PhD or MD-PhD position in human skin Immunology
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A position for a PhD or MD-PhD student in human skin immunology will be available as of fall 2019 (or upon agreement) at the Department of Dermatology, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital / University of Bern. The project is focused on the study of human T helper cells and their role in inflammatory skin disease.

Skin-resident memory T (TRM) cells can persist long-term in the skin where they provide immune protection against various pathogens. However, their activation by allergens or autoantigens can cause chronic inflammatory skin disease. Atopic dermatitis (AD) and allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) are common chronic T cell-driven diseases in which TRM cells play a key role and contribute to their chronicity. Current treatments of AD and ACD suppress inflammation, but fail to cure patients long-term. Thus, there is a need for a better understanding of pathogenic TRM in T helper 2 cell (TH2)-driven skin disease for the development of curative therapies.

Our recent findings suggest that the transcription factor PPAR-γ constitutes a crucial link between TRM- and TH2-driven skin disease. This is of major interest given the large therapeutic potential of targeting PPARγ. Both pathogenic TH2 cells and skin TRM critically depend on PPARγ: In pathogenic TH2 cells, PPARγ controls proallergic effector functions. In skin TRM, PPARγ mediates metabolic adaptation to the microenvironment. Yet, the importance and function of PPARγ in human skin TH cells and human skin disease remain unknown.

Therefore, this project aims to address the following questions:
1. How does PPAR-γ regulate cellular metabolism and function in TH2 cells from human skin?
2. What is the role of IL-9, which is specifically expressed by PPAR-γ+ TH2 cells, in human skin inflammation?
3. How does the metabolic tissue environment in inflammatory skin disease influence the function of TH cells?
4. How can we leverage the modulation of TH cell metabolism via PPAR-γ for therapeutic intervention in skin inflammation?

We will address these questions using state-of-the-art cellular assays (e.g. multicolor flow cytometry), "omics" approaches (Next-Generation-Sequencing, Metabolomics), genetic editing (CRISPR-Cas9), in vitro culture of primary human cells, human 3D organotypic skin cultures, and samples from patients with skin disease under targeted treatment. Taken together, this projects aims at uncovering the role of cellular metabolism of pathogenic TH2 cells in human inflammatory skin disease using a translational research approach.

Absolute requirements for the candidate are:
  • Applicants must hold a European academic degree in natural sciences (MSc or equivalent) acceptable for matriculation as a PhD student at a Swiss University. Students will have to be admitted to the Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bern (
  • Good knowledge of the English language (oral and written)
  • 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.
The ideal candidate:
  • is dedicated to science and scientific work and has ambitions for an academic career
  • has theoretical and practical skills in immunology, molecular and/or cellular biology.
  • has experience in flow cytometry, molecular biology and cell culture
  • has the ability to integrate rapidly into a dynamic team
We offer
a dynamic and aspiring research environment led by a young assistant professor and dermatologist. Close collaborations with local and internationally renowned laboratories guarantees access to both state of the art know-how and infrastructure.
Candidates with strong interests in pursuing studies on the human immune system are kindly invited to submit their application to Prof. C. Schlapbach ( including:
  • a curriculum vitae with a brief description of laboratory experience
  • letters of support with the address and contact information of at least one referee
Christoph Schlapbach, M.D., Ph.D
Assistant Professor
Department of Dermatology, Inselspital / University of Bern
Bern, Switzerland

Please only apply online under, code number 6645/19