PhD positions

Deadline for application: May 31th
Interviews : July 2022


Application process


Sanjiv Luther

Department of Biochemistry, UNIL
Chemin des Boveresses 155, 1066 Epalinges

Contact :


Location: Center for Immunity and Infection, Epalinges-Campus, Lausanne area

Position : PhD-student exploring the roles of secondary lymphoid organs and their stromal cells in immunity

Project synopsis: Secondary lymphoid organs, such as lymph nodes and spleen, are the most frequent organs in our body and represent critical sites for mounting and regulating lymphocyte responses that are our body’s most powerful defense system against pathogens and cancer cells. In this process, these organs act like the ‘brain’ for adaptive immunity. On one hand these organs receive signals and cells derived from sites of infection or tumors, on the other hand they promote the selection of rare antigen-specific B and T lymphocytes leading to their local proliferation and differentiation into effector cells that eventually home to sites of inflammation to combat the danger.

 Similar to the brain, these organs are highly compartmentalized to allow different processes to occur efficiently. This compartmentalization is established by distinct fibroblastic stromal cell subsets that are resident and regulate the various immune cells that home transiently to these sites, including dendritic cells and T lymphocytes. However, we still know relatively little about the resident fibroblasts that form these microenvironments. Given the critical role these organs play in adaptive immunity our goal is to improve our understanding of these fibroblasts by investigating their development, heterogeneity and function in health and disease, using modern genetic tools. We believe that this will allow improving adaptive immune responses to vaccines, infections and cancers, or to dampen them in situations of autoimmunity or chronic inflammation.


The Luther research group : team of 5-8 scientists who all work on various aspects of fibroblasts in lymphoid organs as well as in effector sites, such as the intestinal lamina propria and cancer tissues. More information on the group and the projects:


Your profile:

  • Master degree in immunology, biomedical sciences or a related biology discipline.
  • Strong background and interest in ‘in vivo’ immunology, ok to work with mice
  • Motivation to learn and perform at a high level
  • Good work organization, curious, skilled, goal oriented
  • Ability to work independently, good team player
  • Good English communication and writing skills


Prof. Michel Gilliet
Department of Dermatology, CHUV-UNIL

Field: AhR function, skin inflammation, skin inflammatory diseases.


Title: Dissecting the role of AhR in skin inflammation and the development of inflammatory skin diseases.

Project :
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a transcription factor that regulates gene expression.
AhR is activated by multiple endogenous indole derivatives and regulates immune responses, stem cell maintenance, and cellular differentiation. Using synthetic agonists and antagonists, the aim of this project is to define the role of AhR in skin inflammation and skin inflammatory diseases like psoriasis.

The research group
Prof. Michel Gilliet’s group has focused on the understanding of mechanisms that initiate and maintain inflammation in the skin. Over the past 15 years, our research has contributed to the field by several important discoveries:

We identified a new inflammatory pathway of the skin based on the dermal infiltration by plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) and their activation to produce type I IFNs that is over-activated in psoriasis and lupus, where it drives chronic inflammation and disease initiation. This pathway is also activated in injured skin, but it is self-limited, providing a well-controlled initial inflammatory stimulus that promotes the wound healing response.

We have identified the factors that activate skin pDC and uncovered a fundamental function of cationic antimicrobial peptides (AMP) in the sensing of microbiota-derived nucleic acids released by AMP-killed commensal bacteria.

We discovered that some antimicrobial peptides including LL37 and Lysozyme not only trigger innate immune activation but also act as epidermal autoantigens targeted by autoimmune T cells in psoriasis. These AMP-specific autoimmune T cells produce Th17 cytokines which, on one hand, elicit the psoriatic phenotype and, on the other hand, sustain the antimicrobial peptide expression by keratinocytes, providing a feedback loop that perpetuates skin inflammation in psoriasis.

In Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), we demonstrated that circulating immune complexes are also composed of nucleic acid-antimicrobial peptide complexes. These pathogenic complexes originate from neutrophils undergoing extracellular traps (NET) formation leading to an exaggerated type I IFN production by pDC and the activation of autoimmune B cells producing antibodies directed against antimicrobial peptides.

