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PhD Position on 'Quantifying encounters between bacteria'

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Environmental Microfluidics Group in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at ETH Zurich is seeking a dynamic and motivated doctoral student for a project to study encounters between bacteria. The position is funded by a recently awarded SNSF Ambizione Grant for Dr. Jonasz Slomka.

Project background

Keywords: bacterial encounters, gene exchange between bacteria, bacterial aggregation, biophysics

Encounters between individual bacteria in space and time result from the complex motility patterns of bacteria, their response to cues and external mixing. Bacterial encounters mediate physical and ecological interactions between bacterial populations, such as aggregation and exchange of genetic information, and thus control global biogeochemical cycles, the evolution of life on Earth and the spread of drug resistance, a major emerging public health hazard. Bacterial encounters depend strongly on both organisms’ traits and external factors, yet approaches to date have drastically simplified them by treating them as collisions between inanimate particles. In this project, the PhD candidate will aim to develop experimental techniques to quantify accurately bacterial encounters. By combining video microscopy, microfluidics, experiments on mating bacterial cultures and simulators of turbulence, together with physical coagulation-fragmentation models, the PhD candidate will address questions such as: how do cell shape, stickiness and aggregate architecture control the size of bacterial aggregates? How fast can bacteria, through cell-cell contacts, exchange genetic information?

Job description

You will have the unique opportunity to learn, develop and apply a range of cutting-edge experimental and modeling techniques, including video microscopy and microfluidic technology, state-of-the-art image analysis, and computational modeling.

You will work in a highly interdisciplinary, cutting-edge, fast-paced research environment, interact with researchers from many different disciplines, gain skills in a number of technologies, learn about fundamental biophysical and ecological processes in microorganisms, and interact with world-class collaborators.

The position is funded by the SNSF Ambizione Grant. The student will be supervised directly by Dr. Jonasz Slomka and co-mentored by Prof. Roman Stocker and Prof. Sebastian Bonhoeffer.

Your profile

You have a background in physics, engineering, or biology with a strong quantitative inclination and a desire to work experimentally at the interface between biophysics, microbiology and microbial ecology. The ability to work independently, but also to interact and collaborate within a team, will be great assets.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
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We look forward to receiving your online application including:

  • CV,
  • full transcripts from undergraduate studies (both Bachelor and Masters),
  • a brief (1-page) statement of research interests,
  • at least 2 letters of reference.

Review of applications will begin on September 1, 2021, with the position to start as early as November 1, 2021, or as soon as filled.

For questions regarding the position, please contact Dr. Jonasz Slomka by email at (no applications).

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

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