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PhD Student (m/f/d) Molecular Biology of Alzheimer's Disease

PhD student

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) is a leading international biomedical research center with the goal of elucidating the molecular mechanisms of health and disease in order to create the basis for new therapies and diagnostic procedures. The MDC is a member of the largest scientific organization in Germany - the Helmholtz Association - and offers a stimulating and interactive research environment with the most modern infrastructure. Currently, 1,250 employees and approximately 500 guests work at the locations in Berlin-Buch and Berlin-Mitte. The diversity of our workforce is a strength and promotes creativity and innovative spirit at the MDC.

The research group “Proteomics and Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration” of Prof. Erich Wanker at the Max Delbrück Center is currently offering a PhD student position (m/f/d) with a focus on seeding and aggregation of proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.

Job Description

The main objective of our work is to understand the pathomechanisms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington's disease. One focus of our work lies on protein misfolding and aggregation phenomena and their relevance to pathogenesis.
We employ chemical biology approaches that enable mechanistic insight into molecular processes with the ultimate goal of defining therapeutic strategies. (Bieschke at al. 2011, Nature Chemical Biology, doi: 10.1038/nchembio.719; Boeddrich et al. 2019, Cell Chemical Biology, doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2018.10.013.)
Currently, we have received funding from the Alzheimer Forschung Initiative e.V. to perform a study on “Mechanisms of Prion-Like Transmission of Abeta and Tau Aggregates in AD Models”, for which we are offering a doctoral position. The successful candidate will explore the self-propagation of amyloid-beta and tau protein seeding. These processes are linked with neuronal dysfunction and toxicity in Alzheimer’s disease. Abeta seeds were shown to promote the spread of tau aggregates in a heterotypic seeding/aggregation process. Using tool compounds, biochemical, cell and Drosophila models, we want to delineate the molecular mechanisms of heterotypic tau seeding, including cell-to-cell propagation, co-aggregation, cross-seeding, cellular seed uptake and the underlying cellular events facilitating the process.
Working in a highly motivated team of scientists and technicians, the successful candidate’s main task will be to investigate the influence of amyloid-beta seeds on tau aggregation and the transmission of amyloid-beta and tau seeds in cell models. Small molecules will be studied for their potential to influence these processes. A special focus of the project will be on the establishment of a Drosophila model for Alzheimer to study the effect of neuron-specific expression of amyloid-beta on neurotoxicity and tau aggregation in flies.
Specifically, this position will entail:

  • Experimental investigations with biochemical, molecular biology, cell biology methods and techniques
  • Generating transgenic Drosophila models, including breeding, crossing and maintenance; behavioural, biochemical and histological analysis
  • Molecular biology (CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing)
  • Advanced imaging/microscopy (confocal, AFM, EM, Cellomics etc.)
  • Advanced biochemical/biophysical experiments (FRET-assay, fluorescence polarisation assay, FACS)
  • Review of the literature
  • Data analysis, preparing presentations, written reports, grant proposals, figures, manuscripts etc.
  • Supporting the PI and seniors; mentoring students, contributing to lab management tasks
  • Managing collaborations with partner labs


  • Master’s degree or equivalent in a molecular life science discipline
  • Solid theoretical and experimental skills base in molecular biology, biochemistry, cell culture, proven by very good thesis work
  • Intellectual curiosity, high scientific reasoning skills
  • High motivation to acquire and develop new techniques and workflows
  • High ambition to achieve, also with regard to writing papers and grant proposals; resilience, flexibility
  • Independent, well-organized and reliable workstyle
  • High computer literacy

We offer

  • International working environment with communication in English and German
  • Interesting career opportunities and a comprehensive range of qualification and further training opportunities
  • Compatibility of family and career certified by the berufundfamilie audit
  • Varied support for "New Berliners" (Welcome & Family Office)
  • Company health management with fitness center

You also benefit from:

  • An excellent academic environment in an internationally leading research group in protein misfolding and neurodegeneration
  • State-of-the-art research facilities at an internationally competitive, highly visible research center
  • Comprehensive opportunities for scientific and personal development as a member of the MDC graduate school
  • Collaboration with basic and clinical researchers, locally, nationally and internationally
  • Participation in prestigious conferences in the field
  • Remuneration in accordance with the collective agreement for the federal public service (TVöD-Bund), including additional company pension schemes
  • Flexible working hours and childcare support
  • A green campus, easily accessible by bicycle, public transport or car

Job Type:

Application Period:
January 20, 2021

MDC Berlin-Buch

Remuneration will be according to the TVöD Bund, depending on the personal requirements, up to salary group E13.

Employment volume:

Desired starting date:
March 01, 2021

Fixed Term
The position is limited to 3 years.

Sigrid Schnögl
AG Wanker

Parity and equal status:
The MDC is committed to diversity and actively promotes equal opportunities for all employees regardless of their origin, religion, ideology, health impairment, age or sexual identity. We look forward to receiving applications from open-minded people who enjoy working in diverse teams. Applications from severely disabled persons will be given special consideration.

Please use our online portal and submit your application as one pdf file (5 MB max, including a cover letter, CV, references as well as relevant educational and degree certificates)

Apply now