is proficient in designing and conducting experiments involving the state of the art techniques within the areas of cell biology, biophysics, and biochemistry
  • has strong analytical skills
  • has a sound understanding of AFM-based measurements, ideally with experience in force spectroscopy
  • has hands-on experience in CRISPR/Cas-based cell line engineering and basic biochemical, gene-based, and cell biological methodologies
  • has excellent written and oral communication skills, including the ability to present research findings to academic audiences
  • has a strong interest in working on scientific projects independently within a highly interdisciplinary team


Your workplace

Your workplace

We offer
  • In-depth training on AFM-based technologies
  • Access to all BSSE facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technologies
  • Access to courses offered by ETH and the BSSE
  • A multicultural, dynamic, open, and ambitious environment
  • Possibility of working part-time
  • Flexible working hours and the possibility to home office upon arrangement
  • Support excellent career opportunities in academics and industry

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Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Cover letter
  • CV including a list of all scientific publications
  • Contact details of 2-3 references.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering can be found on our website . Questions regarding the position should be directed to Prof. Daniel J. Müller, email [email protected] (no applications).


About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.



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