PhD Position in Physiology

University of Bern

PhD Position in Physiology

Keywords: physiology, biophysics, bioelectricity, computer modeling, signal processing, action potential, cardiac cells, cardiac arrhythmias, heart

Institute of Physiology

Cardiac arrhythmias are prevalent causes of morbidity and mortality. The goal of our research is to understand the biophysical phenomena that determine how the electrical excitation (action potential) propagates through cardiac tissue. Our interdisciplinary approach involves mathematical modeling (computer simulations of the action potential) and experiments (with cardiac cells).

Research project:
Action potential propagation depends on ion channels in cell membranes, especially sodium (Na+) channels, which are organized in elaborate nanodomains. In the conventional paradigm, the action potential propagates due to currents passing through intercellular gap junctional channels. However, another mechanistic hypothesis (called ephaptic coupling) proposes that the current produced by the Na+ channels of a given cell produces a substantial electrical potential and significant ion concentration changes in the narrow intercellular cleft, which influences the function of the Na+ channels in the next cell. We will investigate ephaptic coupling in computer simulations using state-of-the-art finite element models of cardiac intercellular junctions that we are refining in the context of international collaborations. In parallel, we will conduct experiments with cardiac cells to demonstrate the existence of the new phenomena identified by the simulations. The study is expected to further our understanding of the function of cardiac Na+ channels at the nanoscale level, with implications for both physiology and pathophysiology.
The project is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
Further details can be found on

Education and profile
The ideal candidate
  • has a Master's degree in a discipline pertaining to the project (e.g., biomedical engineering, physics, life sciences)
  • has previous working experience with mathematics (calculus, linear algebra), programming languages (e.g., MATLAB, C/C++, Python) and finite element analysis
  • is interested in developing new computational and experimental techniques
  • is interested in electrophysiological experiments
  • is able to collaborate in an interdisciplinary manner with different research teams
  • has a good knowledge of the English language (oral and written)
  • has oral knowledge of German permitting to be involved in teaching activities (up to 10% of work time; practical workshops and tutoring of small groups of undergraduate medical students)

Candidates selected for an interview are expected to travel to Bern for a visit at their own expenses. Applications that do not fulfill these criteria will not be answered.
Entrance upon
Between June 1, 2024 and October 1, 2024, to be discussed.
Duration: 4 years.
Location: University of Bern
Applications (motivation statement, CV and a copy of the Master's degree) are to be submitted by e-mail to:
Contact address: Prof. Dr. med. Jan P. Kucera, Department of Physiology, University of Bern, Bühlplatz 5, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland