PhD Position in Biophysics: Revealing Ribosome Dynamics using Single-Molecule and AI Technology

Date posted December 20, 2023
Type PhD positions

Are you intrigued by the forefront of biophysics technology – and integration with genome-wide data and AI methods? Thanks to groundbreaking advancements, we can now show the internal dynamics of the most complex cellular processes that are vital to life. Our research group has been at the vanguard of studying chaperone-protein systems using singe-molecule techniques. We’ve revealed that these molecular assemblies display striking action sequences that are invisible with other methods – yet are critical to key functions such as preventing aggregation-related diseases. Now and in the coming years we focus on a new emerging frontier: how multiple ribosomes coordinate to synthesise multi-protein complexes.

In this project, you will apply a new approach to directly follow the dynamics of protein translation by ribosomes – in real time. Using single-molecule fluorescence, you will visualize the action of individual ribosomes, hundreds at a time. Key to our approach is not only AI-driven analysis – but also prediction, based on our unique genome-wide in-vivo data (see below). This unprecedented integrative approach will unlock new possibilities in studying key events of ribosome coordination, and how it is mediated by translation, pausing, nascent chain folding, interactions between ribosomes, and protein-protein assembly. This very first look may well also reveal a host of unexpected phenomena. You will drive the conceptual development of new experimental schemes, the use of cutting-edge single-molecule fluorescence and manipulation methods, the adaptation of existing biochemical protocols, the AI-driven automated analysis of complex data, the formulation of new models, and the writing of scientific papers that explain your findings.

We form a lively and close-knit research group of about 10 PhD students and postdocs, which work together in small teams on various projects in a highly supportive and social atmosphere that extends to the other research groups at the AMOLF institute, which is housed in a modern building in the east of Amsterdam.

Notably, you will be part of a collaboration with leading groups at Heidelberg University and the ETH in Zurich, which use novel sequencing and cryo-EM methods. By working within this highly talented and motivated group of young scientists, you will obtain a unique training, understanding and skill set in this expanding field. By learning and integrating these approaches, you will will be able to push the limits of technical possibility, and to provide insights of unprecedented detail, spanning from the cellular to the atomic level, from in vivo to in vitro, from genome-wide patterns to molecular mechanisms, and from bacteria to human cells. This initiative is motivated by our recent discovery that multiple ribosomes cooperate to actively drive protein-complex formation, and the now urgent need to elucidate the underlying mechanisms and scope throughout the cell. As a member of this team, you will therefore also become intimately familiar with a wide range of methods which will be critical to advances in protein science in the coming decades.

About the group


We have a number of positions available. We are looking for outstanding experimental physicists or chemists with an interest in single-molecule techniques, programming skills to handle complex data, and who thrive in a diverse, collaborative, and supportive environment. Excellent verbal and written English skills are essential. You meet the requirements for an MSc-degree to ensure eligibility for a Dutch PhD examination.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years, with a starting salary of gross € 2720 per month and a range of employment benefits. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at Delft University of Technology. Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. AMOLF assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Prof. dr. ir. Sander Tans
Phone: +31-(0)20-754 7100
Please feel free to send any informal enquiry about our group, this or other projects in our lab, or any other matter related to this ad.

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
Please annex your: 
–  Resume; 
–  Motivation on why you want to join the group (max. 1 page). 
It is important to us to know why you want to join our team. Hence, we will only consider your application if it entails your motivation letter.
Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis and as soon as an excellent match is made, the position will be filled.
Online screening may be part of the selection.
AMOLF is highly committed to an inclusive and diverse work environment, and we greatly encourage candidates from any personal background and perspective to apply. AMOLF has won the NNV Diversity Award 2022, which is awarded every two years by the Netherlands Physical Society for demonstrating the most successful implementation of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
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