Max Planck Institute for Medical Research (MPIMF)

Postdoc position in ultrafast protein spectroscopy to guide time-resolved crystallography at XFELs (m/f/d) (code number 16/2019)

Max Planck Institute for Medical Research (MPIMF)

Heidelberg, Germany

Postdoc position in ultrafast protein spectroscopy to guide time-resolved crystallography at XFELs (m/f/d) (code number 16/2019)

At the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, one of the 84 institutes of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, physicists, chemists and biologists create knowledge of long-term relevance to life and basic medical sciences.

Max-Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, Dr. Ilme Schlichting University of Strasbourg – CNRS, IPCMS, Prof. Stefan Haacke

Serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography (SFX) is a new technique available at X-ray free-electron laser facilities, enabling time-resolved pump probe experiments at high spatial and temporal resolution. Such experiments haves recently provided detailed novel insights on how light initiates the function of photo-sensory proteins such as PYP (Pande et al, Science 2016), rsEGFP2 (Coquelle et al., Nat. Chem. 2017) or bacteriorhodopsin (Nogly et al. Science 2018, Nass Kovacs et al. Nature Comm. 2019). However, there is a stringent need for these experiments to be prepared and complemented by lab-based ultrafast UV/VIS and IR spectrosco-py (Nass Kovacs et al. Nature Comm. 2019). First, the proteins may display diffe¬rent reaction kinetics in the crystalline than the solution phase and second, and most importantly, identifying suitable excitation conditions is crucial for avoiding multi-photon effects in the high-density crystals. The latter point has been ignored so far, thus strongly impacting the biological relevance of most of the published time-resolved SFX experiments.

Within a joint collaboration of the two partner labs, the 2-years post-doc position is located in the ultrafast spectroscopy lab (BIODYN, Pr. S. Haacke) in Strasbourg. Our group studies femtosecond photo-chemistry in retinal proteins and other biomolecules using state-of-the-art laser facilities and home-built set-ups (TAS, fluorescence, 2DES). The research project implies adaptation of these set-ups for micron-sized protein crystals, in particular of retinal proteins (e.g. bR). In addition, a detailed characterisation of multi-photon absorption cross sections as a func-tion of excitation wavelength is a challenging but mandatory task, never performed for protein crystals. Regular exchange with the MPI team (“Biomolecular Mecha-nisms”, Dr. I. Schlichting) will take place concerning crucial expertise in protein crystal handling and delivery as well as X-ray crystallography. Participation in XFEL experiments is expected. Besides, the early career scientist will independently pursue new research ideas, publish exciting papers and publicize his/her work at conferences, mentor graduate students, and participate in fundraising efforts.
The work is a follow-up of our previous publication reporting X-ray crystallography under high excitation conditions for bacteriorhodopsin (Nass Kovacs et al. Nature Comm., 10, 3711 (2019)) and will extend to other proteins such as haemoglobin. The next challenge is to perform these experiments for laser excitation in optimised single photon conditions occurring in Nature.

Doctoral Degree in a related field (Physics, Chemistry, Photonics) and demonstrated research ability. Preferred applicants should have a strong background in ultrafast optics, (bio-) molecular and possibly protein spectroscopy. We like to work with team players and young enthusiastic scientists attracted by a broad interdisciplinary horizon, and an international collabo-ration.

A preferred candidate should have 2 years of research experience in the field of ultrafast optics and spectroscopy. Experience with protein expression and handling, data analysis, and new technical developments, including software, are a plus. Starting date: As soon as possible.

Payment is based on the TVöD guidelines up to remuneration group 13. The position is limited to two years with a possibility of extension.

Informal inquiries can be sent to or

For general questions, please contact Ms. Sabrina Giacalone (+49 6221 486- 305) from human resources.

The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

The Max Planck Society strives for gender and diversity equality. We welcome applications from all backgrounds.

Applicants should send a CV and Cover Letter briefly summarizing previous expertise and current/future interests via e-mail as a single PDF file with the above reference to


Apply with CV and Cover Letter

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Postdoc position in ultrafast protein spectroscopy to guide time-resolved crystallography at XFELs (m/f/d) (code number 16/2019)