The ImmunoSensation Cluster of Excellence places strong emphasis on the support of early careers and gender equality. Our four-layered Promotion Concept for graduate students, post docs, young investigators and group leaders will be supported by our special funding program and will provide exciting new career opportunities that will be further shaped through interactions with our local and international partners.



The Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2 is inviting applications for

PhD student positions (m/f/d) (65%)

at the Bonn Graduate School of Immunosciences and Infection.
Positions are initially limited to three years with the possibility of extension.

ImmunoSensation2 is a Cluster of Excellence funded by Germany’s Excellence Strategy at the University of Bonn. Participating scientists are dedicated to investigating innate immunity beyond the boundaries of classical immunology.
In a joint effort, immunologists, neurobiologists, systems biologists and mathematicians of the University of Bonn and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) of the Helmholtz Association aim to connect the status of the immune system, the metabolism and the nervous system to disease states. ImmunoSensation2 is embedded into the outstanding research environment of the University of Bonn, the University Hospital and the DZNE. Furthermore, ImmunoSensation2 is internationally connected and maintains research partnerships with Australia (Melbourne University), Japan (Osaka University, Waseda University, Kyoto University) and the Netherlands (Radboud University, Nijmegen).
Students will have the opportunity to receive additional financial support to participate in an official student exchange program (3 to 6 months) with selected principal investigators at these partner universities.

PhD students will be admitted to the Bonn International Graduate School Immunosciences and Infection. In this structured PhD program, students gain experience with state-of-the-art technologies and become part of a vibrant scientific network and an internationally competitive scientific training program.

The ideal candidate will be highly motivated and team-oriented with a strong interest in immunology, a first-class academic degree in a life science-related discipline (Master’s degree or equivalent), a strong background in molecular biomedicine, molecular biology, biochemistry or cell biology and enthusiasm for working in the highly-competitive field of innate immunity research. Candidates should have strong communicative skills (fluent spoken and written English) since these are necessary for work in an international research landscape.

We offer:

  • The salary will be according to the German salary scale TV-L (EG 13)
  • A “Jobticket” (subsidized public transport) is available
  • There is also a possibility to use the day care center
  • Supplementary benefits in the public sector (pension plan according to VBL)

The University of Bonn is committed to diversity and equal opportunity. It is certified as a familyfriendly university. It aims to increase the proportion of women in areas where women are under-represented and to promote their careers in particular. It therefore urges women with relevant qualifications to apply. Applications will be handled in accordance with the Landesgleichstellungsgesetz (State Equality Act). Applications from suitable individuals with a certified serious disability and those of equal status are particularly welcome.

Applicants should send their application in a single pdf file (max. 5 MB) including motivation letter, CV, scanned academic degrees, list of publications and the contact details of two references.
More detailed information will be provided during the recruitment process. Successful candidates will begin on July 1, 2019 or later.
Please send your application by email using the reference number 192_2019 to the Cluster Coordination Office within two weeks of publication to

Dr. rer. nat. Catherine Drescher
Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2
University Hospital Bonn
Sigmund-Freud-Str. 25
53127 Bonn
Phone: +49 (0)228/287-51286
Email: catherine.drescher(at)

Scientific Projects and Project Leaders


Dr. Janine Becker-Gotot, Institute of Experimental Immunology (IEI), Group of Prof. Kurts

Effective vaccines against intracellular pathogens or tumors should induce strong and durable T cell responses. In cooperation with Dr. Heine, we develop novel vaccination strategies aiming to improve anti-tumor immune responses. Furthermore, we analyze the impact of the tumor microenvironment and the influence of regulatory cell types. The candidate will establish pre-clinical solid and metatasis tumor models, analyze tumor-infiltrating immune cells and identify mechanisms that can improve anti-tumor immune responses. The immunmodulatory research group is part of the Immunosensation Cluster, is located within the Institute of Experimental Immunology (IEI; head Prof. Dr. C. Kurts) and mainly focused on regulatory cell populations. It is a young, dynamic research group offering state-of-the-art research, a highly interactive and stimulating environment and a very close connection to the clinic.


Dr. Annkristin Heine, Institute of Experimental Immunology (IEI), Group of Prof. Kurts

Effective vaccines against intracellular pathogens or tumors should induce strong and durable T cell responses. We develop novel vaccination strategies that aim to improve anti-tumor immune responses. Furthermore, we identify mechanisms of therapy resistance, analyze the impact of the tumor microenvironment and the influence of chemokines. The candidate will establish different pre-clinical tumor models, analyze tumor-infiltrating immune cells and identify mechanisms that can improve anti-tumor immune responses. The clinical translational research group "Immunotherapy" is part of the Immunosensation Cluster and is located within the Institute of Experimental Immunology (IEI; head Prof. Dr. C. Kurts) and the Medical Clinic III for Oncology, Hematology and Rheumatology (head Prof. Dr. P. Brossart). It is a young, dynamic research group offering state-of-the-art research, a highly interactive and stimulating environment and a very close connection to the clinic.


