PhD Position (RNA Biology/Epigenetics & Nuclear Dynamics): Small RNA Biology in Germ Cells

The IPP Mainz winter call 2019/2020 is open.
Thinking of doing your PhD in Molecular Biology? The International PhD Programme (IPP) on “Epigenetics, Gene Regulation & Genome Stability” is offering talented, young scientists the chance to work at the cutting edge of research. The IPP has a community of exceptional scientists working on diverse topics. These range from how organisms age or how our DNA is repaired, to how epigenetics regulates cellular identity or neural memory. This means that no matter where your PhD project takes you, there is always someone to go to for advice or collaborations.
As part of the IPP, you will be given advanced training, covering skills needed for both research and industry. Access to our state-of-the-art Core Facilities and their technical expertise ensures that you are supported no matter how challenging or expansive your project becomes. Importantly, as an IPP student, you are offered a fully funded position with financing until the completion of your thesis. To help you integrate and settle in Mainz, IPP students organise and run a lively social programme with activities to suit everyone.
The IPP is coordinated by the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) — a modern research centre located on the bustling campus of Mainz University in Germany. The IPP currently has over 120 energetic students from 30 countries working on innovative research at IMB, Mainz University and its University Medical Centre.
Are you an ambitious, young scientist looking to push back the boundaries of science while interacting with colleagues from multiple disciplines and cultures? Then the IPP is your opportunity to give your scientific career a flying start!

Activities and responsibilities

In the field of “Small RNA Biology in Germ Cells”, the IPP research group of Prof. René Ketting offers the following PhD project:
Phase separation mechanisms in small RNA pathways Small RNA molecules are extremely potent regulators of gene expression. Research by many teams, including the Ketting lab, has demonstrated that small RNAs can act in many mechanistically diverse mechanisms. However, a common theme is that many of these pathways act to silence molecular parasites, such as transposable elements, in germ cells. Strikingly, proteins acting in small RNA pathways in germ cells are nearly always found in so-called phase-separated structures. Phase separation is a phenomenon in which polymers, such as proteins and RNA, can assemble into large, often liquid-like condensates. Over the past years it has become clear that phase separation is widely spread in biological systems, but also that our understanding of regulation and function of such assemblies is very limited.
As a PhD student in the Ketting lab, you will study how and why small RNA pathways in C. elegans are organized in such phase separated structures. Different types of condensates in the C. elegans germline are known, and specific small RNA-related proteins have differential affinities for different types of condensates. In the Ketting group, you will aim to understand how certain proteins can find their way in a landscape of different liquid-like condensates, how affinities of proteins for specific structures can be changed, and how this can affect functionality of small RNA pathway. As such, the project will generate new insights into small RNA-driven gene regulation, as well as into regulatory aspects of phase separation in general. You will perform recombinant protein work, microscopy and C. elegans genetics. In a collaborative setting, you will also make use of computer simulations to predict protein behavior. The Ketting lab is looking for a motivated student with a strong intrinsic drive to make exciting discoveries. Experience with any of the mentioned techniques is not a pre-requisite.

Qualification profile

  • Master or equivalent
  • Motivation to work at the forefront of science
  • Interactive personality & good command of English
  • 2 letters of reference

We offer

  • The possibility to work on exciting, multidisciplinary projects using state-of-the-art technology in highly motivated research teams
  • To be part of a lively and international community of about 120 IPP students from 30 countries
  • Numerous opportunities for advanced professional training in scientific knowledge, techniques and professional skills
  • Fully funded positions until completion of thesis
Starting date: 1 March 2020 – 1 September 2020
Duration of stipend/salary: 3 years, with the possibility of extension

Deadline for registration (exclusively online via web form): 19 November 2019

Send application to

Please find all relevant information on the application process at:

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Über Institute of Molecular Biology gGmbH

Our International PhD Programme on the “Gene Regulation, Epigenetics and DNA Damage Response” gives talented and enthusiastic students the opportunity to undertake PhD research at the cutting edge of modern biology. Our groups cover a broad range of expertise and include leading biochemists, geneticists, cell and developmental biologists who study the molecular mechanisms of embryonic...
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