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Macromolecular Structures from Single Molecule X-Ray Diffraction Experiments

Project Description

- You are a physicist or chemist who wants to reveal how life works at the molecular level?
- You know how to combine computer power and theory to solve biological problems?
- You just love doing science?
> You are most welcome!

The Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry is one of the largest institutes of the Max-Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and conducts basic research to advance knowledge and benefit society. Innovative projects and interdisciplinary cooperation characterize research within the Max Planck Society. The Department of Theoretical and Computational Biophysics (Prof. Dr. Helmut Grubmüller) invites applications to participate in the project

- Macromolecular Structures from Single Molecule X-Ray Diffraction Experiments -

to advance methods to extract high resolution structure information from single molecule X-ray dif-fraction data. In these “diffract and destroy” experiments, femtosecond X-ray free electron laser pulses are shot at a single molecule, and the diffraction pattern is recorded. Depending on sample size, only very few photons are scattered in each shot, such that many scattering images have to be combined. The analysis is complicated by the fact that for each shot the orientation of the sample molecule is random and unknown. We have recently shown that as few as three recorded photons per image suffice. Using recent experimental data, you will develop, implement, and test a rigorous Bayesian approach, which holds the promise to drastically reduce the number of required photons, thus rendering single molecule X-ray structure determination feasible.

Please see corresponding publication for more details:

The successful candidate has a keen interest and strong skills in computational physics, mathematics, and probability theory and a strong interest in interdisciplinary collaborative research. PhD candidates hold (or expect to complete soon) a Master’s or equivalent degree in any of these or a related field.

The group language is English, so no German language skills are required – but it’s a great opportunity for you to learn German!

The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

Interested? Submit your application including cover letter (explaining background and motivation), CV, transcripts, and publication record preferably via e-mail as one single PDF file to

Funding Notes

The student will have the opportunity to participate in one of several available PhD programs, with three years funding and a possibility of extension, in collaboration with the University of Göttingen. Masters students aiming at a fast track PhD are also welcome.
Payment and benefits are based on the TVöD guidelines. The starting date is flexible.


Structure determination from single molecule X-ray scattering with three photons per image, Benjamin von Ardenne, Martin Mechelke & Helmut Grubmüller, Nature Communicationsvolume 9, Article number: 2375 (2018),

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