Dr. Christina Ising, DZNE - German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Group of Prof. Heneka - Neuroinflammation

The research group is interested in understanding neuroinflammatory processes during the development and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we focus mainly on diseases with tau pathology such as Alzheimer’s disease and fronto-temporal dementia. We investigate the cellular mechanisms underlying the interaction of microglia, astrocytes and neurons and the role microglia play in resolving extracellular and intracellular pathologies in neurodegenerative disorders.
The project will focus on the effects microglia in general and the NLRP3 inflammasome in particular have on pathological tau phosphorylation and aggregation in the adult mouse brain. Combining surgical methods with genetic tools to manipulate microglia, the successful candidate will investigate how microglia participate in spreading of tau pathology from neuron to neuron. This will include an in-depth analysis of mouse tissue samples by methods such as Western Blots and immunohistochemical stainings but will also involve in vitro work with primary cell cultures as well as established cell lines.


Prof. Waldemar Kolanus und Dr. Thomas Quast, LIMES Institute

Directional motility is a prerequisite for the functioning of most immune cells, e.g. neutrophils, dendritic cells, T cells and monocytes. It is generally thought that gradients of chemoattractants (e.g. chemokines, but also small molecules such as nucleotides) guide the recruitment into organs and the in vivo positioning of such cell types. However, it is incompletely understood how cells sense and respond to such stimuli. In recent years, we have engaged in setting up high-end microscopy- and microfluidics-based techniques to visualize and analyse migratory cell behaviour quantitatively. This led us to the discovery that immune cells can use both spatial and temporal ("memory"-based) sensing modes of chemokine gradient recognition and the current project will engage in identifying the respective underlying molecular machineries. In the course of this, we will also use optogenetics tools and biosensors to visualize intracellular signalling events such as calcium mobilization and cAMP production.

Scientific Projects and Project Leaders


Prof. Irmgard Förster, LIMES Institute Bonn

Importance of chemosensing receptors for intestinal immune homeostasis
The intestinal immune system represents the largest reservoir of immune cells in the body and is constantly exposed to antigenic challenges via dietary constituents, commensals and pathogens. Besides protein antigens, lipids and fibre, low molecular weight metabolites and environmental or food-derived chemicals exert important influences on the regulation of immunity. Such chemicals are recognized by various types of chemosensing receptors, such as the ligand-activated transcription factor Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), G-protein coupled receptors and nuclear hormone receptors. We are specifically interested in the function of the AhR and its regulator AhR repressor (AhRR), as well as gpr84, that both share the ligand 3,3'-diindolylmethane, a derivative of glucobrassicin found in green vegetables. In addition, the AhR, pregnane X receptor (PXR) and constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) appear to cross-regulate each other and thereby may jointly regulate immune functions in the intestine. The project will involve the generation of multi-gene knockout mouse models using Crispr/Cas technology and the application of multi-color flow cytometry for immune phenotyping. In addition, we will perform dietary intervention studies, functional assessment of intestinal barrier function using colitis models, as well as studies on neuro-immune crosstalk. The impact of the chemosensing receptors on gene expression in immune cells will be investigated by global transcriptome and epigenetic analyses.


Prof. Veronika Lukacs-Kornek, Institute of Experimental Immunologie (IEI) 

Prof. Dr. Lukacs-Kornek and her team are focusing to determine the role and impact of stromal cells on immunregulation during priming in secondary lymphoid organs and within the tumor microenvironment. Stromal cell biology is an emerging field that investigates how these non-hematopoetic cells contribute to disease development. The PhD candidate will contribute in a research project that focuses on stroma-immune cell cross-talk in the tumor milieu. The applied techniques involve flow cytometry, working with in vivo animal models involving cell culture and confocal/intravital microscopy analyses. The candidate will learn various immunological assays to address the function of stromal cells and will use genomic analyses to address the various subpopulations within and outside of the tumor environment.


