PhD‘Physics of Collective Metastasis’

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 01 Mar 2021

“Physics of cancer: find out how cancer cell clusters invade tissues”

‘Physics of Collective Metastasis’

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. The major cause for mortality is the ability of cancer cells to ignore tissue boundaries, invade surrounding tissues, and disseminate to other organs. This process is referred to as metastasis. It has long been thought that cancer cells metastasize by breaking contacts with neighboring cells and traveling as individuals. However, recent evidence suggests that metastasis actually involves collective cell behavior of cells that travel as clusters. In this project, which is part of a large collaboration between physicists and biologists in Delft, Leiden, Nijmegen, and Eindhoven, we aim to understand the physical mechanisms that underlie collective metastasis.

The aim of this PhD project is to find out experimentally how cancer cell clusters invade tissues, and why clusters are more successful than single cells in invasion and dissemination. Our strategy is to use genetically engineered tumor cells varying in deformability, cell-cell -, and cell-matrix adhesion strength, in combination with reconstituted extracellular matrices integrated with microfluidic devices. We will use quantitative time-lapse confocal microscopy and automated image analysis to concurrently track cells and quantify changes in the overall shape and the internal organization of the cell clusters. Using this approach, we will be able to quantify the dependence of the migration efficiency on cell cluster size and identify the sites where cells apply forces to the extracellular matrix by mapping the spatial structure of the strain fields around migrating cell clusters. Moreover, we will study the interplay of the actin, microtubule and intermediate filament cytoskeleton during migration and test whether this interplay is modified when cells move as clusters. These experiments will provide quantitative benchmarks for the computational and analytical models developed by other groups within the consortium, and will also be compared against in vivo observations.

We offer an inspiring, supportive and collegial environment. The Koenderink lab is an experimental biophysics lab studying the mechanobiology of cells and tissues by combining concepts and techniques from soft matter physics, biophysics, synthetic biology, protein engineering, and cell biology. The team is embedded in the TU Delft Department of Bionanoscience , which focuses on the fundamental understanding of biological processes from molecule to cell. The department features an inspiring, international environment with access to state-of-the art facilities for nanofabrication, a microscopy facility, molecular/cell biology, biochemistry, and high-performance computing for image processing.

We hire outstanding experimental scientists with a strong affinity for research at the interface of physics and biology. Research experience in fields such as biophysics, soft matter science, single-molecule techniques, optical microscopy, nanoscience, and/or quantitative cell biology is welcomed. We are looking for a candidate with a high level of intellectual creativity and genuine interest in fundamental research, who is keen to work in an international and interdisciplinary team. Women are particularly encouraged to apply, as they typically make up a smaller fraction of the applicant pool. Applicants must

  • hold a Master’s degree, or approach its completion, in physics, chemistry, (bio)engineering, materials science, nanoscience, biology, or a closely related discipline;
  • have excellent written and spoken English skills;
  • thrive in an international, multidisciplinary and highly collaborative environment.
  • Submit a cv, publication list, and 3 names of references who are willing to provide a reference letter

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context. At TU Delft we embrace diversity and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct ). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact! 

With more than 1,000 employees, including 135 pioneering principal investigators, as well as a population of about 3,400 passionate students, the Faculty of Applied Sciences is an inspiring scientific ecosystem. Focusing on key enabling technologies, such as quantum- and nanotechnology, photonics, biotechnology, synthetic biology and materials for energy storage and conversion, our faculty aims to provide solutions to important problems of the 21st century. To that end, we train students in broad Bachelor's and specialist Master's programmes with a strong research component. Our scientists conduct ground-breaking fundamental and applied research in the fields of Life and Health Science & Technology, Nanoscience, Chemical Engineering, Radiation Science & Technology, and Engineering Physics. We are also training the next generation of high school teachers and science communicators.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 1st of March 2021 via the application button and upload your motivation and CV.

  • A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Applying for an exemption for specific research and educational areas is an obligatory part of the selection procedure for this vacancy. This exemption must be obtained from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) before an employment contract is agreed upon. Click here for more information.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated.

