Postdoc: Biophysics of Symbiotic Networks and Communities

Postdoc: Biophysics of Symbiotic Networks and Communities

Institute AMOLF

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Symbiotic partnerships can drive the evolution of remarkably complex social behaviors, even in simple organisms. Recent experiments provide evidence that symbiotic microbes demonstrate transport and trade behaviors reminiscent of human economics. What is the repertoire of strategies at play in these biological ‘markets’ and how do they depend on the specific combination of species and strains involved? To what extent is the strategy of one partner responsive to that of others, and how are the necessary communications/computations implemented mechanistically?

In this project, you will address these questions experimentally, developing novel methods for tracking symbiotic trade across time and space, combining the state of the art in fluorescent labelling, automated microscopy and image analysis. A focal symbiotic partnership is between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and plant roots, which form an extended symbiotic network of ecological/agricultural importance in the soil. You will build on our existing automated imaging experiment of this symbiosis using in vitro root cultures, introducing new fungal and bacterial species in the mix. Results will be analyzed using concepts from statistical physics and network theory. A central aim is to illuminate trade strategies and their underlying mechanisms with biophysical data on network growth, resource fluxes and their control by symbiotic context.

The project builds on our prior work to characterize resource fluxes using quantum-dot labelled nutrients to track symbiotic trade (Whiteside et al., 2019, Curr Biol), and will be embedded within a new HFSP-funded consortium to pioneer the biophysics of fungi in symbiotic contexts. The team includes biologists, physicists and engineers from the labs of:

  • Toby Kiers (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
  • Howard Stone (Princeton University)
  • Hirokazu Toju (Kyoto University)
  • Tom Shimizu (AMOLF)

You will collaborate closely with members of all participating labs through regular consortium-wide Zoom meetings, also with possibilities (when the pandemic subsides) for in-person research exchanges through lab visits.

Qualifications

You need to meet the requirements for a doctors-degree and must have research experience in a non-Dutch academic environment.

We seek candidates with a strong background in experimental physics or quantitative biology and an interest in the biophysics of symbiosis. Prior experience with microscopy and image analysis is preferred.

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EuroJobsites is a registered company number: 4694396 VAT number: GB 880 9055 04

Registered address: EuroJobsites Ltd, Unit 8, Kingsmill Business Park, Kingston Upon Thames, London, KT1 3GZ, United Kingdom

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