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Korea-Tübingen PhD Program: Project 15/2024: PhD Project Title: Role of selective free fatty acid transport in insulin resistance and development of type-2 diabetes

Topic Description: Exposure to increased saturated free fatty acid (FFA) levels in vivo or in vitro is associated with endoplasmic reticulum stress, inflammation and oxidative stress which lead to insulin resistance. Unsaturated FFAs have beneficial effects and even prevent the insulin resistance induced by saturated FFAs. In this study, we will investigate the molecular players that enhance unsaturated FFA uptake. Moreover, we aim to differentiate FFA processing in insulin sensitive and insulin resistant human adipocytes using stable isotope labelling, followed by lipidomics analysis. Complementary transcriptomics experiments will be performed to assess gene expression changes upon FFA treatment. These experiments will establish novel pathways that selectively uptake/utilize unsaturated FFAs and identify lipidomic/transcriptomic signature that is responsible for insulin resistance in adipocytes.

Faculty: Faculty of Medicine
Institute/Section/Subject: Internal Med IV/ Institute of Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases

Supervising Professor(s): Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Birkenfeld, Dr Gencer Sancar

About the Supervisor(s): Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Birkenfeld is the director of Clinic for Diabetology, Endocrinology and Nephrology at University Clinic Tübingen and Dr. Gencer Sancar is the Junior Group Leader focusing on the role of adipose tissue in insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. Our research group is interested in molecular and physiological pathways involved in insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. We study different plasma membrane transporters as targets for therapeutic interventions in type-2 diabetes, obesity, and associated metabolic comorbidities. We are particularly curious how liver and adipose tissue communicate in the context of metabolic disease processes. Further information on the lab can be found at: https://www.helmholtz-munich.de/en/idm;
https://www.medizin.uni-tuebingen.de/de/das-klinikum/mitarbeiter/1979

Requirements for the application:
Required Degrees: MSc in Biology or related discipline (e.g. Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering)
Language Requirements: English (IELTS 6,5 or TOEFL equivalent)
Notes: Looking for highly motivated candidates interested in metabolism and type-2 diabetes. The candidate could expect a highly supportive environment for his/her scientific development.

For further instructions on how to apply, more information on the program and contact details please see below.
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Korea-Tübingen PhD Program
The University of Tübingen have established a PhD Program which supports Korean nationals from partner Universities wishing to carry out all or part of their PhD study in Tübingen.

  • Cheju National University
  • Chonbuk National University
  • Chungnam National University
  • Ewha Womans University
  • Hanyang University
  • Korea University
  • Pusan National University
  • Seoul National University
  • Sogang University
  • Sookmyung Women's University
  • Sungkyunkwan University
  • Yonsei University


  • Aims:
    • providing high quality research training to qualified students from Korean universities
    • developing education and research collaborations between the University of Tübingen and Korean universities and research institutions

    Target group:
    Excellent postgraduate and doctoral students from Korean partner universities who are citizens and permanent residents of the Republic of Korea at the time of application

    Application Process:
    • June 30: Application deadline. Applications must be handed in through the online application system of the University of Tübingen
    • between July 4 and 7: round of interviews in English
    • by July 30: Successful applicants will be officially informed and provided letters of admission.
    • by Oct 1: Program participants arrive in Tübingen

    • How to Apply:
      In order to apply you need to upload the following documents combined in 1 PDF
      • Cover/Motivation letter with the description of academic characteristics that qualify you to complete the PhD project successfully
      • CV
      • Academic transcripts*
      • Proof of proficient English language skills - TOEFL iBT 95 or IELTS 6.5 or equivalent

      *List of required Academic transcripts (including official translation into German or English for documents issued in Korean)
      1) Bachelor’s Degree Award Certificate / Bachelor Gradverleihungsurkunde
      2) Transcript of the subjects and marks / Fächer- und Notenübersicht for your Bachelor’s degree/ für das Bachelorstudium
      3) Master’s Degree Award Certificate / Master-Gradverleihungsurkunde
      4) Transcript of the subjects and marks for your Master’s Degree / Fächer- und Notenübersicht für das Masterstudium


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