Symbiotic partnerships can drive the evolution of remarkably complex social behaviors, even in simple organisms. Recent experiments provide evidence that symbiotic microbes demonstrate transport and trade behaviors reminiscent of human economics. What is the repertoire of strategies at play in these biological ‘markets’ and how do they depend on the specific combination of species and strains involved? To what extent is the strategy of one partner responsive to that of others, and how are the necessary communications/computations implemented mechanistically? 

In this project, you will address these questions experimentally, developing novel methods for tracking symbiotic trade across time and space, combining the state of the art in fluorescent labelling, automated microscopy and image analysis. A focal symbiotic partnership is between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and plant roots, which form an extended symbiotic network of ecological/agricultural importance in the soil. You will build on our existing automated imaging experiment of this symbiosis using in vitro root cultures, introducing new fungal and bacterial species in the mix. Results will be analyzed using concepts from statistical physics and network theory. A central aim is to illuminate trade strategies and their underlying mechanisms with biophysical data on network growth, resource fluxes and their control by symbiotic context.

The project builds on our prior work to characterize resource fluxes using quantum-dot labelled nutrients to track symbiotic trade (Whiteside et al., 2019, Curr Biol), and will be embedded within a new HFSP-funded consortium to pioneer the biophysics of fungi in symbiotic contexts. The team includes biologists, physicists and engineers from the labs of

• Toby Kiers (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
• Howard Stone (Princeton University)
• Hirokazu Toju (Kyoto University)
• Tom Shimizu (AMOLF)

You will collaborate closely with members of all participating labs through regular consortium-wide Zoom meetings, also with possibilities (when the pandemic subsides) for in-person research exchanges through lab visits.

For further information on the project, contact Tom Shimizu (

About the group

For more information about research in the Shimizu Group, see


You need to meet the requirements for a doctors-degree and must have research experience in a non-Dutch academic environment.

We seek candidates with a strong background in experimental physics or quantitative biology and an interest in the biophysics of symbiosis. Prior experience with microscopy and image analysis is preferred.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of two years. Ideally with a starting date before March 2021. AMOLF assists any new foreign postdoc with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Prof.dr. Tom Shimizu 
Group leader (Systems Biology)
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
Please send your: 
–  Resume; 
–  Motivation on why you want to join the group (max. 1 page). 
It is important to us to know why you want to join our team. This means that we will only consider your application if it entails your motivation letter.Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis and as soon as an excellent match is made, the position will be filled.

Online screening may be part of the selection.

Commercial activities in response to this ad are not appreciated.


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