Ph.D. in Physics of Biological and Complex Systems
The GGNB doctoral program / International Max Planck Research School "Physics of Biological and Complex Systems" is a member of the Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences and Molecular Biosciences (GGNB). It is conducted jointly by the University of Göttingen, the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, and the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization.
The research-oriented program is taught in English and open to students who hold a Master's degree (or equivalent) in the physics, biophysics, chemistry, life sciences, medicine, or related fields.
Building upon the increasingly strong links between physics, chemistry and the life sciences, the program aims at advancing the quantitative and molecular understanding of life processes while at the same time exploring new frontiers of physics. Research topics include biomolecular structure and dynamics, biological membranes, motor proteins and pattern formation in systems of interacting cells, neuronal information processing, and hydrodynamics and pattern formation of complex fluids.
The program offers cutting-edge advanced microscopy courses and teaches the basics of new cutting-edge techniques essential for studying life processes in combination with quantitative physical approaches and synthetic strategies. An important aim is to overcome traditional barriers between disciplines and expose graduate students to physics, chemistry, and biology for a deeper understanding of all areas preparing students for increasingly interdisciplinary life sciences.
Building upon the increasingly strong links between physics, chemistry and the life sciences, the program aims at advancing the quantitative and molecular understanding of life processes while at the same time exploring new frontiers of physics. Raising biological research towards a quantitative level requires biophysical research at molecular, cellular, and supracellular levels. At the same time, the increasingly accurate characterization of biomolecules, networks of a supramolecular organization, and interacting cellular networks represent complex many-body problems from which new physics emerges.
Research topics include biomolecular structure and dynamics, biological membranes, the underlying cytoskeleton, motor proteins, cell division and intracellular transport, communication and sensory processes, as well as structure and pattern formation in systems of interacting cells and tissues (heart muscle). In bottom-up approaches, simplified model systems are generated such as complex fluids (polymers, colloids, membranes, granular materials). These simplified systems require chemical synthesis to understand, control and manipulate molecular processes. Based on such well-defined systems, their dynamics, turbulence and pattern formation can be analyzed. Neuronal information processing, finally, represents the most complex strongly interacting many-particle system.
Theory and numerical simulations are an integral part of many of the experimental projects. Analytical approaches and atomistic or coarse-grained simulations reveal functional details that can be compared to experiments or may even be inaccessible to experiment. A quantitative understanding of phenomena such as protein folding, membrane fusion, cell motility/division, or tissue dynamics, demands new theoretical physics in the areas of non-equilibrium systems, non-linear dynamics, or the dynamics of complex systems.
Nanoresolution far-field microscopy promises unprecedented spatial resolution in fluorescence microscopy. Single-molecule techniques such as optical and atomic force microscopy, address individual biomolecules, e.g. when studying the protein ‘nano-machines’ of the cell. At the atomic level, X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, NMR and solid-state NMR probe biomolecular structure and dynamics. These techniques provide complementary information, not only on the structures of single biomolecules but also on their interactions which drive the self-organized formation of larger complexes and structures.
The GGNB doctoral program / International Max Planck Research School "Physics of Biological and Complex Systems" is a member of the Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences and Molecular Biosciences (GGNB). The graduate school offers a joint modular training program to which the twelve doctoral programs of GGNB contribute and that is open to all GGNB students. In addition to a lecture and seminar program, training consists of (1) individual counselling by thesis committees, (2) intensive methods courses of 1-3 weeks in special training labs, (3) 2-3-day methods courses in the laboratories of the participating faculty, (4) professional skills courses such as scientific writing, presentation skills, intercultural communication, project management, team-leadership skills, conflict resolution, ethics, and career development, and (5) student-organized scientific meetings, industry excursions, and intercultural events. Students are able to tailor their individual curriculum by choosing from a large number of courses and events.
The program teaches, on the one hand, the development of new cutting-edge techniques that are essential for studying life processes, on the other hand, the application of new technologies to solve the biological question. The program will furthermore teach quantitative physical approaches. An important aim is to overcome traditional barriers between the disciplines and expose graduate students to enough physics, chemistry and biology, so that they can reach a deeper understanding of language, priorities and scientific culture in all areas, with the long-term goal of preparing students for increasingly interdisciplinary, but also increasingly quantitative research in the life sciences. In addition, the program will play a leading role in the establishment of an extended course in advanced microscopy.
Experimental research constitutes the major component of the doctoral studies and is conducted in the laboratory of a faculty member of the doctoral program. Doctoral research projects are complemented by a school-wide training program, offered to all GGNB students, who are members of a vibrant international research community. The language of the doctoral program is English.
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Last updated February 14, 2018