Internship projects

Here you can find the project details of the 2024 International Summer Internships at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. For questions about the internships, please have a look at our application guide and FAQ. If you have questions regarding the project description and the scientific aspects of the internships, please contact us.

Project 1: Neutrophil extracellular traps versus bacteria


Zychlinsky Lab (Cellular Microbiology)

Welcome to our lab: the Department of Cellular Microbiology at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology! Our research is focused on immune cells called neutrophils, and their anti-microbial structures known as Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs). NETs are web-like extru-sions that are designed to intercept and neutralize microbial invaders. However, it turns out that microbes are able to counteract NETs and evade destruction. In this project, we have iden-tified uncharacterized bacterial genes that mediate this host-pathogen interaction.

As an intern, your primary objective will be to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying this recently discovered system. Your role will entail the use of primary immune cells with pathogenic human bacteria, as well as a diverse array of advanced molecular techniques.

Skills required:

  • Experience working with bacteria
  • Good understanding of molecular techniques (e.g. cloning, PCR, DNA and protein gels)
Project 2: Dry season malaria reservoir: Analysis of parasite diversity and host immune response


Portugal Lab (Malaria Parasite Biology)

In our lab, at the Max Institute for Infection Biology, we focus on understanding how malaria parasites persist in asymptomatic children during the dry season. We combine experimental methods and epidemiological analyses to study host and parasite factors that contribute to Plasmodium falciparum silent carriage in children during the 6-month dry season in Mali, and how parasite transmission resumes when mosquito vectors return. We are particularly interest-ed in the genetic diversity and antigenic variation of persisting P. falciparum parasites and the host immune response controlling the number of parasites below the clinical radar.

As an intern, you will work on a novel sample set capturing P. falciparum’s longitudinal persistence from the wet to the dry season. You will learn techniques for processing and handling dried blood spots on filter paper, frozen RBC pellets and plasma samples, linking environmen-tal change throughout the year with infection length and P. falciparum-specific immune responses.

Skills required (ideally):

  • Cell culture
  • Molecular biology techniques
  • Flow cytometry
  • Basic bioinformatics
Project 3: Assessing the reliability of observational study designs for inferring the effectiveness of vaccines


Domenech de Cellès Lab (Infectious Disease Epidemiology)

In our lab, the Max Planck Research Group Infectious Disease Epidemiology, we use various statistical and mathematical modeling tools to study the effect of vaccines in human popula-tions. Specifically, we aim to identify the individual-level mechanisms of protection conferred by vaccines (1), to estimate their population-level impact (2), and to design new immunization strategies (3).

As an intern, you will develop a project to assess how reliably observational study designs can infer the effectiveness of vaccines. Such designs—such as the screening method or the test-negative design—have become increasingly popular to estimate the effectiveness of vaccines from observational data. However, a better theoretical understanding of these methods is re-quired, particularly for assessing their potential bias. To address this research question, you will run numerical experiments combining simulations from mathematical models of infectious diseases and estimations from statistical regression models.

Skills required:

  • Solid foundation in mathematics and statistics, particularly dynamical systems and regression modeling
  • Good programming skills, ideally in R
  • Strong interest in infectious disease epidemiology and vaccines
  • Fluency in English


1. Domenech de Cellès M, Magpantay FMG, King AA, Rohani P. The impact of past vaccina-tion coverage and immunity on pertussis resurgence. Sci Transl Med. 2018 Mar 28;10(434). Available from:

2. Wong A, Kramer SC, Piccininni M, Rohmann JL, Kurth T, Escolano S, et al. Using LASSO Regression to Estimate the Population-Level Impact of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vac-cines. Am J Epidemiol. 2023 Jul 7;192(7):1166–80. Available from:

3. Domenech de Cellès M, Barrero Guevara LA, Escolano S, Goult E. Estimating the Optimal Age of Measles Vaccination in Infants: A Mathematical Modelling Study. 2022 [cited 2023 Sep 18]. Available from:

Go to Editor View