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PhD thesis: Mesoscale modeling and simulations of key subcellular processes in the brain

Advertising institute: INM-9 - Computational Biomedicine
Reference number: D004/2018, Physics (preferred), chemistry, mathematics, engineering or computational sciences

Context
The newly established School for Simulation and Data Sciences (SSD), a joint initiative between the Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) and RWTH Aachen University, along with FZJ is offering a 3-year PhD position in highly innovative computational approaches for the investigation of neuronal cascades relevant to memory processes. The PhD activity will be integrated into a collaborative research group involving the Computational Biomedicine Institute (INM-9, http://www.fz-juelich.de/ias/ias-5/EN/Research/2-Methods/MesoscaleModeling/_node.html) at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (Forschungszentrum Jülich) and the group of Computational Mathematics at the Center for Computational Engineering Sciences at RWTH Aachen University. This project builds on a collaboration with the Institute of Complex System, ICS-3, at Forschungszentrum Jülich. The SSD provides a highly interdisciplinary environment and excellent environment within the infrastructures of the Research Centre in Jülich and RWTH University, including the European most powerful supercomputing center. Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University aim to employ more women in this area and therefore particularly welcome applications from women. We also welcome applications from disabled persons.
Payment of the PhD fellow will be based on TVöD E13/TV-L E13 (70%).

Description of research work
Complex processes such as movement control, memory and learning are regulated by a series of intracellular chemical reactions occurring at sub-neuronal level (neuronal cascades). These involve tens to hundreds of molecules (proteins, neurotransmitters, chemicals) in highly crowded environments, such as cell membrane and cytosol, that have to diffuse, meet and interact at the correct time at the correct place. Understanding how key physicochemical features such as geometrical constraints, membrane composition, diffusion processes, mutations, crowding or driving forces combine together and shape neuronal signaling, both in time and space, would provide important hints on the human brain functioning. The PhD will dissect the interplay among these aspects through the implementation of a mesoscopic stochastic model of collective phenomena relevant to neuronal cascades using mean-field-like approaches based on statistical mechanics methods and higher-resolution simulations.

Requirements
We encourage applications from candidates with a master degree in Physics (preferred), chemistry, mathematics, engineering or computational sciences. We are seeking for a candidate familiar with Brownian dynamics and/or molecular dynamics simulation methods applied to biophysical systems, soft matter, or statistical mechanics problems, and with a strong interest in simulation and theoretical work in statistical physics.

Forschungszentrum Jülich aims to employ more women in this area and therefore particularly welcomes applications from women. We also welcome applications from disabled persons.

To apply, please send a motivation cover letter, a full CV (including a list of publications, if applicable), two recommendation letters, and the transcript of records of the undergraduate studies (including grades) until February 28, 2018 to the contacts below.

Contacts

Dr. Vania Calandrini
Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-9),
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany
e-mail: v.calandrini@fz-juelich.de

Prof. Benjamin Stamm
Dept. of Mathematics and Center for Computational Engineering Science, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
e-mail: stamm@mathcces.rwth-aachen.de


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