The following profile is required for the successful candidate:

  • Master degree in immunology, biology, biomedical sciences, biochemistry or a related discipline.
  • Highly-motivated
  • Strong background in immunology and/or animal experimentation
  • Ability to work independently as well as in a team
  • Good English communication and writing skills

What we have to offer

  • A challenging research project with prospects of high impact publications
  • A dynamic multi-cultural scientific environment with interdisciplinary interactions and scientific meetings
  • State of the art research facilities with spacious laboratories, cutting-edge technologies and expertise as well as large animal facilities and access to clinical samples


Prof. Caroline Arber

Department of oncology UNIL CHUV

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research



PhD candidate position: Immuno-Oncology and T cell engineering


The laboratory “Targeted immunotherapies for hematologic malignancies” headed by Prof. Caroline Arber ( is recruiting a PhD student for a project developing engineered T cell therapies for acute myeloid leukemia.


Your missions:

You are a PhD candidate interested in the development and investigation of cutting-edge T cell engineering strategies with the goal to develop a novel approach for safe targeting of acute myeloid leukemia. You will build upon previous work performed in our laboratory that include chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) based recognition of leukemia associated antigens, combined with CRISPR based genome editing to generate an off-the shelf cellular therapy product. The project includes work with human cells from healthy donors and patients, tissue culture, flow cytometry, microscopy, molecular cloning, molecular biology, gene expression analysis and collaboration with bioinformaticians. The candidate will also assess the in vivo antitumor function of the engineered T cells in mouse models. Techniques used include in vivo bioluminescent imaging and assessment of anti-tumor response by imaging, flow cytometry and histology at specific time-points during the experiment.


Your profile:

The successful PhD candidate should be a highly motivated person ready to engage in this project, show good team spirit, be willing to invest energy in the setting up/ trouble shooting and optimization of novel culture systems, actively collaborate with experimentalists and bioinformaticians in the Department, and develop independent thinking to further advance and develop the project. Good oral and written communication skills in English are essential.


We offer:

The Department of oncology UNIL-CHUV brings basic, pre-clinical and translational clinical research together in a spirit of innovation. It includes the services of immune-oncology, hematology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and the Center for Experimental Therapeutics (CTE). It is also integrating the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) Lausanne Branch, that has an ambitious cancer research program in the field of immunotherapy. The PhD program offers a vibrant community in the fields of cancer and immunology at large, and the possibility to establish new collaborations. We are also an active member of the Swiss Cancer Center Leman.




Genrich Tolstonog

Head & Neck Cancer Research Laboratory
Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, CHUV

Centre de recherche AGORA
Rue du Bugnon 25A, CH-1011 Lausanne

Position: PhD-student exploring clonal mechanisms of therapy failures in head and neck cancer

Location: Centre de recherche AGORA

Field: head and neck cancer, cancer genetics, evolutionary dynamics of cancer

Project synopsis: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a deadly cancer that originates from the epithelium of the upper aero-digestive tract. Treatment failure associated with local progression of cancer is one of the main causes of patient death. We assume that failures to control cancer at local sites in patients who underwent resection of primary tumor could be caused by distinct cancer cell lineages locally persisting through active dissemination via stromal and lymphatic invasion at the tumor borders and developing into recurrent tumors after adjuvant therapy. To explore clonal mechanisms underlying development of local recurrences and establish more efficient therapies, we take advantage of preclinical models of human HNSCC, which clonal dynamics we study under application of the standard-of-care and experimental therapies using leading-edge tools such as cellular barcoding and CRISPR-Cas9 screening. The ultimate goal is to discover targetable vulnerabilities in treatment-related clonal evolution of HNSCC, thus contributing to improved cure rates in patients with HNSCC.

The Tolstonog research group: The cancer research laboratory at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery (Chief: Prof. Christian Simon) is a part of the Personalised Cancer Prevention Research Unit (Director: Prof. Gian-Paolo Dotto). The laboratory conducts basic and preclinical research of head and neck cancer at national and international levels and supports clinical research with the dedicated technologies and research infrastructure. Dr. Genrich Tolstonog’s team investigates clonal mechanisms of postsurgical local recurrences in head and neck cancer using cutting-edge technologies (Cell Rep., 2018) and orthotopic models (Int. J. Cancer, 2018, Clin. Cancer Res., 2021).

Your profile:

  • Master degree in biomedical sciences or a related biology discipline
  • Strong background in cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics
  • Willingness to work with murine models and human samples
  • Practical knowledge of programming skills using R is an advantage
  • Highly motivated, creative, and well-organized team player with good English communication and writing skills

We offer:

The successful candidate will join a highly dynamic interdisciplinary research environment, get access to institutional core facilities and cutting-edge technologies, and benefit from seminar programs, opportunities for conference attendance and collaborations with academic and clinical researchers.

Ch. des Boveresses 155 - CP 51 - CH-1066 Epalinges
Tel. +41 21 692 57 00
Fax +41 21 692 57 05