Welcome to the Dal Co lab. We are part of the Department of Computational Biology, and of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research for Microbiomes. Read about how to Join us!

We study how functionality arises in biological systems. Our group is interested in a variety of systems, from microbial communities to organs. We investigate principles that drive multicellular organization and function. We do single cell experiments with microbial communities and we collaborate with groups working on other multicellular systems. We build computational models to uncover how interactions between single cells drive collective behavior and function.

Our group is interested in microbial ecology. A first central question in our research is: Can we predict the dynamics of microbial systems if we know how the individual cells interact? We address this question with single-cell experiments and modeling. We measure how single cells interact inside microbial communities, often using microscopy and microfluidics. We model these communities as systems composed of parts - the cells - that interact in space. With these models, we elucidate how properties of microbial communities (e.g. collective metabolism, response to environmental fluctuations and stresses) arise from the interactions that we observe between the single cells.

Our group is interested in collective behaviour. A second central question in our research is: How are cells programmed to produce specific multicellular behaviour? This question applies to both multicellular microbial systems and multicellular organisms. Multicellular microbial systems and multicellular organisms may share general organisational principles. We use modeling to infer which physical and biological interactions between cells are required to achieve target collective behaviours. Our group combines machine learning approaches with single-cell experimental data to understand and engineer collective behaviour. We are excited to collaborate with experimental groups working on different systems.

We are interdisciplinary. We believe that connecting disciplines is crucial for understanding any system of a certain complexity. For example, the properties of a society -studied by social scientists- arise from the properties of its components, the individuals -studied by psychologists; the properties of an atom -studied by chemists- arise from the properties of its elementary components -studied by particle physicists. Connecting fields generally unlocks tremendous scientific potential. We connect disciplines to elucidate how complex biological systems function.

Join us.

Our group at the University of Lausanne, headed by Prof. Alma Dal Co, studies the dynamics and function of multicellular systems with modeling and experimental approaches. Candidates at all levels should have a good quantitative background. We greatly value curiosity, creativity, and drive to discover and learn new things.

Postdocs. We welcome fellowship-funded postdocs. Please contact us (alma.dalco@unil.ch) in advance of the relevant fellowship submission deadline. We are happy to discuss suitable projects and support you in the writing. Here you find a list of relevant fellowships:

PhD students. We do not have positions now, but positions will open in the future. You can contact us in advance if you are interested in joining us for your PhD (alma.dalco@unil.ch).

Master students. You can contact us directly via email (alma.dalco@unil.ch). Please write a short description of why you are interested in doing your master thesis in our group.

Projects are available in two major research areas:

Interactions in microbial communities. Microbial communities perform fundamental processes on Earth. Microbial communities in the soil and the sea cycle the elements, and microbial communities in our gut shape our health. The processes that these microbial communities perform arise from interactions between different species. Our goal is to uncover the network of interaction in these systems and understand how collective processes arise. We measure interactions with single-cell experimental techniques, including microscopy and microfluidics. We build mathematical models to elucidate how the activities of the single cells and their interactions drive community properties such as growth, response to environmental fluctuations and stresses. We have projects with synthetic and natural communities.

Programming collective behavior of cells. Cells have the intrinsic ability to self-organize into functional assemblies. A central question is how cells are programmed to grow into these functional assemblies. We model physical and biological interactions occurring in multicellular systems and use machine learning methods to uncover which cell-to-cell interactions lead to specific collective behaviour. We build our models on single-cell data in collaborations with experimental labs working on organs and tissues.

We offer an inspiring working environment with very competitive salaries. Our group fosters collaborative and interdisciplinary work. We offer great creative freedom and we provide opportunities for career and personal development. Switzerland offers high life-style and fantastic nature. Our lab strives to having members with a diversity of backgrounds and identities. We believe this diversity fosters creativity.


Short-range quorum sensing controls horizontal gene transfer at micron scale in bacterial communities

J. van Gestel*1, T. Bareia*1, B. Tenennbaum, A. Dal Co, P Guler, N. Aframian, S. Puyesky, I. Grinberg, G. D’Souza, Z.Erez, M. Ackermann, A. Eldar*

Nature Communications (2021)

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22649-4

Tracing cell trajectories in a biofilm

A. Dal Co & M. P. Brenner*

Science (2020)

DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1225

Short-range interactions govern cellular dynamics in microbial multi-genotype systems

A. Dal Co*, S. van Vliet, D. Kiviet, S. Schlegel & M. Ackermann

Nature Ecology and Evolution (2020)

DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-1080-2

Emergent microscale gradients give rise to metabolic cross-feeding and antibiotic tolerance in clonal bacterial populations

A. Dal Co*,1, S. van Vliet*,1 & M. Ackermann

Philos. Trans. of the Royal Society B (2019)

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0080

Metabolic activity affects response of single cells to a nutrient switch in structured populations

A. Dal Co*, M. Ackermann & S. van Vliet*

Journal of the Royal Society Interface (2019)

DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2019.0182

Metabolism: Division of labor in bacteria

A. Dal Co*, C. Brannon & M. Ackermann

eLife (2018)

DOI: 10.7554/eLife.38578

Local interactions lead to spatially correlated gene expression levels in bacterial groups

S. van Vliet*, A. Dal Co, A. R. Winkler, S. Spriewald, B. Stecher & M. Ackermann

Cell Systems (2018)

DOI: 10.1016/j.cels.2018.03.009

Cell-to-cell variation and specialization in sugar metabolism in clonal bacterial populations

N. Nikolic*, F. Schreiber, A. Dal Co, D.J. Kiviet, T. Bergmiller, S. Littmann, M. Kuypers & M. Ackermann

PLOS Genetics (2017)

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007122

High-avidity IgA protects the intestine by enchaining growing bacteria

K. Moor, M. Diard, M.E. Sellin, B. Felmy, S.Y. Wotzka, A. Toska, E. Bakkeren, M. Arnoldini, F. Bansept, A. Dal Co, T.Völler, A. Minola, B. Fernandez-Rodriguez, G. Agatic, S. Barbieri, L. Piccoli, C. Casiraghi, D. Corti, A. Lanzavecchia, R.R. Regoes, C. Loverdo, R. Stocker, D.R. Brumley*, W.D. Hardt* & E. Slack*

Nature (2017)

DOI: 10.1038/nature22058

Stochastic timing in gene expression for simple regulatory strategies

A. Dal Co, M. C. Lagomarsino, M. Caselle & M. Osella*

Nucleic Acids Research (2017)

DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkw1235

* corresponding author, 1 equal contributions


University of Lausanne
Department of Computational Biology
Office 1015.1
Genopode building
1015 Lausanne


Short CV
Since 09.2021 Assistant professor, University of Lausanne
2019-21 Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, group of Michael Brenner
2014-19 PhD in Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, group of Martin Ackermann
2012-14 M.Sc. Physics of Complex Systems, University of Turin
2008-11 B.Sc. Physics, University of Padua
2002-12 Piano Master Degree, Conservatory of Venice