Lyncée Tec
 
OPEN: PhD position
DHM 4D tracking of motile phytoplankton
Workplace: Lyncée Tec SA Lausanne, Switzerland.
Academic affiliation:
 
Interact with 14 leading European research groups and companies
of the Innovative Training Network (ITN) PHYMOT (PHYsics of microbial MOTility)
 
 
 
Vibrio coralliilyticus bacteria tracks. The colors represent the time during that section of the tracks.
 
 
Candiate profile
 
The candidate will have a background in biophysics, soft matter physics or engineering, with a strong quantitative inclination and a desire to work experimentally at the interface between microscopy, biophysics and microbial ecology. Programing skills, in Python for instance, are desired and image processing skills are very welcome.
 
He will have the opportunity to work in a highly interdisciplinary, cutting-edge, fast-paced research and industrial environment, to interact with researchers from many different disciplines, to gain skills in a number of technologies by benefiting from specialists not only at Lyncée Tec and ETHZ, but also from all the world-class collaborators within the ITN PHYMOT.
 
The ability to work independently, but also to interact and collaborate within a team and several research groups will be great assets. The work will be performed mainly at Lyncée Tec in Lausanne. Advanced biological experiments will be carried out at ETHZ. The academic affiliation will be ETHZ. During her/his PhD, the successful candidate will also benefit from additional funding for several visiting trips (typically 1 month each and up to 30% of the PhD) in the partner teams of the Network.

Application should include a CV, full transcripts from undergraduate studies (both Batchelor and Masters), a brief (1-2 page) statement of research interests and motivations, and at least 2 (preferably 3) letters of reference. Review of applications will begin on January 1, 2021, with the position to start as early as February 1, 2021. Please send questions and application by email to Dr. Yves Emery (yves.emery_at_lynceetec.com).
 
The position is funded by the European funded Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellows Innovative Training Network (ITN) PHYMOT (PHYsics of microbial MOTility).
According to the EU Funding conditions for this ITN project, applicants must not have resided or carried out their activities - work, studies, etc. - in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before starting the PhD.
 
Research project background
 
Many phytoplankton species use gravity as a cue to direct their motility during daily vertical migrations, yet this gravity-based navigation can be disrupted by turbulence. Upon exposure to the overturning events associated with the smallest turbulent eddies in the ocean, during which cells experience changes in the direction of swimming relative to gravity, some phytoplankton species undertook a rapid morphological change and a switch in their migratory behavior. Large unicellular protists (> 30 µm in size) sense gravity by an active physiological mechanism through mechanosensitive ion-channels (e.g. calcium, potassium), which are activated by the gravitational pressure of the cytoplasm on the membrane. However, little is known about the gravity and flow sensing capabilities of smaller (10 µm in size) motile phytoplankton.

To address the question of small plankton being able to sense hydrodynamic cues and gravity changes induced by turbulence, the PhD candidate will combine theoretical analysis with a suite of experimental techniques adopting Heterosigma akashiwo as a model system. He/she will perform live 3D imaging of swimming cells through DHM to track single cells under flow and overturning in microfluidics devices. Cells will be manipulated by using micropipettes in microfluidic setups, allowing to: i) investigate the relationship between mechanical sensitivity and viscoelastic properties of the membrane, ii) explore the threshold to trigger the shape change, iii) analyze flagellar beating, which is powered by dynein motor proteins, to detect any changes in the waveform and frequency under hydrodynamic stimulation, and iv) characterize the calcium signaling pathway through a combination of epi-fluorescence microscopy and optical stimulation methods, including calcium photolysis. The student will have the unique opportunity to learn, develop and apply a range of cutting-edge experimental techniques, including DHM, particle tracking, microfluidic and micromanipulation technology. Measurements will be compared with theory developed within the ITN PHYMOT collaborations. Findings will improve and assess the use of DHM and experimental environment for tracking studies, help elucidate the mechanisms of flow sensing in motile phytoplankton, and will carry implications for our ability to predict their response to turbulence.
 
 
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CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
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