University Hospital Aachen (UKA), RWTH Aachen

Phd Candidate (m/f/d)

Universitätsklinikum der RWTH Aachen

Aachen, Germany

The Mechanobiology of Retinal Pigment Epithelium Heterogeneity at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Clinical Research (IZKF) – REMeD group, Medical Faculty-RWTH Aachen University is seeking a

Phd Candidate (m/f/d)

Project Description:
The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a highly specialized cell layer located at the base of the retinal neuroepithelium that plays crucial roles during both development and in the mature eye. During development, the RPE is essential for retina organization, while in the adult, it comprises the blood-retinal barrier, which is responsible for light absorption and the metabolic support of light detecting rods and cones of the neuroepithelium. The RPE itself is highly heterogeneous, characterized by the presence of a large variety of cell shapes, sizes and densities along its extension. Interestingly, alterations in homeostatic heterogeneity have been associated with phenotypical abnormalities. For instance, RPE heterogeneity has been shown to increase with ageing, in particular, in the case of age-related macular degeneration, which is one of the major causes of sight loss in developed countries. During the disease development, mechanical heterogeneity of the cell monolayer may support the formation of large and frequent fatty deposits called Drusen, a hallmark of the early disease state.

The PhD project aims to understand RPE disease progression from the perspective of a mechanobiologist. The candidate will work to characterize RPE mechanical and phenotypical heterogeneity in response to extracellular matrix cues in both 2D and 3D epithelial models. In addition to qualitative analyses with confocal and light-sheet microscopy, quantitative analytical tools will be also employed such as traction force microscopy (TFM), monolayer stress microscopy (MSM), and cellular force interference (CellFIT). Finally, the use of mice models will allow for contextualizing the in vitro findings to physiologicallyrelevant conditions.

We offer:
We offer close supervision with the aim of supporting a highly-skilled, independent scientist in the field of mechanobiology. The candidate will have the possibility to learn state-of-the-art techniques varying from material science to bioinformatics to mouse biology. The PhD will be carried out in a highly interdisciplinary environment of the RWTH Aachen University and the
newly founded mechanobiology graduated school ME3T (

The successful candidate will receive an initial 2 years contract with a salary corresponding to 65% of the level 13 TV-L German public system, with possibility of extension. The position is available starting from January 1st 2020.
For more information about our research, please visit the group webpage:

Your skills and qualifications:
The candidate should hold a Master of Science in cell and molecular biology, (bio)physics, bioengineering or related disciplines. Sound knowledge of MATLAB programming is a plus. Candidates should show a keen interest in working in an
interdisciplinary environment that IZKF and RWTH Aachen offer.

The RWTH Aachen University is certified as a family-friendly university and offers a dual career program for partner hiring. We particularly welcome and encourage applications from women, disabled people and ethnic minority groups, recognizing they are underrepresented across RWTH Aachen University. The principles of fair and open competition apply and appointments will be made on merit.

To apply, please send by email until November, 30th 2019 with code: GB-P 20867 a brief description of your research interests, curriculum vitae and the names of two academic referees to Dr. Jacopo Di Russo (Email:

For any questions please contact Dr. Jacopo Di Russo (Email:"


Apply with CV and Cover Letter

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Phd Candidate (m/f/d)