Scientific internship: mathematical modelling of pulse synchronization in C. elegans cells

Date posted December 3, 2020
Type Scientific Internships

All organisms must deal with various types of environmental stress, such as starvation, pathogens, and thermal shock. In the nematode C. elegans, many different types of stress response are mediated through a single pathway, the insulin/IGF-1 signalling (IIS) pathway, which has the transcription factor DAF-16/FoxO as its main output. Upon detecting stress, DAF-16/FoxO in the animal’s cells is translocated to the nucleus, where it activates the proper stress response genes. This pathway is largely conserved across many higher organisms, including humans.

In our lab, we have developed a time-lapse setup that allows us to study the protein dynamics of living C. elegans in real time, for up to several days. Experiments have shown that under constant stress conditions, DAF-16/FoxO moves in and out of the nucleus in stochastic pulses. Strikingly, these pulses are synchronized throughout all the cells of an animal’s entire body.

The aim of this internship is to help develop a mathematical model to describe the dynamics of DAF-16/FoxO pulse synchronization. During this period you will perform computational simulations and mathematical analyses to better understand the model. Through these methods we try to better understand the possible mechanisms behind the cell-to-cell synchronization of DAF-16/FoxO pulses.

About the group

The ‘Quantitative Developmental Biology’ research group uses a quantitative, physics-inspired approach to study problems in developmental biology, focusing on the small roundworm C. elegans. The aim of the research is to elucidate how living organisms, during their development, reliably build their bodies or respond to their environment despite the considerable underlying variability on the molecular level.


You have a Bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry or biology and participate in a Master study in one of these areas. You have a nationality of an EU-member state and/or you are a student at a Netherlands University. (As from 01-01-2021 the UK is no longer an EU-member state). You must be available for at least 4 months. 

We are looking for an enthusiastic student with sufficient background in the mathematics of differential equations, with knowledge of Python or a related language, and with a desire to understand and model biological systems.

Terms of employment

At the start of the traineeship your trainee plan will be set out, in consultation with your AMOLF supervisor.

Contact info

Dr. J.S. van Zon
Group leader Quantitative Developmental Biology
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
Please annex your:
–  Resume;
–  List of followed courses plus grades.

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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