Scientific Internship: Modelling microtubule organization in tip-growing cells
Microtubules are one of the key components of the cytoskeleton of all higher organisms. Their versatility in adapting to different cellular functions is underpinned by their unique stochastic dynamical behaviour. In tip-growing cells, commonly found in the plant kingdom, microtubules form a persistent polarized structure that serves to deliver the vesicles that drive the growth to the cell apex. In collaboration with the group of Magdalena Bezanilla (Dartmouth) we are trying to unravel the mechanism behind the stability of this structure in a model system for lower plants, the moss Physcomitrella patens. Recent research has shown that the interactions of microtubules with several other molecular species are crucial for tip growth. We are currently developing analytical and computational models to elucidate the complex non-linear effects involved. The goal of this internship is to set up, implement and analyse a quasi 3D stochastic simulation model of dynamic microtubules that can transport molecular factors to the cell apex, which in turn influence the residence time of the microtubules at the membrane. With this we hope e.g. to address the intriguing question whether this system can display bistability, allowing for a switch to a hyperpolarized state.
About the group
The Theory of Biomolecular Matter group headed by prof. dr. Bela Mulder focusses on using the tools of statistical physics and continuum mechanics on understanding the properties of living matter. Current interests are cytoskeleton dynamics, the organization of chromosomes, the role of diffusion in biological processes, and the mechanical behaviour of biopolymer networks.
Formal requirements: You have a Bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry or biology and participate in a Master study in one of these areas. The internship must be a mandatory part of your curriculum. You have a nationality of an EU-member state you are a student at a Netherlands University. You must be available for at least 9 months.
We are looking for a student with a sufficient background in analytical theory and computation who is interested in learning more about modelling biological systems. Experience with programming in C++ would be helpful (but not a prerequisite).
Terms of employment
At the start of the traineeship your trainee plan will be set out, in consultation with your AMOLF supervisor.
Prof.dr. B. M. (Bela) Mulder
Group leader Theory of Biomolecular Matter
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100
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