PhD Position Emergent Mechanics of Entangled Active Polymer-like Matter

PhD Position Emergent Mechanics of Entangled Active Polymer-like Matter

Published Deadline Location
17 May 15 Jul Amsterdam

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Job description

Are you a highly motivated physicist with a strong interest in soft active matter and statistical mechanics? We are seeking an excellent and ambitious PhD candidate to carry out interdisciplinary research on mechanical properties of active polymer-like matter which combines experiments and simulations.

A grand challenge in active matter physics is to understand the beautiful yet complex collective phenomena emerging in large social assemblies, such as in ant rafts, fish schools, bird flocks, human crowds, and swarms of robots. The interplay between self-drive (activity) and interactions of constituents leads to novel collective properties with no counterparts in equilibrium systems. Despite encouraging theoretical advances, understanding the emergent collective properties of realistic active systems beyond toy models remains challenging. For instance, some types of worms and ants with flexible bodies form entangled aggregates that cannot be explained without invoking their internal dynamics. Here, we propose a joint experimental-theoretical research project that aims at understanding this novel aspect of active matter by addressing the following question:

What novel mechanical properties emerge from the interplay between activity, internal dynamics and topological entanglements in dense active polymer-like matter?

This project will be carried out in a collaborative setting under joint supervision of Dr. Sara Jabbari-Farouji and Dr. Antoine Deblais at the Institute of Physics (IoP), comprised of an exciting team of researchers with a strong emphasis on a feedback loop between experiment and theory. Building on computational and experimental expertise in our groups, you will combine coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations with rheology of worms to uncover the effect of activity on the mechanical properties of entangled active polymer-like matter.

What are you going to do?
You are expected to do an original and fundamental research on collective behavior of active polymers combining computational and experimental work.

You will:
  • Perform Brownian dynamics of active filaments potentially combined with theory.
  • Design, use and built non-standard experiments to investigate the mechanics of living Tubifex tubifex worms under various conditions.
  • Attend group meetings and present your results in seminars.
  • Present your results in international workshops and conferences.
  • Take part in the teaching efforts, including supervision of Bachelor and Master students.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


You have:
  • a creative, curious, and self-driven nature with an interest in interdisciplinary projects;
  • A MSc degree in science, preferably in physics, or a closely related discipline
  • a strong background in physics and/or computational science;
  • good programming skills;
  • an eagerness and capability to learn new techniques and to combine numerical simulations, theory, and experiments
  • excellent written and oral communication skills in English.
  • good time management skills and take charged of your PhD project
  • Team spirit to collaborate with other lab members

Other skills, experiences, and documents that would benefit your application:
  • A strong background in statistical physics
  • Previous experience in Soft Active Matter Physics or Mechanics (rheology).
  • Some experience with data analysis
  • demonstrated experience with programming and modelling software (Python, LAMMPS, Hoomd-blue, etc.).
  • scientific publications if applicable.

Conditions of employment

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). The preferred starting date is as soon as possible. This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.

The gross monthly salary, based on 38 hours per week and dependent on relevant experience, ranges between € 2,541 to € 3,247 (scale P). This does not include 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% year-end allowance. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Universities of the Netherlands is applicable.

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at Science Park we offer you multiple fringe benefits:
  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime) and extra holidays between Christmas and 1 January;
  • multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;
  • a complete educational program for PhD students;
  • multiple courses on topics such as leadership for academic staff;
  • multiple courses on topics such as time management, handling stress and an online learning platform with 100+ different courses;
  • 7 weeks birth leave (partner leave) with 100% salary;
  • partly paid parental leave;
  • the possibility to set up a workplace at home;
  • a pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;
  • the possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;
  • help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you’re moving from abroad.

Are you curious to read more about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits, take a look here.


Faculty of Science

The University of Amsterdam is the Netherlands' largest university, offering the widest range of academic programmes. At the UvA, 30,000 students, 6,000 staff members and 3,000 PhD candidates study and work in a diverse range of fields, connected by a culture of curiosity.

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 8,000, as well as 1,800 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

This PhD project will be carried out in both the labs of dr. Antoine Deblais in the Soft Matter group and the Computational Soft Matter Group of dr. Sara Jabbari-Farouji. Both groups are part of the Institute of Physics of the University of Amsterdam. Our laboratories focus on soft active systems, and benefit from an exceptional scientific environment of interdisciplinary collaborators. The Institute of Physics is part of the Faculty of Science.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. €2541 per month
  • University graduate
  • 11395


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Science Park 904, 1098XH, Amsterdam

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