PhD Position: Picoscopic Mass Analysis of mammalian cells progressing through the cell cycle

Updated: 9 months ago
Deadline: 05 Oct 2019

The Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) is one of ETH Zurich's youngest departments and the only one located in Basel outside of the Zurich campus. It unites biologists, engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians to work towards a quantitative understanding and purposeful engineering of complex biological systems.

The position is a joint project between Prof. Dr. Daniel J. Müller (D-BSSE, ETH Zurich) and Prof. Dr. Christoph Gerber (Swiss Nanoscience Institute).

Project background

The progression of cells through the cell cycle is a fundamental, physiological process. However, the interplay between the regulation of cell growth and mass and cell cycle awaits accurate physical quantification. Basic questions, such as to what extent the mass of adherent cells is regulated during different phases of the cell cycle, remain to be answered. To date, mass regulation in different states of the adherent cell (for example a cell cycle phase) could not be characterized, since only large population of cells that are not synchronized in their cycle state are commonly probed. To gain fundamental insights in cell mass regulation thus requires the mass characterization of single cells. We have recently developed a method to noninvasively measure the mass of single adherent mammalian cells at high mass and time resolution. This picobalance is based on a photothermally actuated microcantilever, which is mounted onto an inverted microscope and operates under incubator conditions. For mass measurements, a single cell is adhered to an microcantilever oscilating in the Ångstrom range. By determining the natural resonance frequency of the cantilever with and without an attached cell, the mass of a cell is measured.

Job description

In this PhD project, the student working together with outstanding nanotechnologists and cell biologists, will address how different adherent cells progressing through the cell cycle regulate growth and mass by applying and further developing our recently invented picobalance. Using the picoscopic device, in combination with time-lapse fluorescence microscopy, fluorescence cell state trackers, and biological and chemical perturbations will enable us to monitor and correlate cellular growth and mass with cell cycle phase and morphology.

Your profile

We search for a highly motivated candidate to work in a multidisciplinary field that combines nanotechnology, biophysics, molecular and cell biology, and medicine. The candidate having a strong background in physics, biophysics and molecular and cell biology will work and be coached by a consortium of international experts such as needed to perform an excellent PhD project.

ETH Zurich

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.


We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents: motivation letter, CV, contact details of 2 referees and transcripts. 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 Biophysics Group can be found on our website . For further information, please contact Prof. Dr. Daniel J. Müller, Tel +41 61 387 33 07 or e-mail (no applications).

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