PhD in Biophysics at Poznan University of Technology, Poland

Project title

HYDRA – Elucidating the Role of Hydration Heterogeneity and Hydrophobic Mismatch in Biomimetic Cell Membranes Organization.

Keywords: biological water / structure of water / cell membrane hydration / hydrophobic mismatch / lipid bilayer / biophysics / fluorescence microscopy / atomic force microscopy / sum frequency generation

Project description

The cellular plasma membrane is an intricately organized organelle, which separates the intracellular machinery from the extracellular milieu. Cell membranes are chemically highly heterogeneous, yet their components work in a concerted manner, facilitating a broad range of important cell functions. These thin bilayers of lipids orchestrate the transport in and out of the cell, direct cellular proteins and interface the cell with the extracellular environment. The organization of the cell membrane involves: assembly into domains, whose properties differ from those of the surrounding membrane; and intricate interactions with the hydrating water. Defects in the organization of the membrane components translate into dysregulation in their activity, which may lead to pathologies affecting the entire organism. Clearly, understanding the lateral organization and hydration of lipids and proteins in cell membranes is of utmost importance. The goalof the proposed research line is to provide micro- and nano-scale, molecular-level insights into the structural and physicochemical heterogeneity of model biological membranes and their hydration layer. These insights will unravel correlations between membrane hydration structure, chemical composition and organization with unprecedented levels of chemical specificity, sensitivity, and spatiotemporal resolution. The acquired knowledge will reveal the mechanisms that give rise to many fascinating aspects of cell membrane organization and regulation. This will be achieved by using a unique combination of microscopic and spectroscopic techniques: fluorescence microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and infrared micro spectroscopy. This combination will ensure ultrahigh spatial resolution, high chemical specificity and single molecule sensitivity.

This project will be realized in a new, highly motivated research team with a focus on strong international publication output, effective collaborations and teamwork. More information on the team can be found at

Chemistry › Biochemistry
Physics › Biophysics
Physics › Chemical physics

Brief description of the host institution

The project will be realized in the Institute of Physics, which is part of the faculty of Technical Physics at the Poznan University of Technology.

Poznan University of Technology (PUT) is one of the biggest universities in Poland, regularly rating amongst the top 5 technical universities in the country. It offers education at 10 faculties, which provide students with a choice of 27 fields of study. More than 20,000 students of I and II cycles, Phd students and participants of post-graduate programmes receive education here. More than 1,200 academic staff care about their education. Poznan University of Technology is also an important centre of scientific research. The proportion of funds for research projects grows year by year. The University's researchers receive the most prestigious national and international (such as ERC) research grant and state awards for achievement in science.

Within over 20 years since its creation, the faculty of Technical Physics has established itself as a strong research centre carrying out research at the borderline of physics, chemistry, biology and material sciences. It realizes several dozens of research grants funded by the national funding agencies and collaborative international grants. It maintains active collaborations with a number of universities and research centres worldwide, Polish Universities and Polish Academy of Sciences.

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