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Czech Republic

PhD student


Research Field
Natural sciences
Career Stage
European Research Programme
Not funded by an EU programme





Position in the project:

PhD student

Scientific discipline:


Job type (employment contract/stipend):


Number of job offers:


Remuneration/stipend amount/month:

4 500 PLN/month (ca. 1 000 EUR/month)

Position starts on:

October 1, 2020

Maximum period of contract/stipend agreement:

3 years


Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences

Project leaders:

Leszek Kaczmarek and Ewelina Knapska (Braincity directors)

Ewelina Knapska (Laboratory of Emotions Neurobiology)

Ali Jawaid (TREND lab)

Project title:

Nencki-EMBL Center of Excellence for Neural Plasticity and Brain Disorders: BRAINCITY

Project is carried out within the MAB/IRA programme of the Foundation for Polish Science

Projects description:

  1. Activity of distinct neuronal populations of the prefrontal cortex in the development and maintenance of social bonds

Project performed in the Knapska lab. Background: Impairments of social interactions are a key feature of many neurodevelopmental dysfunctions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and social anxiety disorders (SAD). Additionally, current health reports highlight alarming rise in frequency of ASD, including a number of patients suffering from social deficits. Understanding brain mechanisms underlying social behavior, specifically the neurobiology of voluntary social bonds, seems crucial for our ability to address those aggravating health issues. Although much is known about the neuroanatomy of social behavior, the functional neurobiology of social bonding is still poorly understood. However, it has become increasingly clear that cortical regions, specifically prefrontal cortex, play a critical role in encoding and execution of social interactions. In the following project we propose to investigate how main classes of neurons, composing the circuits of the prefrontal cortex, encode information relevant to bonding with others.

Aim: In the first step, the project aims to develop automated methods to measure the development of voluntary social ties between individuals housed in the Eco-HAB system as in large groups, resembling cohorts formed under natural conditions. Further, the PhD candidate will study the neurobiological components that accompany dynamic changes in social bonds, namely the neuronal activity of various classes of cells (excitatory neurons and major classes of inhibitory cells expressing parvalbumin, somatostatin and vasoactive intestinal peptide) in the prefrontal cortex, using two-photon microscopy in behaving animals. In the next step, PhD candidate will manipulate the activity of selected types of neurons by wireless optogenetics / chemogenetics in behaving animals to regulate social instructions in real time.

  1. To investigate the interplay between metabolic and epigenetic factors in pathogenesis and inheritance of neuropsychiatric disorders

Jawaid lab (Translational Research in Neuropsychiatric Disorders; TREND) investigates molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis and inheritance of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders with a specific focus on epigenetics and metabolism. This theme is backed by strong clinical and translational research showing a disease modifying effect of metabolic perturbations in neurodegenerative disorders ALS and FTLD (reviewed in Jawaid et al. Molecular Neurodegeneration 2018), role of miRNAs in memory impairment in neurodegenerative disorders (Jawaid et al. Nature Communication 2016, Jawaid et al. Molecular Neurobiology 2018), role of metabolic and microglial sensing in Alzheimer disease (Paolicelli, Jawaid et al. Neuron 2017), and a role of brain/circulating microRNAs and lipid metabolites in epigenetic inheritance of the effects of early life trauma (Gapp, Jawaid et al. Nature Neuroscience 2014, Steenwyk et al. (pre-print available on biorxiv)

The proposed projects include; a) manipulation of cellular, regional, and whole-body metabolism to counter pathological protein aggregation in mouse and patient-derived human neurons, b) investigating for a role of lipid metabolism and circulating miRNAs as mediators of the long-term effects of early life trauma including inter-generational transmission of symptoms. The candidates are welcomed to propose modifications to these projects or propose new projects under the same theme.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Planning and conducting experimental work
  • Data analysis
  • Manuscript preparation

Profile of candidates/requirements:

  • Strong interest in the brain research, neuronal plasticity and/or neuroepigenetics
  • M.Sc. degree, or equivalent, in molecular biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, physics/biophysics, biology, psychology, medical, veterinary sciences or similar
  • Exceptional motivation for the scientific research (demonstrated via publications, references of the candidate's thesis tutor)
  • Proficiency in English
  • Prior experience with iPSC derived neurons/ 3D cultures will be preferred

Required documents:

  1. Cover letter
  2. Copies of diplomas
  3. Copies of documents confirming the course of studies
  4. Curriculum vitae including a description of scientific and professional achievements and list of publications
  5. Copies of documents confirming the scientific or professional achievements
  6. Consent to the processing of personal data for the purpose of recruitment
  7. Optionally opinion of a researcher or academic teacher holding at least the academic degree of PhD (doctor) concerning the candidate and his / her scientific activity

We offer:

  • Full-time stipend in the top-ranked research institute in Poland.
  • Access to modern equipment and support from other experienced researchers.
  • Possibility for extensive interdisciplinary collaborations within the team and in the Institute, as well as international collaborations with Academia

Please submit the following documents to: (please apply from August 5, 2020)

For more details about the position please contact:





Organisation name
Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology
Organisation Country
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