PHD (Marie Curie)

Job description
We are looking for a PhD student to work on the experimental study of flagella bundle formation in swimming bacteria starting from January 2022
Swimming bacteria like E. coli achieve propulsion in a low Reynolds number environment by rotating a bundle of flexible helical flagella. Theoretical approaches usually treat the bundle as a thick and rigid effective helical filament. On the other hand, both direct observation of fluorescently labeled flagella and computer simulations reveal that the bundle is a more dynamic and strongly interacting complex whose detailed behavior may have important effects on both single-cell propulsion and interactions with neighboring cells and confining structures.
In this project the Early Stage Researcher (ESR) will trap and align individual cells and pairs of cells to directly observe the dynamics of individual fluorescent flagella and explore the effect of confining structures on bundle conformation and bundle-unbundle transitions. The research is highly interdisciplinary and combines experimental optics with theoretical hydrodynamics and molecular biology.
The position is funded for 36 months by the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network PHYMOT: Physics of Microbial Motility within the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Commission. The salary is very competitive and European rules for ESR are applied. The successful candidate will have the chance to participate to scientific and training activities organized by the PHYMOT Consortium and go on secondments (lasting 1 to 3 months) to other teams in the network.
We are seeking
motivated and talented students with a background in physics, biophysics, materials science and related disciplines. Prior experience with optical tweezers, microscopy, microfabrication or microbiology is a plus. The working language of the group is English.
Applications are open until 28 Oct 2021 (application forms and instructions)
The candidate will have preferably a Master degree in Physics, Engineering, or closely related disciplines. In order to be approved for MSCA financing the applicant, at the time for the application, should not have resided in Italy more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the reference date. Moreover the applicant must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree.
Sapienza University
With over 700 years of history Sapienza University is one of the oldest universities in the world and the largest university in Europe. Since its foundation, Sapienza has contributed to the development of Italian and European science and culture in all areas of knowledge. The main campus, situated close to the city centre, is a real city within a city where teaching activities are integrated with 59 libraries, 21 museums as well as comprehensive student services. The Physics PhD Program at Sapienza is finalized to training scientific researchers with a wide spectrum of scientific knowledge: we expect them to be flexible with regards to all possible job related choices, and to be able to easily reach a high professional level in all fields where physics research is active. In a first period students will take advanced courses, and later they will enter deep in the research activities.

From the largest animals to the smallest single-cell organisms, motility is a fundamental characteristic of life. Cell swimming, in particular, underpins a wide range of fundamental biological phenomena, including microbial grazing that fuels the base of the food webs, inter-microbial communication, animal reproduction, and parasitic infection—including severe diseases like malaria trypanosomiasis. Motile microorganisms are among the most important life-forms on earth, not only because of their abundance, but also because of their vital functions, e.g., in symbiosis with mammals or in ecosystems. Unravelling the basic principles of their propulsion mechanisms is essential for the development of novel strategies in the treatment of diseases, to understand microbial transport like the migration of marine phytoplankton in aquatic environments, and ultimately to open avenues for control of biological systems and the design of artificial nanomachines. PHYMOT’s broad scientific objective is to understand the physics of cell motility, from single cells to collective behavior. Research on cell motility is flourishing, driven by new experimental, theoretical, and numerical tools from mathematics, engineering, and physics. Within PHYMOT, young researchers will be trained at the interface between physics, biology, and engineering to face core challenges of a modern society such as food production, disease treatment strategies, sustainable and ecological development.
Further information
Questions regarding the position should be addressed to Prof. Roberto Di Leonardo by email (no applications).