PhD student – Deciphering the systems that control epithelial cellpolarity (1,0 FTE)

Utrecht University's Faculty of Science is looking for a PhD 'Deciphering the systems that control epithelial cell polarity'. Are you interested? Then please read the full profile and apply.

21 dagen geleden


Domplein, Utrecht, Utrecht
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
36 - 40 uur
€ 2222 - € 2840 per maand



Cell polarity is a fundamental property that is essential in human development and for the functioning of adult tissues. Epithelial cells, the most common polarized cells, depend on polarization into apical and basolateral domains to act as selectively permeable barriers between body compartments and with the outside environment. Loss of polarity in epithelial cells contributes to diseases like polycystic kidney disease and retinal dystrophies. Moreover, epithelial cancers are characterized by loss of cell polarity and epithelial integrity, and many polarity regulators are mutated or deregulated in cancer.

The molecular mechanisms that control the formation and maintenance of distinct polarized domains are still far from understood. We also know little of the causal mechanisms by which deregulation of polarity contributes to tumorigenesis. The research in this Vici project focuses on two questions:

  1. what is the network of interactions between polarity determinants that maintains polarity in established epithelia, and
  2. what are the direct consequences of disrupting cell polarity on epithelial integrity, morphology, and cell fate.

To address these questions, the candidate will combine precisely controlled perturbations of the polarizing system with accurate characterization of the effects of these perturbations on the polarizing machinery and on epithelial organization and cell fate.


The studies will make use of the nematode C. elegans as a model system, because this animal is ideal for in vivo studies of polarity. Due to its transparency and limited number of cells, polarity can be followed in the context of a developing animal with single cell resolution. The presence of multiple distinct types of epithelia allows the investigation of the polarizing machinery in different contexts. Finally, recent developments in inducible protein degradation and tissue-specific gene knockouts make it possible to inactivate proteins in a time- and tissue-controlled manner, and follow the effects on cell polarity, morphology, and fate over time.

Within the Vici framework, multiple individual projects will be developed with input from the candidates. Technical approaches used include the use of CRISPR/Cas9 to engineer fluorescently tagged polarity regulators, and to engineer proteins that can be inactivated in a time- and tissue-controlled manner, live cell imaging using advanced light microscopy, and the use of RNAseq to investigate the effects of polarity loss on cell fate.


We are looking for highly motivated individual (M.Sc) with experience, or an interest in developmental biology and in working with the model organism C. elegans. The candidate communicates easily in English, both verbally and in writing, and is eager to work within a team of enthusiastic researchers. Experience with light microscopy, molecular biology, or bioinformatics is appreciated, but not essential.


The candidate is offered a full-time position for 1 year, after a positive evaluation the contract will be extended for 3 more years.

The salary is supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and an end-of-year bonus of 8,3% per year. In addition we offer: a pension scheme, a partially paid parental leave, flexible employment conditions. Conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities. The research group will provide the candidate with necessary support on all aspects of the project. More information is available on the website.

The gross salary is € 2,222 per month, increasing to € 2,840 per month.

Additionele informatie

Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from: Dr Mike Boxem (+31 30 253 3714 or

As part of the selection procedure, the candidate is expected to give an outline of his/her research plans in a written report and an oral presentation.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The city of Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, with a charming old center and an internationally oriented culture that is strongly influenced by its century-old university. Utrecht city has been consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the Netherlands.

The Faculty of Science consists of six departments: Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Information and Computing Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Mathematics. The Faculty is home to 5600 students and nearly 1500 staff and is internationally renowned for the quality of its research. The Faculty's academic programmes reflect developments in today's society.

Developmental Biology is part of the Institute of Biodynamics and Biocomplexity (IBB) of the Biology department. The research of the Developmental Biology division focuses on studying biological principles in the context of living, developing multicellular organisms. Three research groups use C. elegans as a model system. The groups work in close collaboration, providing critical mass and a vibrant atmosphere with many national and international contacts. The candidate will have access to state-of-the-art microscopy facilities, both in house and through the Biology Imaging Center of the IBB. The Developmental Biology division also houses the newly established Large-Particle Flow Cytometry Facility. For more information, please visit our website .


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