PhD Position in Mechanobiology and Intervertebral Disc Research

University of Bern Department for BioMedical Research


PhD Candidate Vacancies in Mechanobiology and Intervertebral Disc Research Disc4


Training network to advance integrated computational simulations in translational medicine, applied to intervertebral disc degeneration
Funding: European Commission H2020-MSCA-ITN-ETN-2020 GA: 955735

General Information

The European community requires early stage researchers (ESRs) who can work across the boundaries of traditional disciplines, integrating experimental and in silico approaches to understand and manage highly prevalent multifactorial disorders, such as musculoskeletal disorders. The Disc4All training network utilises intervertebral disc degeneration (LDD) leading to low back pain (LBP) as a relevant application for the integration of data and computational simulations in translational medicine, to enable rational interpretations of the complexity of the interactions that eventually lead to symptoms.

LBP is the largest cause of morbidity worldwide, yet there remains controversy as to the specific cause leading to poor treatment options and prognosis. LDD is reported to account for 50% of LBP in young adults, but the interplay of factors from genetics, environmental, cellular responses and social and psychological factors is poorly understood. Unfortunately, the integration of such data into a holistic and rational map of degenerative processes and risk factors has not been achieved, requiring creation of professional cross-competencies, which current training programmes in biomedicine, biomedical engineering and translational medicine fail to address, individually.

Disc4All aims to tackle this issue through collaborative expertise of clinicians; computational physicists and biologists; geneticists; computer scientists; cell and molecular biologists; microbiologists; bioinformaticians; and industrial partners. It provides interdisciplinary training in data curation and integration; experimental and theoretical/computational modelling; computer algorithm development; tool generation; and model and simulation platforms to transparently integrate primary data for enhanced clinical interpretations through models and simulations. Complementary training is offered in dissemination; project management; research integrity; ethics; regulation; policy; business strategy; and public and patient engagement. The Disc4All ESRs will provide a new generation of internationally mobile professionals with unique skill sets for the development of thriving careers in translational research applied to multifactorial disorders.

This particular training will involve 3D cell/tissue cultures and the detection of gene expression patterns using transcriptomics (UBern); SNPs will be identified in the cDNA of untreated control cells (RIT), specific pathways will be blocked that may be involved in the inflammatory pathways.

Hiring institution

Hiring Disc4All Member: Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR) of the Medical Faculty of the University of Bern, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Web: /
Address: Tissue Engineering for Orthopedics & Mechanobiology, Murtenstrasse 35, CH-3008 Bern
Type of contract: temporary (36 months)
Job status: full-time
Hours per week: 42h
Offer starting date: 1 February 2021
EU Research Framework: H2020 MSCA-ITN-ETN
Marie Curie Grant Agreement Number: 955735

Open Positions

Topic: "Standardized in vitro static modelling & mechanism- based analyses of gene /protein / SNP at the cell /tissue & organ levels"
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Benjamin Gantenbein (University of Bern) / Prof. Dr. Karin Wuertz-Kozak (Rochester Institute of Technology)
Hosting lab: Tissue Engineering for Orthopedics & Mechanobiology (University of Bern/ Tissue Regeneration and Mechanobiology (RIT)

Location: Murtenstrasse 35, CH-3008 Bern / 160 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623, USA
web: /


The MSCA program offers a competitive salary and attractive working conditions, in accordance with the MSCA regulations for early stage researchers.

You will be enrolled in the PhD program of graduate school of cellular and biomedical sciences of the University of Bern ( and have the opportunity to learn form a consortium of 19 institutions (11 Beneficiaries, 8 Partner organizations). In addition to the individual scientific projects, all ESRs will benefit from further continuing education, which includes secondment to, a variety of training courses for specific and transferable skills and active participation and international conferences.

Successful candidates will be offered a 36 months full-time employment contract, with an monthly salary of ~€48,700 (~CHF 52,400) per annum Switzerland] (average gross salary, before statutory deductions); and an additional family allowance ~€370 (~CHF 400) per month, if applicable).

The candidate will also have the opportunity to advise undergraduates to a minimal extent, where she/he will be involved in the teaching of tissue engineering course for biomedical engineers.


Eligibility criteria

a) To apply for these MSCA Training positions, applicants must fulfil the following criteria:
• Mobility: to be eligible for a position, you should not have resided in the country of the host institution for more than 12 months over the three years before the starting date of the position, excluding holidays and (refugee status) asylum application.
• Early Stage Researcher (ESR): At the time of recruitment by the host organisation, an ESR shall be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of his/her research career and not have been awarded a doctoral degree.
Candidates must prove that they fulfil the aforementioned criteria through relevant documentation (certificates, official statements, residency card).
b) Applicants will also be required to successfully complete the relevant local application process at the host institution as outlined at the University of Bern (
c) Specific requirements for the proposed project:
• Educational Level: Master of Science (master degree or equivalent)
• Required languages: English
• Skills/Qualifications: Confident with Statistics, Experience with Mathlab, Image processing software, programming (E.g. C) are welcome. Previous experiences with molecular biology wet laboratory methods are highly welcome and involve qPCR, Western blotting, ELISA, immune-histology and microscopy but may also involve biomechanical testing. The ideal candidate has a cross-disciplinary CV with a strong background in lab bench work, molecular biology and engineering skills.

Selection Criteria

The selection committee uses a number of indicators to evaluate the applicant's preparedness, motivation and potential.

1st phase, remote pre-selection:

The Scientific, Technological & Academic excellence will be considered at first, based on:

• Quality of the CV, in general
• Any demonstrated research experience, particularly if supported by evidences such as scientific publications, patents, participation in scientific congresses.
• Undergraduate performance: overall, with a special focus on relevant field-specific courses.
• Any demonstrated previous recognitions (grants, awards)
• Reference letters provided by professors and senior scientists: Three reference letters are expected. At least two letters must be issued by scholars. The third letter can be provided either by a scholar or by a relevant professional of the industrial sector. Referees are asked to address analytical capabilities, technical proficiency, ability to work independently and motivation/commitment.
• Statement of purpose: past research experience, motivation for applying to this particular PhD project, academic fit, contribution of the project to the candidate's future careers plans.
• Additional relevant skills (field-specific): demonstrated, e.g. through previous projects, and or through previous participation in scientific contests, trainings, ...
2nd phase, interview(s):
Should the candidate be preselected at phase 1, a second phase will consist in at least one interview through which the motivation, the proactive behaviour, the capacity to work collaboratively, the organizational skills, the communication skills and the capacity to engage in a scientific discussion and manage problems, will be assessed, among other aspects.

The final decision will be the result of a consensus of an evaluation committee that will take into account the results of both recruitment phases 1 and 2. The candidate will be informed of the section results by email.

All the documents that prove the eligibility of the candidate and should be provided. As for the selection process candidates are expected to provide at least the following documents:

• A brief introduction letter (no more than one A4 page) that summarizes the documents and the nature of the information provided for the selection
• A full CV
• The three requested reference letters
• The letter of purpose (no more than two A4 pages)

All documents must be sent by email to the Principal Investigator of the proposed project (with the subject Benjamin Gantenbein ESR9, e-mail ) and with cc to the Management of the Disc4All project ( before 20 September 2020.

In your application, please refer to


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