Open MSc position: Modeling the impact of astrocyte-neuron metabolic interactions on neural activity.
The group of Prof Bruno Weber (University of Zurich, Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology) is looking for a talented and motivated Masters student for a computational neuroscience project aimed at understanding the energetic constraints of neuronal activity

The brain uses glucose as its primary energy substrate. Surprisingly however, neurons use lactate – a glucose derivative – rather than glucose has their main energy fuel. Lactate is being produced in astrocytes from blood-borne glucose and is then shuttled to neurons instantiating a metabolic connection between astrocytes and neurons. Since this mechanism was originally postulated in 1994, its existence has been the subject of a much heated controversy. We have recently demonstrated using mathematical analysis that this lactate shuttle does take place in vivo, is of significant importance and is regulated by the activity of excitatory neurons as originally postulated. This leaves open the question as to why brain energetic is organized in this fashion. This question is being addressed in the group at the moment using a combination of in vivo experiments and modeling. With this project, we wish to open a new line of research focusing on the role of this lactate shuttle in the regulation of neuronal activity, a mechanism recently described in vitro.
The project will consist of developing, simulating and analyzing a network model containing different neuronal and astrocytic subpopulations. Energetic constraints and regulatory mechanisms will be integrated in the network by progressively increasing the complexity of astrocyte–neuron metabolic interactions.
This project will make use of the newly developed Brian simulation tool ( and will be run in collaboration with Dr Romain Brette at Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris who developed Brian.
- Strong theoretical background (mathematics, physics or equivalent).
- Knowledge of the Python programming language, MATLAB an asset.
- Basic knowledge of biology and neuroscience.
- Interested in combining theoretical tools with in vivo experiments to address key questions in neuroscience.
- Fluent in English.
Please contact Dr Renaud Jolivet by e-mail at or by phone at +41 44 255 3632. Further information about the group can be found at

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