PhD student in Cell Biology / Biophysics / Biochemistry (m/f/d)

Updated: 29 days ago

International Max Planck Research School for Cell, Developmental, and Systems Biology (IMPRS-CellDevoSys)

The IMPRS-CellDevoSys is an internationally renowned PhD Program that trains the future leaders in science in the fields of Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science. Hallmarks of our program are cutting-edge research projects, a strong focus on interdisciplinarity, and a fine balance between dedicated mentorship and early independence. PhD students are hosted at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), the Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD), or the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS), depending on the hosting research group. The IMPRS-CellDevoSys is part of the Dresden International PhD Program (DIPP).

The Honigmann Group at MPI-CBG is interested in how cells structure their cell membranes to control the formation of 3D tissue shapes. To this end, we pursue a multi-scale approach: We use super-resolution STED microscopy in combination with 3D tissue culture (organoids) to study how molecules organize into functional structures such as cell-cell adhesion complexes. We complement the cell/tissue work with in vitro reconstitution of key molecular components of the adhesion/membrane/cortex interface to uncover the self-organization rules of the system. In this context we are particularly interested in collective processes such as phase transitions / separation and active feedback systems.

We are looking for a highly-motivated and skilled PhD student to join our IMPRS-CellDevoSys in the research group of Alf Honigmann, working on the following PhD project:

“Mechanisms of membrane remodeling during lumen formation in epithelial organoids”

Understanding how out of single cells functional tissues and organs develop is a major challenge in biology. Recent progress allows us to grow organ-like cell assemblies (organoids) from (stem) cells in vitro. Organoids offer great potential for studying diseases and development. However, in many cases we do not yet understand how these complex tissues emerge out of progenitor stem cells. A common feature in the initial growth phase of many organoid systems is the formation of a polarized epithelial cyst with a single or multiple internal apical lumen. 

In this project we aim to characterize the re-organization of cell membranes during the early phase of lumen formation on the ultra-structural level. By comparing the membrane dynamics and structure during lumen formation process between WT cells and genetic   / mechanical perturbed cells we aim to infer how molecular self-organization produces physical properties (adhesion, tension, pressure) that drive the formation of 3D tissues.

Methods to be used: 3D Cell Culture (MDCK, mESC), Genetics (CRISPR), Imaging (SPIM, Confocal, STED, EM), Laser Ablation, Image Analysis (FIJI, MATLAB), Modelling

Lumen Formation Process in 3D Tissue Culture

Oliver Beutel, Riccardo Maraspini, Karina Pombo-García, Cécilie Martin-Lemaitre, Alf Honigmann
Phase Separation of Zonula Occludens Proteins Drives Formation of Tight Junctions.
Cell, 179(4) 923-936 (2019)

Riccardo Maraspini, Chen-Ho Wang, Alf Honigmann
Optimization of 2D and 3D cell culture to study membrane organization with STED microscopy
J Phys D: Appl Phys, 53(1) Art. No. 014001 (2020) 

Alka Bhat, Linjie Lu, Chen-Ho Wang, Simon Lo Vecchio, Riccardo Maraspini, Alf Honigmann, Daniel Riveline
How to orient cells in microcavities for high resolution imaging of cytokinesis and lumen formation.
Methods Cell Biol, 158 25-41 (2020)

Qualification of candidate
Successful candidates should hold a Master degree in Molecular Biology, Biophysics or Biochemistry. An excellent command of English together with good communication skills and self-motivation are required.

Salary and duration
This full-time position is available immediately. The initial contract is typically for 3 years with the possibility of a 1-year prolongation. Please see for more details.

How to apply
All PhD students at MPI-CBG and CSBD are exclusively recruited via the IMPRS-CellDevoSys. Passing the Admission Committee interview is a pre-requisite for acceptance. Kindly refer to for details on the application and admission process. Applications are only accepted through our online system.

More info
Please contact for questions concerning 

  • the scientific project: Alf Honigmann at honigman
  • the PhD program, including the application and admission process: the PhD office at

The Max Planck Society is an equal opportunity employer: handicapped individuals are strongly encouraged to apply. The CSBD, the MPI-CBG, and the MPI-PKS aim to increase the number of women in scientific positions. Female candidates are therefore particularly welcome.

We look forward to receiving your application.

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