PhD @ University of Konstanz

chemical biology
The main objective of the interdisciplinary Konstanz Research School Chemical Biology is to establish and support research and training programs that transcend traditional disciplines. The research program is based on successful collaborations within and between the fields of Synthetic Chemistry, Cellular Biochemistry, Biophysics, Biomedicine, and Computational Life Science.

What exactly are PhD students offered?

  • Each PhD student has not just one supervisor, but a committee of three professors from at least two fields. Each PhD student is offered courses that his/her background has thus far failed to give him/her - biology for the chemical scientists, chemistry for the biologists. We also offer courses in rhetoric and presenting as well as courses leading to management qualifications.

Universität Konstanz in zwei Minuten:University of Konstanz in two minutes

Application Procedure

  • call is open from 5 December '14 till 15 January '15!


  • To qualify for admission, you should hold a master's degree (or equivalent) in Biology, Chemistry, Life Science, or related subjects. You should have finished your studies significantly above average, and have a proven interest in chemical biology.
  • Students who have already started PhD work at the University of Konstanz can also apply within the first year of their studies.

How to Apply

  • Four steps to your application: REGISTER>LOG IN>UPLOAD>SUBMIT
1) REGISTER with online application platform. Once you registered you will receive a confirmation email to install your personal account.
2) LOG IN to work on your application, please fill in your contact data and provide the following:
  • A maximum of three PhD projects you are interested in, chosen from the list of projects and ranked by your preference
  • A motivation letter (max. 500 words)
  • Contact details for two academic references (please note that we will contact them during the application process ourself)
  • State where the call came first to your attention.
3) UPLOAD the following documents (in English or German):
  • Curriculum vitae (only accepted in chronological order)
  • Copy of your bachelor's and master's degree certificates (or equivalent) incl. transcripts of records
  • Proven proficiency in English (We accept tests, e.g. TOEFL, IELTS, as well as tests from language schools or universities or equivalent)
4) SUBMIT your application until 15 January 2015 at the latest!

Application Projects:

Kay Diederichs - Molecular Bioinformatics

  • Analysis of Crystallographic Data: Methods and Applications
The goal of a crystallographic experiment is to obtain accurate intensities to the highest possible resolution. Until now, a distinction and quantification of random and systematic errors in intensities was not possible with the traditional crystallographic quality indicators. The application of novel indicators for quality assessment of X-ray data (see Karplus and Diederichs, Science 2012) will be extended to allow identification of non-isomorphous outlier data from both XFEL and synchrotron sources. This will enable the development of algorithms and programs for the meaningful merging of isomorphous data to higher resolution than hitherto possible.
The successful applicant will mainly work with X-ray data from protein crystals obtained in collaborations within Konstanz, and will also interact with groups at the Swiss Light Source and the SwissFEL. The candidate should have broad interest in Chemical Biology and Bioinformatics as well as a background in X-ray crystallography.

Thomas Böttcher - Biological Chemistry

  • Bacterial Crosstalk – Biochemical Responses to Foreign Bacterial Signals
This project aims to investigate how communication signals of one bacterial strain may induce the production of small molecule metabolites and proteomic changes in another competitive strain. We will use a broad spectrum of methods ranging from organic synthesis to proteomics to identify potentially new natural products by NMR and mass spectrometry and elucidate the corresponding changes in protein expression.

Thomas Brunner - Biochemical Pharmacology

  • Synergy between Thiazolides and Glutathione-S-Tranferases in Cell Death Induction in Colorectal Tumor Cells
This project will investigate the mechanisms of thiazolide-induced apoptosis in colorectal tumor cells. Thiazolides are a novel class of chemical substances that promote apoptosis in colorectal tumor cells. Having identified the glutathione-S-tranferase P1 (GSTP1) as a critical enzyme for thiazolide-induced cell death, we will aim at identifying the biologically active thiazolide metabolite using mass spectrometry and computational modeling. Once identified we will synthesize this metabolite using organic chemistry and confirm its apoptosis-inducing activity in cells. We will further address whether the thiazolidemetabolizing activity is restricted to GSTP1 or extends to other classes of GSTs, such as GST α and μ. As the processes of thiazolide-induced apoptosis in colorectal tumor cells is cell cycle-dependent, we will assess which step of thiazolide metabolism and downstream apoptosis signaling is regulated by the cell cycle and aim at identifying the underlying mechanism. This project will characterize the apoptosis signaling pathways of thiazolides in colorectal tumor cells and contribute to the development of novel anti-tumor therapies.

