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PhD student – Molecular Architecture of Photosynthetic Thylakoid Membranes

The Biozentrum of the University of Basel ( is one of the leading life sciences research institutes in the world. It consists of 30 groups and 500 employees that investigate how molecules and cells create life, spanning the scales from atoms to organisms and communities. The Biozentrum has been the birth place of many fundamental discoveries in biology and medicine, spawning several Nobel Laureates.

The research group of Prof. Ben Engel at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel seeks to hire a PhD student in structural biology, with a focus on the molecular architecture of thylakoid membranes, to start immediately or as per arrangement.

The project
The research group of Ben Engel ( uses cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) to visualize molecular complexes inside native cells, providing new insights into how organelles are built. A major focus of the lab is understanding the molecular architecture of photosynthetic organelles such as thylakoid membranes, which convert light energy into life.

This PhD project is part of an HFSP-funded study of how thylakoid membranes adapt to changing light conditions. The main focus will be to perform cryo-ET of algae cells exposed to different light intensities, and then to analyze how the thylakoid membranes are remodeled to regulate light harvesting and repaired from damage caused by light stress. To get a feeling for what this cryo-ET data looks like, please see:  As part of our HFSP consortium, the student will also interact with a biophysics group in Amsterdam (Roberta Croce) and a molecular modeling group in Texas (Doran Bennett).

This is an opportunity to learn FIB milling and cryo-ET in an experienced lab, to try out new deep learning-based analysis approaches, and to dive into structural studies of photosynthesis with our fun team. To get an overview of recent projects, please take a look at our publications:

Your profile
We are looking for a motivated and intellectually curious PhD student, with a Master degree in physics, mathematics, biochemistry, cell biology, or similar discipline. Working knowledge of photosynthesis and/or electron microscopy is a plus, but most importantly, the student should be passionate about diving deeply into these topics.

We offer
We offer a highly interactive, multidisciplinary, and international research group within the Biozentrum ( Our group combines physics and biology, with strong expertise in photosynthesis and electron microscopy. We have access to cutting-edge electron microscopy instrumentation, including an Aquilos FIB and a Titan Krios TEM. Moreover, the Biozentrum offers excellent internal support from various core facilities with expert staff, and a structured PhD program. Our group embraces diversity and equal opportunity. We are committed to building a team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and skills.

Basel is an international city with people from 150 nations. Located on the border where Switzerland, Germany, and France meet, Basel is home for a large number of institutions for biomedical research, with numerous possibilities for training, networking, and career development. Basel provides a high standard of living and a rich and varied cultural atmosphere.

Application deadline: 12 August 2022

The application should include a brief statement of your scientific interests, your research experience, and your particular interest in this open position. In addition, a CV and the contact information of two references are required.

Applications should be sent directly to: ben.engelunibasch