PhD Student in Brain Vascular Biology

University of Zurich


Institute, Department, Clinic

Institute for Regenerative Medicine (UZH), Division of Neurosurgery (UniversityHospital Zurich), and Department of Health Sciences and Technology (ETH Zurich)

Department Description

The research groups «CNS angiogenesis and neurovascular link» within the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (University of Zurich) and the Division of Neurosurgery (UniversityHospital Zurich) and «Laboratory for Exercise and Health» within the Department of Health Sciences and Technology (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich) are looking for a PhD student in brain vascular biology. 

Information about us and our research is available here:


The main task of the candidate will be to discover how angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels) and the perivascular cells of the neurovascular unit are regulated during brain development, in brain tumors, and in brain vascular malformations.

Glioblastoma are amongst the most deadly human cancers with a mean survival of only around 15 months. A typical feature of these tumors is their high grade of vascularization which is established by angiogenesis. However, therapeutic approaches targeting angiogenesis in glioblastoma showed only poor outcome so far. The main reason herefore is that the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating angiogenesis within brain tumors are very complex and remain poorly understood.

Brain arterio-venous malformations are morphologically abnormal connections between arteries and veins in the brain vasculature. They lack an intervening capillary bed allowing high-pressure arterial blood flow from feeding arteries to shunt directly into the venous outflow system and rupture of arterio-venous malformations is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Aberrant angiogenesis is a key pathophysiological feature of brain arteriovenous malformations and targeting angiogenesis has a great therapeutic potential. The underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating angiogenesis within brain arterio-venous malformations are highly complex but very poorly understood.

For both angiogenesis-dependent CNS pathologies, in addition to classical endothelial signaling pathways such as the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) – VEGF Receptor (VEGFR) axis, new molecular pathways and thus therapeutic targets arise from the blood vessel microenvironment, also called the perivascular niche or neurovascular unit.

In the healthy adult brain, blood vessels are mostly quiescent with only < 0.5% of endothelial cells proliferating. Importantly, in many angiogenesis-dependent brain pathologies such as brain tumors or brain vascular malformations, blood vessel growth is reactivated during disease initiation or progression, at least in part by up-regulating signaling pathways that are important for developmental brain angiogenesis and for recruitment of perivascular cells of the neurovascular unit. 

To that regard, the novel and highly interesting concepts of neurovascular link (common regulation of blood vessel- and neuronal growth) and endothelialmetabolism will be explored. Moreover, using unbiased system biology approaches, yet completely unknown signaling pathways will potentially be identified.

The overarching aim of the collaborative efforts of our two groups is to understand how angiogenesis and the neurovascular unit/perivascular niche are regulated in brain development, brain tumors, and brain vascular malformations.

Employment Level

60 %

Requirements / Qualifications

We are exclusively looking for outstanding and highly motivated candidates. 

To investigate the above-described projects, the candidate will use a variety of in vivo mouse models as well as a broad spectrum of in vitro molecular biology, cell biology, and biochemical assays using mouse and human endothelial and perivascular cells. Therefore, excellent training in biology and a MSc in neuroscience, biochemistry or molecular biology (or an equivalent discipline) with experience in and enthusiasm for molecular- and cell biology, biochemistry, and animal experiments are required. 

To tackle the above-mentioned high risk-high potential projects, candidates should demonstrate overwhelming enthusiasm for neuroscience, vascular biology, and tumor biology. Moreover, the candidate should be highly motivated and display a flexibility with regard to experimental (combination of various in vivo and in vitro experiments of human and mouse tissues) and organizational (the candidate will work between two labs, circulating between the University Zurich, the University Hospital Zurich and the ETH Zurich) issues. Therefore, we feel that only very dedicated, motivated, and talented persons will be able to successfully work on the above-described, highly novel and translational projects with the potential to significantly enhance our current knowledge on brain-, brain tumor-, and brain vascular malformation biology.

Finally, the candidate should have the ability and self-motivation to work both independently and as a team player and should demonstrate good communication skills.

Language Skills

German is not required, English is mandatory.

Special Requirements

The position is to be filled starting asap, for three to four years and is jointly financed by both research groups. Conditions according to Swiss National Science Foundation.

We offer

We offer working on highly original and translational projects regarding angiogenesis and the neurovascular unit/perivascular niche in brain development and brain tumors. The aim is to significantly improve the understanding and therapeutic modulation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern angiogenesis and the neurovascular unit/perivascular niche during brain development, in brain tumors, and in brain vascular malformations. Our young and interdisciplinary team tackles these questions using a highly interdisciplinary and translational approach including the combination of various in vivo and in vitro techniques and the combination and comparison of mouse and human tissues and cells.

Successful candidates will work under the direct supervision of Dr. Dr. Thomas Wälchli and Prof. Dr. Katrien De Bock, in close collaboration with other PhD-students and postdoctoral fellows in both research groups.

For additional information about an employment at the University of Zurich please visit

Starting Position

Immediately or by agreement

More information

For further information, please contact simultaneously Dr. Dr. Thomas Wälchli (, Prof. Dr. Katrien De Bock (, and Prof. Dr. Karl Frei (


Please see above


We are looking forward to receiving your electronic application in one PDF. It should include a cover letter stating your motivation for this position, a comprehensive CV including (potential) publications, your academic record including copies of degree certificates, and two references (including names and contact details). Please send your electronic application simultaneously to: (1) Dr. Dr. Thomas Wälchli, group leader „CNS angiogenesis and neurovascular link“,, (2) Prof. Dr. Katrien De Bock, Professor Laboratory of Exercise and Health (ETH Zurich),, and (3) Prof. Dr. Karl Frei, scientific advisor „CNS angiogenesis and neurovascular link“,


Dr. Dr. Thomas Wälchli 
University of Zurich 
Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM) 
Campus Schlieren, Wagistr. 12/14 
8952 Streaks

In your application, please refer to


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