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Background: The cerebellum is among the highest conserved structures in the vertebrate brain serving to control body posture, maintain balance, regulate movements and fine motor control. It also regulates a number of higher order functions such as motor learning, prediction of movements and anxiety. Although containing about half of the brain’s neurons, the cerebellum is formed by few cell types, with Purkinje cells (PCs) being the only output neurons. PCs are arranged in a single cell layer closely underneath the skin of the brain, which in zebrafish larvae is nearly transparent allowing to visualize and manipulate PCs directly in vivo.

Zebrafish are molecularly tractable, and we have recently established methods to genetically target PCs using transient and stable transgenics (Namikawa et al., 2019). We have demonstrated by in vivo Ca2+-imaging and optogenetic inhibition of PCs that the PC layer is organized in functional subdomains controlling different locomotive tasks (Matsui et al., 2014). These functional subdomains arise during PC differentiation, and their formation depends on the physiological activity of PCs themselves. Involved molecular mechanisms that control this functional regionalization of PCs seem to be related to molecular events of neuronal learning involving Ca2+-signaling pathways, but these mechanisms have remained elusive so far.

Task: Therefore, in the PhD project the candidate will analyze zebrafish mutants in Ca2+-signaling known to result in Spinocerebellar Ataxia in humans – a neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of PCs followed by cerebellum atrophy. This analysis will involve in vivo Ca2+-recording, optogenetic analysis, behavioral characterization, high-resolution imaging for PC 3D-reconstruction, generation of transgenics and qualitative and quantitative analysis of molecular Ca2+-signaling cascades in vivo.

We are looking for: Applicants who are enthusiastic about working in an interdisciplinary and challenging research area and should be excited about solving a fundamental mechanism of brain differentiation using a broad spectrum of techniques and methods. The ideal candidate should have a strong background in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics and neuroscience. Obtained experience with fish as model organism would be highly appreciated but is not necessary. A master degree in biology or related fields is required.

We are: a young and motivated international team equipped with state of the art imaging (Leica SP8 with resonance scanner and light sheet, Zeiss Airyscan), behavioral setups, molecular biology facilities, 3D printers and animal facilities. We offer access to a combination of modern technologies in genetics, developmental biology, behavior, cell physiology and in the vividly expanding field of intravital imaging to study cells in their natural environment.

The Division of Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology: is embedded in the Zoological Institute of the Life Science Department of the TU Braunschweig, which provides a highly stimulating and interactive environment in the field of physiology and learning (M. Korte), cell biology (R. Mendel), cell fate decisions (R. Schnabel), evolution (M. Vences) and infection (D. Jahn/M. Steinert). Furthermore, state of the art technologies in a variety of research areas such as genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, super-resolution imaging, toxicology, and pathology are easily accessible due to the interdisciplinary campus and the Helmholtz Center for Infection Biology close by.

Braunschweig: is located in the heart of the area with the highest density in academics throughout Europe. The TU Braunschweig as the oldest Technical University in Germany, the Helmholtz Center for Infection Biology, the Physikalische Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), the Julius Kühn Institute, the research airport and the Braunschweig University of Art are all in close neighbourhood, providing a thriving interdisciplinary scientific environment. The city offers one of the richest and broadest cultural programs in Germany in music, art and sports that can be enjoyed easily due to the excellent public transport. Surrounded by the Oker river and several lakes and close to the Harz Mountains combined with a friendly climate Braunschweig has almost no limit for any kind of outdoor activity. Being located in the center of Europe Poland, Denmark, Czech, the Netherlands can be reached from Braunschweig in 1 to 4 hours by driving or by using the excellent transportation facilities provided by the large and well-connected train station and the international airport of Hannover.

The position: is offered at the Zoological Institute ( in Braunschweig, in the Köster Lab. The entry date is the 01.01.2020, and the duration is limited to 36 months. The position is part-time suitable, but should be occupied 100%.

The payment is made according to task assignment and fulfillment of personal requirements to salary group EG 13 TV-L (65%). International applicants may have to successfully complete a visa process before hiring can take place. Applications from international scientists are also welcome.

The TU Braunschweig aims to increase the share of women in academic positions. Applications from female candidates are very welcome. Where candidates have equal qualifications, preference will be given to female applicants. Candidates with handicaps will be preferred if equally qualified. Please enclose a proof.

Applications: should be sent by e-mail to Reinhard Köster (, and must contain the following documents.

  • Motivation Letter including contact information for two references
  • Curriculum Vitae including complete address, phone number, email address, educational background, language skills, and work experience
  • copies of bachelor and master diploma and transcript of grades in original language and in English or German translation
  • additional Documents should be provided on request

All documents should be in PDF format, preferably in a single file. Personal data and documents relating to the application process will be stored electronically. Please note that application costs cannot be refunded. Deadline for applications: October 18th, 2019

For any questions, please contact: Prof. Reinhard Köster, Tel.: +49 531 391 3230


Further reading:

Matsui et al., 2014. Functional regionalization of the teleost cerebellum analyzed in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) 111: 11846-11851.

Namikawa et al., 2019. Modeling neurodegenerative Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 13 in zebrafish using a Purkinje neuron specific tunable co-expression system. Journal of Neuroscience 39: 3948-3969.

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