Prof. Katrin Paeschke, Medical Clinic III

The research group is interested in understanding the impact of secondary G-rich structures for immune response. In detail. In recent year it has been shown that G-rich regions can fold into G-quadruplex DNA or RNA structures. Due to their stability, location and evolutionary conservation these structures can influence DNA replication, transcription and DNA repair events. Due to their stability a tight regulation of G4 formation and unfolding is essential to preserve genome stability. In recent years it is clear that changes in genome stability have a huge impact on immune response. In the project, he/she will shed light on G4 mediated genome instability and how these structures are sensed by the immune pathway. He/She will use different genome wide, biochemical and molecular biological techniques in human tissue culture cells. See Paeschke et al 2011 Cell, Paeschke et al 2013 Nature, Wanzek et al 2017 NAR or Sauer Nat Comm 2019 for more information on the work in the Paeschke lab (


Prof. Alexander Pfeifer, Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Obesity has become a worldwide threat to the public health and efficient treatments are urgently needed. Obesity is characterized by an unhealthy increase in adipose tissue, due to hypertrophy and hyperplasia of adipocytes. In addition, during development of obesity inflammatory processes are involved as observed by massive influx of immune cells, e.g. myeloid cells, into adipose tissue. This inflammatory state of adipose tissue affects also other organs and results in obesity associated co-morbidities like insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (Sanyal et al., 2017). Two types of adipose tissue do exist, white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT) (Pfeifer and Hoffmann, 2015). Whereas WAT is mostly considered to be the main storage for body fat, BAT is characterized as specialized fat tissue that is able to dissipate energy as heat. This metabolically active adipose tissue has been discovered in adult humans and it is considered as an attractive target for developing anti-obesity therapies (Gnad et al., 2014). Brown-like fat cells were also identified within WAT and contribute to energy expenditure (Hoffmann et al., 2015; Mitschke et al., 2013). In obesity, BAT function is impaired and its phenotype switches to WAT. Within this project we would like to investigate the role of different immune cell subsets especially in BAT and WAT function and plasticity.


Dr. Florian Schmidt, Institute of Innate Immunity

The research group of Florian I. Schmidt seeks to uncover how the appropriate inflammatory response against pathogens and other signatures of danger is achieved at the cellular and molecular level. This requires exquisite sensitivity, but also measures to prevent false alarms and to downmodulate inflammatory responses.We have generated cellular biosensors to detect inflammasome and interferon responses and apply them to understand the inflammatory responses to viruses in a comparative manner, focusing on fundamental cellular processes rather than specific virus families. We have also begun to investigate cellular control mechanisms to contain or end inflammatory processes, which are to date only poorly understood.In order to gain novel insights, we heavily invest in novel technologies with a focus on strategies to manipulate cellular processes in human (primary) cells. To do so, we are in the process of developing a comprehensive collection of custom-made alpaca single domain antibodies (nanobodies or VHHs), which we will use to perturb, visualize and ultimately understand immunological signaling cascades in the responding cell types at endogenous protein levels.


Prof. Sven Wehner, Department of Surgery

Our group is interested in the contribution of peripheral neuroimmune pathways in the biology of intestinal and pancreatic disorders. Enteric glial cells, specialized cells of the enteric nervous system, have been identified by us and others to play an important immunomodulatory role in intestinal homeostasis. During inflammation, glial cells undergo phenotypical changes and can either promote or suppress inflammation. Importantly, increased numbers of glial cells have been observed in developing adenocarcinomas of the colon and pancreas, suggesting that these cells play a prominent role in tumor development and progression. The mechanisms of this are, however, poorly understood. In this PhD project we will investigate the role of glial cells in intestinal and pancreatic tumor formation. In vitro studies including cultures of primary glial cells and cancer cell lines and in vivo animal models of colon and pancreatic cancer will help us understand the role of glial cells in the biology of these diseases. Collaborations with international partners in Amsterdam will allow us to address the role of the microbiome in glial cell biology in homeostasis and cancer. The optimal candidate has an expertise in (primary) cell culture techniques and animal disease models. Further expertise in flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy are of advantage but not required. We offer a position in a growing international team of medical and basic scientists. A lab rotation to our Dutch collaborator (AMC, Amsterdam) can be part of the PhD training.


Prof. Christoph Wilhelm, Institue of Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology

The work is focused on understanding aspects of the dietary regulation of the immune system. In particular the project includes the investigation of how diets (e.g. ketogenic diets) and dietary components drive or prevent chronic inflammation and the metabolic pathways important for the activation of innate lymphoid cells (ILC) in heath and disease. The overall aim is to identify dietary interventions strategies to treat chronic inflammatory conditions such as asthma, inflammatory bowl disease or psoriasis. We seek for candidates with strong background in cellular immunology, molecular cell biology or biochemistry.