Inst. of Cell Biology - Institute Associated Research Group - Mechanics of cellular systems


We are currently starting a new team and have plenty of opportunities at different levels. In particular, we are looking for students and postdocs that are interested in working at the interface between cell biology and physics. Thanks to this interdisciplinary approach, we can offer projects that span from classical cell biology subjects, over more experimental physics subjects up to theoretical physics approaches.

Students from many backgrounds are welcome (medicine, biology, physics, math or computer scientists) to work with us on cutting edge problems in cell mechanics, reconstituted systems and fundamental non-equilibrium statistical mechanics questions.

In particular we can offer the subjects listed below. However, if you have a great idea that you would like to work on (in any level, undergrad, graduate or postdoc), please don't hesitate to contact Timo directly.



Open Pos

Open calls: PDF



1) Active and passive mechanical properties of cells
This project direction will use optical tweezers and high accuracy position measurements to quantify the motion of intracellular particles as well as membranes (intracellular, but also plasma-membrane). The aim is to determine precisely how cells control and tune their mechanical properties to perform fundamental functions, such as motility, proliferation but also intercellular interaction as in development and immunology.

In detail, we have projects related to the following systems:
  • ECM contraction by metastatic cell spheroids
  • Nonlinear stiffening of ECM due to forces applied by individual and collective cell migration
  • Mechanosensing of endothelial and transmigrating cells (Collaboration Lydia Sorokin)
  • Mechanosensing of individual cells in the developing zebrafish (Collaboration Erez Raz)

Optical Tweezer sketch

Sketch of the optical tweezer setup



2) Cell-ECM interaction in the context of cancer invasion and immunology
We are interested in the physical interactions between the extra cellular matrix and individual cells or tissue models. A particular focus will be on the forces that migrating cells exert on the ECM, and how these forces may change the properties of the ECM. These properties are studied by use optical tweezers, traction force microscopy and UV based microcutting.

In detail, we have projects related to the following systems:
  • Mechanics of migrating cancer cells in 3D.
  • Intracellular mechanics mapping using patterned substrates.
  • Intracellular mechanics during cell division.
  • Endothelial cell mechanics as function of substrate stiffness (collaboration Lydia Sorokin).
  • Cell mechanics in Zebrafish development (collaboration Erez Raz).

Optical Tweezer sketch

Cancer invasion of CT26 cells (green) into collagen I (red)



3) Reconstituted systems of the actin cytoskeleton and the actin cortex.
To investigate the mechanical properties of active cytoskeleton components, we are interested in reconstituted in vitro networks of different degrees of complexity. This research direction will be developed in collaboration with Cécile Sykes at the Institut Curie, with a focus on the mechanics and self-organization of the active cytoskeleton.
In detail, we have projects related to the following systems:
  • Active mechanics measurements in confined and reconstituted acto-myosin networks.
  • Actin cortex reconstituted on biomimetic membranes.
  • Fluctuation analysis of active and passive membranes.

Optical Tweezer sketch

Reconstituted actin cortex (M. Murrell, Sykes Lab)