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24 Jan 14 Feb Amsterdam

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Are you looking for a PhD position in a cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research field with connections to industry? Do you have a keen interest in single-molecule biophysics, optical microscopy, and applications in DNA and chromosome research?

Job description

Within the research group Physics of Living Systems we have pioneered the development of single-molecule tools that allow simultaneous manipulation and visualization of biomolecules such as DNA and chromosomes. To strengthen our team we are looking for a motivated PhD candidate to further develop, design, implement and apply key innovation to these fluorescence-based nanoscopic imaging systems. This will include both the development of new hardware and data analysis tools, as well as the application of these new tools to biophysical problems. Your primary base will be at VU in Amsterdam, but the project is a close collaboration with TU Delft and LUMICKS b.v. (Amsterdam). Within the framework of the project there will be ample freedom to explore and pursue your own ideas and directions. As part of this position, you will have the opportunity to present your findings at national and international conferences and contribute to scientific publications. The goal is that your research efforts will result in a dissertation leading to a PhD degree by the end of the 4-year project.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


  • an M.Sc. degree in (applied) physics, engineering, or a related field,
  • experience with optics and imaging, data analysis and computer programming (Python, Matlab, etc.) using complex scientific instrumentation (e.g. during an internship or your Master's thesis)
  • interest in biophysical, biological or biomedical applications
  • effective communication skills in English, both spoken and written
  • strong commitment to collaborate with scientists from different labs and institutions

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

We realise that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:
  • a salary of € 2.770,00 (PhD) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD) gross per month in the fourth year, for a full-time employment
  • an employment contract of initially 1 year. If there is sufficient perspective, this will be extended to a total of 4 years. Your dissertation at the end of the fourth year forms the end of your employment contract.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and arrangements. Some examples:
  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • space for personal development


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

About the department, research section, project

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at VU Amsterdam offers an active and engaged intellectual community composed of researchers from around the world. Research is focused on four themes: (i) high-energy and gravitational physics, (ii) quantum metrology and laser applications, (iii) physics of life and health, and (iv) physics of photosynthesis and energy. The department is involved in teaching in the programs Physics and Astronomy (joint degree with the University of Amsterdam), Science Business and Innovation, Medical Natural Sciences (all three BSc and MSc), and the BSc program in Mechanical Engineering (together with the University of Twente). Furthermore, the department has a strong track record in the valorization of its research, including translational research to the clinic (often together with the Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc (on campus), and location AMC), collaborations with industry (e.g. ARCNL), and a thriving startup scene.

Within the research section Physics of Living Systems at this department, we (Peterman, Wuite & Heller) have pioneered the development of single-molecule tools that allow simultaneous manipulation and visualization of biomolecules such as DNA and chromosomes. We apply these unique tools, which combine optical tweezers and fluorescence microscopy, to shed light on essential life processes such as DNA replication, transcription, repair and compaction, and chromosome mechanical properties.

The current PhD project is part of the NWO-TTW-funded Perspectief program “3D Nanoscale Imaging”. We will work together with VU spin-off company LUMICKS b.v. and imaging physicists at TU Delft (Stallinga, Smith and Rieger) to improve the nanoscale imaging capabilities of our microscopes. Our focus is on extracting multimodal information (e.g. location, proximity, colour, polarisation) at the single-molecule level with the highest possible spatial and temporal resolution, even under high background signal conditions. We will use these improved tools to study DNA and chromosome mechanics.

Faculty of Science
Researchers and students at VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science tackle fundamental and complex scientific problems to help pave the way for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, and from molecules to the moon: we cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. Our teaching and research have a strong experimentally technical, computational and interdisciplinary nature.

We work on new solutions guided by value-driven, interdisciplinary methodologies. We are committed to research, valorisation and training socially engaged citizens of the world who will make valuable contributions to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you interested in joining the Faculty of Science? You will join undergraduate students, PhD candidates and researchers at the biggest sciences faculty in the Netherlands. You will combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working climate, characterised by committed staff, a pragmatic attitude and engagement in the larger whole. The faculty is home to over 11,000 students enrolled in 40 study programmes. It employs over 1,600 professionals spread across 10 academic departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. Learn more about our codes of conduct

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.

Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3650


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1085, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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