“Physics of cancer: find out how cancer cell clusters invade tissues”

‘Physics of Collective Metastasis’

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. The major cause for mortality is the ability of cancer cells to ignore tissue boundaries, invade surrounding tissues, and disseminate to other organs. This process is referred to as metastasis. It has long been thought that cancer cells metastasize by breaking contacts with neighboring cells and traveling as individuals. However, recent evidence suggests that metastasis actually involves collective cell behavior of cells that travel as clusters. In this project, which is part of a large collaboration between physicists and biologists in Delft, Leiden, Nijmegen, and Eindhoven, we aim to understand the physical mechanisms that underlie collective metastasis.

The aim of this PhD project is to find out experimentally how cancer cell clusters invade tissues, and why clusters are more successful than single cells in invasion and dissemination. Our strategy is to use genetically engineered tumor cells varying in deformability, cell-cell -, and cell-matrix adhesion strength, in combination with reconstituted extracellular matrices integrated with microfluidic devices. We will use quantitative time-lapse confocal microscopy and automated image analysis to concurrently track cells and quantify changes in the overall shape and the internal organization of the cell clusters. Using this approach, we will be able to quantify the dependence of the migration efficiency on cell cluster size and identify the sites where cells apply forces to the extracellular matrix by mapping the spatial structure of the strain fields around migrating cell clusters. Moreover, we will study the interplay of the actin, microtubule and intermediate filament cytoskeleton during migration and test whether this interplay is modified when cells move as clusters. These experiments will provide quantitative benchmarks for the computational and analytical models developed by other groups within the consortium, and will also be compared against in vivo observations.

We offer an inspiring, supportive and collegial environment. The Koenderink lab is an experimental biophysics lab studying the mechanobiology of cells and tissues by combining concepts and techniques from soft matter physics, biophysics, synthetic biology, protein engineering, and cell biology. The team is embedded in the TU Delft Department of Bionanoscience , which focuses on the fundamental understanding of biological processes from molecule to cell. The department features an inspiring, international environment with access to state-of-the art facilities for nanofabrication, a microscopy facility, molecular/cell biology, biochemistry, and high-performance computing for image processing.

We hire outstanding experimental scientists with a strong affinity for research at the interface of physics and biology. Research experience in fields such as biophysics, soft matter science, single-molecule techniques, optical microscopy, nanoscience, and/or quantitative cell biology is welcomed. We are looking for a candidate with a high level of intellectual creativity and genuine interest in fundamental research, who is keen to work in an international and interdisciplinary team. Women are particularly encouraged to apply, as they typically make up a smaller fraction of the applicant pool. Applicants must

  • hold a Master’s degree, or approach its completion, in physics, chemistry, (bio)engineering, materials science, nanoscience, biology, or a closely related discipline;
  • have excellent written and spoken English skills;
  • thrive in an international, multidisciplinary and highly collaborative environment.
  • Submit a cv, publication list, and 3 names of references who are willing to provide a reference letter

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context. At TU Delft we embrace diversity and aim to be as inclusive as possible (see our Code of Conduct ). Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact! 

With more than 1,000 employees, including 135 pioneering principal investigators, as well as a population of about 3,400 passionate students, the Faculty of Applied Sciences is an inspiring scientific ecosystem. Focusing on key enabling technologies, such as quantum- and nanotechnology, photonics, biotechnology, synthetic biology and materials for energy storage and conversion, our faculty aims to provide solutions to important problems of the 21st century. To that end, we train students in broad Bachelor's and specialist Master's programmes with a strong research component. Our scientists conduct ground-breaking fundamental and applied research in the fields of Life and Health Science & Technology, Nanoscience, Chemical Engineering, Radiation Science & Technology, and Engineering Physics. We are also training the next generation of high school teachers and science communicators.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 1st of March 2021 via the application button and upload your motivation and CV.

  • A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.
  • Applying for an exemption for specific research and educational areas is an obligatory part of the selection procedure for this vacancy. This exemption must be obtained from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) before an employment contract is agreed upon. Click here for more information.
  • You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.
  • Acquisition in response to this vacancy is not appreciated.

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