Scientific Internship: Teamwork in active cytoskeletal systems

Date posted October 15, 2018
Type Scientific Internships

The cells in our body are highly complex, soft and responsive machines. They need to be resistant to large external forces but at the same time dynamic, to allow essential biological processes like cell division and motility. The mechanisms that govern this remarkable adaptability are determined by the cytoskeleton: a composite material of three different filamentous proteins, microtubules, actin, and intermediate filaments. Our group uses experimental studies on minimal in-vitro reconstituted systems to investigate the mechanisms of mechanical integration in the cytoskeleton. We thereby aim to provide a new perspective on cell mechanics.

This project will examine how actin and intermediate filaments team up to allow the cell to change its shape from the inside, while not giving in to external stresses. The actin cytoskeleton actively generates contractile forces that change cell shape with the help of motor proteins. By contrast, intermediate filaments form a resilient mechanical framework: the filaments are extremely extensible and even grow stiffer as they are stretched. This allows them to protect the cell against forces from the outside. Recent in vivo studies suggest that the interplay between actin and intermediate filaments is important for cell function, but exactly how this comes about is not understood. By studying reconstituted systems, we will be able to characterize the strength of actin-intermediate filament interactions and explore how these interactions contribute to cell mechanics and shape change.

You will learn how to prepare minimal cytoskeletal systems from purified cytoskeletal components. You will study the active contractility of the cytoskeletal networks as a function of their composition using time-lapse confocal microscopy, while changes in mechanical response will be measured using oscillatory rheology. In addition to these core techniques, our group is highly collaborative and we believe in giving interns the freedom to develop their own research direction, depending on the project’s initial success and your personal interests and skills.

About the group

Biological Soft Matter


You have a Bachelors 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 and/or you are a student at a Netherlands University. You must be available for at least 5 months, although longer is preferable.

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. Gijsje Koenderink
Group leader Biological Soft 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.

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