PhD position

Neuronal development and activity under the influence of altered gravity

Starting date

1 March 2019

Duration of contract

up to 3 years


According to the German TVöD 13

Type of employment


"Cutting-edge research requires excellent minds – particularly more females – at all levels. Launch your mission with us and send in your application now!" Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund - Chair of the DLR Executive Board

Your mission:

Gravity has shaped life on Earth throughout evolution. Consequently, organisms have developed mechanisms to perceive gravity and to use this cue for spatial orientation. Moreover, gravity or lack thereof profoundly affects physiology in single cells and in complex organisms including human beings. For example, microgravity (weightlessness) during space travel elicits changes in neural and immune functions, muscle and bone loss, and cardiovascular deconditioning. These changes are likely explained by direct and indirect influences of gravity on cells. However, the molecular mechanisms mediating these responses are not fully understood.

You will work in an interdisciplinary environment at the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany. There is the possibility to graduate with a PhD degree from the University of Bonn.

In your thesis, you will expose different primary neuronal cells including primary neurons and astrocytes in vitro to altered gravity conditions. You will apply our unique research platforms - clinostats and centrifuges - to simulate microgravity and produce hypergravity, respectively. Possibly, you might even perform experiments in real microgravity such as on parabolic flights of aircrafts or sounding rockets. Live-cell imaging during exposure to altered gravity will give insights to cell intrinsic mechanisms and adaptations, such as neuronal developmental processes or changes in neuronal activity. Calcium-sensitive fluorescent imaging, electrophysiological measurements using multi-electrode array systems (MEA), and visualization of alterations in cytoskeletal components will be applied. Furthermore, analysis of subsequent intracellular signaling pathways through biochemical assays and different “Omics”-technologies will be an important part of your work. Your thesis will contribute to a more detailed understanding how gravity triggers changes in neuronal cell function and development.

Your qualifications:

  • completed master studies in biology
  • experience with cell culture work is required
  • documented interest in neurobiology
  • ability to present your work on national and international conferences is required
  • excellent English skills in the written and spoken word is required
  • expertise in animal handling (mouse) is preferred, FELASA B certification is desirable
  • knowledge of microscopy applications, especially live-cell imaging, is preferred
  • experience with biochemical assays on the DNA-, RNA- and protein level is preferred
  • willingness to learn electrophysiological measurements is desirable

Your benefits:

Look forward to a fulfilling job with an employer who appreciates your commitment and supports your personal and professional development. Our unique infrastructure offers you a working environment in which you have unparalled scope to develop your creative ideas and accomplish your professional objectives. Our human resources policy places great value on a healthy family and work-life-balance as well as equal opportunities for persons of all genders (m/f/non-binary). Individuals with disabilities will be given preferential consideration in the event their qualifications are equivalent to those of other candidates.

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Technical contact

Dr. Christian Liemersdorf
Institute of Aerospace Medicine

Phone: +49 22 036013-869

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Vacancy 31005

HR department Cologne

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DLR site Cologne, Headquarters

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DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine

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