[Comp-neuro] PhD project in computational modeling of Alzheimer’s disease at MCEN/BCAM, Bilbao, Spain

Maurizio De Pitta mdepitta at bcamath.org
Tue Oct 9 13:03:38 CEST 2018

Fully-funded PhD project: Computational modeling and data mining of early
markers of Alzheimer’s disease

Lab / Host institution : Group of Mathematical, Computational and
Experimental Neuroscience (MCEN) at the Basque Center of Applied
Mathematics (BCAM)
Location : Bilbao, The Basque Country, Spain
Duration : 3 years.
Stipend : 18k EUR/year + mobility allowance
Starting date : immediate

Scientific background :
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a chronic, age-related neurodegenerative
disorder characterized by cognitive decline, memory loss, personality
changes, and withdrawal. The causes of AD remain poorly understood and no
treatment is currently available to stop or reverse the progress of the
disease nor to reduce the risk of developing it. The principal pathological
hallmark of AD is the accumulation in the brain of senile plaques,
primarily composed of the amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide, and tangles of
filaments of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. However, population-based
studies show that there is a continuum of AD type pathology in the aging
population, with considerable overlap in the burdens of tangle and plaque
pathology in demented vs. non-demented individuals. It is therefore
difficult to establish thresholds of classical lesions for the prediction
of dementia and additional factors are operative to determine whether a
given burden of pathology is associated with cognitive impairment. There is
therefore a need to explore non-standard pathological markers.

Workplan :
The candidate will deploy mathematical tools to simulate biophysical
processes that could underpin deposition of amyloid beta plaques and tau
filaments. Emphasis will be on emerging evidence on the interaction between
neurons and glial cells, to identify potential mechanisms that promote
local excitation of neuronal networks at the onset of AD, before cognitive
impairment takes over, or when only mild cognitive deficits are diagnosed.
The project is strongly interdisciplinary, as the candidate will pursue
computational research in close collaboration with experimentalists to
design realistic models inspired by experiments in cell cultures and brain
slices from AD mouse models. At the same time she/he will be able to design
experiments based on predictions from her/his models.

Working environment :
The candidate will be supervised by Dr. Maurizio De Pittà in all the
aspects of the project. Dr. De Pittà is a leading expert on computational
modeling of neuron-glia interactions, with an experience in computational
neuroscience of 10+ years. Dr. De Pittà recently joined the MCEN group at
BCAM as « Junior Leader » fellow with a start-up grant supported by la
Caixa Banking Foundation. The MCEN group is a rapidly growing team led by
Ikerbasque  Professor Serafim Rodrigues, that was established in 2016 as
part of the strategic research portfolio enacted by the Basque Country to
foster interdisciplinary research in Neuroscience. The candidate will
collaborate with Dr. Elena Alberdi and Prof. Carlos Matute at Achucarro,
the Basque Center for Neuroscience in Bilbao, at the local campus of the
University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). BCAM is one of the Severo
Ochoa’s excellence centers for scientific research in Spain providing a
fertile international environment for enriching scientific collaborations.
Bilbao, as the capital of the Basque Country in Spain, is a vibrant,
friendly city with one of the highest standards of life quality in Spain.

Requirements :
-- Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Mathematics, Engineering, or
related fields
-- Excellent English skills (oral and written)
-- Programming skills in Matlab, Python and C/C++
-- High motivation for interdisciplinary research with strong interests for
biological details with an analytic mindset
-- Essential knowledge of neuroscience, cell biology and biochemistry is
preferred but not required

Additional notes :
This is a cutting-edge project that ideally matches with outstanding and
creative candidates, with a strong motivation for international
collaborations, mobility, and independence. The candidate is supposed to
work on the project full-time (i.e. part-time agreements are taken into
consideration), and must be .

To apply :
Applicants should send a CV with letter of motivation (max 2 pages) to Dr.
De Pittà at mdepitta at bcamath.org with headings : « PhD Candidacy ». Review
of applicants is incumbent, and will continue until the position is filled.
The earliest start date is November 2018.

Maurizio De Pittà
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