PhD position in pre-synaptic liquid phase-separation mechanisms in neurodegenerative diseases

Leuven VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

24 Oct 2021

Leuven

VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research

Patrik Verstreken Lab

PhD

1

About the project

We are looking for a highly motivated Ph.D. student to define how the biophysical process of phase separation of proteins and organelles at neuronal synaptic contacts acts in neurodegeneration and how it can be exploited to induce neuronal protection.

About the labs

The laboratory of prof. Patrik Verstreken is located at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research, an international high-profile research center at the University of Leuven. The group is keenly interested in the mechanisms of neurodegeneration and has made several impactful contributions that point to synaptic dysfunction as one of the earliest defects in such diseases (e.g. Uytterhoeven et al. 2011 Cell; Vos et al. 2012 Science; Soukup et al., 2016 Neuron; Valadas et al., 2018 Neuron). The Verstreken lab also found that the protein “Tau”, which is key to >20 neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, associates with synaptic vesicles by binding to “Synaptogyrin-3”, and that interfering with this interaction rescues synaptic dysfunction (Zhou et al. 2017 Nature Communications; McInnes et al., 2018 Neuron; Largo-Barrientos et al., 2021 Neuron). Of interest, there are several parallels with the process of phase separation, a concept that is now moving to the center stage.

Your job

Your goal is to determine the function of phase separation of proteins and organelles (synaptic vesicles) at synapses in the physiology of synaptic transmission, and the pathophysiology of neuronal disease. You will use advanced biochemistry and biophysics, optical tweezers, genome editing as well as electrophysiology, electron microscopy, and advanced light microscopy in human-induced neurons and fruit flies to reach your goal. At the same time, you will also be exposed to the vibrant entrepreneurial environment at VIB and at KU Leuven, and work with professionals in the field of innovation and translation on the interface of academic science and biotechnology.

Profile

We are seeking a highly motivated, enthusiastic, critical, and creative individual to join our team. The candidate should have a strong interest in synapse biology and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Required

• Masters degree in biomedicine, neuroscience, genetics, bio-engineering or equivalent (at least cum laude);
• Basic molecular biology techniques (e.g. recombinant DNA technology);
• Basic immunohistochemistry and microscopy;
• Critical mindset and a fast learner and the ability to collaborate in a multidisciplinary project with international and national partners;
• Good time management and communication skills, verbal and writing, and excellent mastery of English

Appreciated

• Experience in protein biochemistry and manipulation in vitro;
• Experience with imaging;
• Experience with advanced molecular biology (genome editing)
• Basic bioinformatic skills (R or Python) is helpful

We offer

• A Stimulating, diverse, international, and exceptionally strong research environment in a world-class academic research lab;
• An exciting basic research project with a translational component and exposure to a vibrant biotech startup culture at VIB and KU Leuven;
• Opportunity to learn exciting novel technology;
• Access to state-of-the-art infrastructure at the center for Brain & Disease Research;
• Financial support is available. However, the successful candidate is encouraged to obtain a personal fellowship;

Start date: as soon as possible - the position is available immediately

How to apply?

For more information contact eliana.nachman@kuleuven.be or perrine.colla@kuleuven.be. Please complete the online application procedure and include a motivation letter, a detailed CV (including a list of publications and previous research experience), and the contact information of three referees.