Scientific Internship: Modelling confined plectonemic DNA

Date posted April 20, 2020
Type Scientific Internships

Cell division is one of the hallmarks of life. To achieve this, cells must not only duplicate the genetic information carried in their chromosomes, but also properly divide the latter over the daughter cells. This process, called chromosome segregation, has been shown to potentially depend strongly on the purely physical properties of the DNA polymer that constitutes the chromosomes. Entropic effects due to the strong confinement of the DNA in the cellular environment can, in fact, drive spontaneous segregation. This process, in turn, is strongly affected by the way the polymers are structured. Here there are several competing models. One of the DNA-structuring effects that is important in bacteria like E. coli derives from the fact that the DNA is over-twisted, which leads to coiled structures in the chromosome called plectonemes that are not unlike entangled old-fashioned telephone cords. Within the Building a Synthetic Cell (BaSyC) “Zwaartekracht’’ project, the Theory of Biomolecular Matter group is studying how entropic segregation can be engineering to provide a robust chromosome segregation mechanism in synthetic cells. In that context, we are looking for a Master student to investigate the role of plectonemes in achieving spatial order and, eventually, segregation of chromosomes in confinement. A mix of theory and simulations will be used, combining fundamental insight with proof-of-principle demonstration.

About the group

The Theory of Biomolecular Matter group at AMOLF focusses on using the tools of statistical physics and continuum mechanics on understanding the properties of living matter but is also interested in developing fundamental techniques in statistical physics and stochastic processes.

AMOLF initiates and performs leading fundamental research on the physics of complex forms of matter, and creates new functional materials, in partnership with academia and industry. AMOLF is located at the Amsterdam Science Park, the Netherlands, and engages approximately 140 scientists and 70 support staff. See also


We are looking for a Masters student in theoretical physics, or a student with equivalent quantitative and analytical experience, who is willing to learn relevant biological and biochemical background on the go. Alternatively, we are looking for a Masters student in physics of life or biophysics, with a strong background in theoretical physics. You will be operating in a strongly multi-disciplinary environment, with the possibility of starting collaborations with experimental scientists in the BaSyC programme.

The internship must be a mandatory part of your curriculum. You have a nationality of an EU-member state and/or you are a student at a Netherlands University. You must be available for at least 6 months.

Terms of employment

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

Contact info

Prof.dr. Bela Mulder
Group leader Theory of Biomolecular matter
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.

Commercial activities in response to this ad are not appreciated.