Open Positions

PhD student Vacancies

Label-free Nonlinear Imaging of Electrostatic Potentials

Several PhD student positions are available at the Laboratory for fundamental BioPhotonics (LBP) at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

The electrostatic properties of membranes are crucial for the functioning of living systems. Neurons produce potentials that enable us to think, learn and act. On the molecular level these potentials are highly dependent on the precise molecular composition and sture of membranes that are composed of lipids, proteins, water and ions. In addition, the membrane potential landscape is confined on an interface that is less than 5 nm thick. Changes occur on time scales on the order of milliseconds.

We aim to address the following questions:

  • What are the underlying molecular mechanisms behind the occurrence and distribution of membrane potentials?
  • What is the role of water?
  • How does a membrane composed of lipids and proteins respond to currents on a molecular level?
  • Can we observe them label-free in time and space in model membranes and in mammalian neurons?


The Project

Nonlinear optical imaging and spectroscopic techniques have a great potential for label-free imaging of the 3D distributions of molecular species and electrostatic potentials on membrane interfaces of model membranes and in living mammalian neurons. The aim of this research is multifold: to develop spectroscopic and imaging methods in conjunction with electric / electrophysiological recordings to enable the label-free spatial and temporal mapping of the surface potential by optical means. At the same time these methods are applied to model membrane systems for which the molecular architecture is known and controllable. Finally, mammalian cells / neurons will be studied in culture to observe optically neuronal activity label-free and in real time.


The Candidate

This research has many interdisciplinary aspects that demand a highly motivated candidate with strong analytical abilities that is able to think out of the box. The diverse aspects of the project allow a wide range of backgrounds that includes photonics, physics, chemistry/material science or electrical engineering. Experience in nonlinear optics / microscopy, either theoretical or experimental is another bonus. We offer excellent working conditions and a state-of-the-art infrastructure in a highly dynamic and international environment at the forefront of research.


The Application Procedure

Applications should include a motivation letter, detailed CV, transcripts of diplomas as well as three letters of reference. In conjunction to the application the candidate should apply to one of the doctoral schools: photonics, materials science, or bioengineering (

More Information Work conditions are in accordance with ERC guidelines. Feel free to contact us in case of further questions.