Elke Deuerling - Molecular Microbiology & Malte Drescher - Biophysics

  • Functional Versatility of Chaperones Driven by Conformational Changes
Molecular chaperones are evolutionarily conserved elements of the proteome and involved in a plethora of processes that control protein biogenesis, folding, transport, assembly or turnover. The ribosome-associated complex (RAC) is a conserved chaperone system in eukaryotes. Recently it has been suggested that driven by a conformational change in RAC, the complex is released from ribosomes and transported into the nucleus to act there as a transcriptional co-activator. In this study, we will combine EPR (Electron Paramagnetic Resonance) spectroscopy and in vivo analysis to characterize conformational und functional changes of RAC in yeast and C.elegans.

Dietmar Funck - Plant Biology and Biochemistry & Jörg Hartig - Chemical and Synthetic Biology of Nucleic Acids

  • Riboswitches as Tools to Study Gene Function in Plants
Molecular tools to regulate gene expression under experimental conditions are ideally suited to determine in vivo gene functions in plants and to engineer plants for synthetic biology approaches. We use the functional analysis of LHC-like proteins in Arabidopsis to establish both „on“ and „off“ switches for gene expression in plants on the basis of ligand-dependent riboswitches that are developed by the group of Jörg Hartig in the chemistry department of the University of Konstanz.

Jörg Hartig - Chemical and Synthetic Biology of Nucleic Acids

  • Functional Characterization and Targeting of Highly Structured Repeat Sequences in Bacterial Genomes
We are recruiting a highly motivated co-worker responsible for investigating the influence of non-canonical nucleic acid structures in bacterial genomes. We are especially interested in the functional properties and influences of triplex and quadruplex DNAs and RNAs on biological processes. A variety of methods ranging from biophysics and biochemistry to molecular and chemical biology approaches will be applied.

Dieter Spiteller - Chemical Ecology/Chemical Biology

  • How do Microbial Symbionts protect their Hosts?
In nature microorganisms often play a crucial role in the life of other organisms, e.g. as beneficial symbiotic partners. In this project we aim to reveal how microbial symbionts of insects protect their hosts against diseases. Microbial symbionts from different insects, such as leaf cutting ants, will be isolated and cultivated. Isolated strains will be tested for their potential to fight diseases threatening their insect hosts. The secondary metabolites will be identified using bioassayguided fractionation in combination with mass spectrometry and NMR.
The biological function of identified metabolites will be further studied in appropriate bioassays or field experiments. The production of identified compounds under natural conditions should be monitored directly using highly sensitive detection techniques in order to evaluate their ecological role. In addition, the pharmaceutical value of promising isolated compounds will be investigated.
A strong background in natural products chemistry and analytical chemistry (mass spectrometry and NMR) is crucial.

Andreas Zumbusch - Physical Chemistry

  • Optical Investigation of Membrane Remodeling by α-Synuclein
The human α-synuclein protein (ASYN) plays a central role in the etiology of Parkinson’s disease. It forms fibrillar aggregates which are found in Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites in the brain. Despite the fact that the interaction of ASYN with membrane seems to be a key aspect of its biological function, little is known about how ASYN affects membrane structure. Aim of this project is to unravel the role of ASYN in membrane remodeling using optical spectroscopy. For this purpose, we will employ modern optical microscopy techniques, including single molecule fluorescence studies and coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy in order to investigate the interaction between ASYN and membranes. Both artificial membranes and membranes of living cells will be studied. The project will be based on a close collaboration with the group of Prof. Dr. M. Leist, who will provide ASYN point mutants and cellular sample systems which are pivotal for the experiments. The project will take advantage of other local research activities concerning ASYN. Results from different spectroscopic approaches (EPR, IR, CARS and fluorescence), shall help to obtain a detailed integral description of the remodeling of membranes by ASYN.

Admission Timelines

Starting Date: 1 April 1 October
Call for Applications December / January June / July
Deadline CfA 15 January 2015 17 July
Decision Board Meeting End of February End of August
Notification until 1 March 1 September

Apply Online


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The main objective of the interdisciplinary Konstanz Research School Chemical Biology is to establish and support research and training programs that transcend traditional disciplines. The research program is based on successful collaborations within and between the fields of Synthetic Chemistry, Cellular Biochemistry, Biophysics, Biomedicine, and Computational Life Science.