PhD-student: The biophysics of single proteins within protein-protein complexes, studied using optical tweezers and single-molecule fluorescence

Date posted May 7, 2020
Type PhD positions

We are recruiting for a single-molecule biophysics project, in which integrated optical tweezers and single-molecule fluorescence are central. Our lab has pioneered the use of optical tweezers to detect how chaperones mediate shape changes in proteins (Science 2007, Nature 2013, Nature 2016, Nature 2020). Here, laser beams are employed to apply pico-newton forces to the ends of a protein chain, which allows one to “sense” how it folds up. In this project, you will integrate this technique with single-molecule fluorescence, which will enable you to simultaneously visualize how other key proteins, such as chaperones, induce such crucial changes. These experiments will provide a unique molecular and real-time view on crucial cellular processes that have remained hidden thus far.

The project involves the design and execution of novel single-molecule experiments, molecular modifications and preparations, developing new approaches to analyze the multi-dimensional and highly quantitative data, and to conceive underlying mechanistic models. You will focus on a range of molecular systems. We have been extending our approach to increasingly complex multi-protein systems, which include molecular motors that translocate loops of protein chains, as well as entire ribosomes. New results are making increasingly clear that ribosomes are hubs of cellular activity, not only of polypeptide synthesis, but also for a wide spectrum of chaperone systems, complex formation, and interactions with RNA polymerases. With collaborators, we study these same processes in-vivo. In particular, we make use of a DNA deep sequencing method called selective ribosomal profiling, which shows which chaperones bind the ribosome during translation, at the genome-wide level. The combination of these techniques gives the opportunity to bridge the gap between single molecule events and function within the cell.

About the group

We study the dynamics of single proteins and cells using novel experimental approaches. At the molecular level, we use optical tweezers and single-molecule fluorescence to reveal how chaperones are able to fold amino-acid chains into functional proteins, and prevent protein-malfunction diseases.

At the cellular level, we use various types of time-lapse microscopy and image analysis to understand how single cells and multi-cellular systems are able to self-organise.  

Sandertanslab and Biophysics


We are looking for an outstanding experimental physicist or chemist with an interest in single-molecule techniques and a strong drive to excel in a competitive international environment.
You will need to 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. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at …… University …… . 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. Tans
Group leader Biophysics
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

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. This means that 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.

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