PhD Position in Synthetic Biology

PhD Position in Synthetic Biology

Published Deadline Location
11 Apr 6 May Wageningen

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Job description

Have you ever thought about the questions, “What is life?” and “Can we create life-like systems?”. Are you excited about the prospect of building artificial entities, using basic molecular components, that can mimic vital characteristics of living systems and have further biotechnological potential? Are you a creative thinker, eager to tackle an exciting synthetic biology project using state-of-the-art facilities in a multidisciplinary and a collaborative department? If so, this might be the perfect PhD position for you!

What will you do?
  • develop and characterize phase-separating peptides aimed at achieving multi-compartmentalization within cell-mimicking vesicles;
  • use and design on-chip microfluidic systems for vesicle production and controlled experimentation;
  • perform fluorescence (confocal) microscopy and image analysis to study process dynamics;
  • utilize physical chemistry techniques (scattering, AFM, spectroscopy, etc.) to complement the microscopy and lab-on-a-chip research;
  • get involved in collaborative synthetic cell-related research with other consortium members.

Project description
Living cells exhibit extensive sub-compartmentalization to regulate and communicate between thousands of interconnected biochemical reactions taking place within the cytoplasm. Along with well-known membrane-bound compartments, phase-separated membraneless organelles have been identified in recent years to play an equally important role in these processes. In this project, we will utilize coacervate-based strategy to form communicative membraneless compartments within cell-mimicking vesicles, with each of the compartments acting as distinct functional biochemical units. Being able to maintain distinct reaction hubs within vesicles will constitute an important step towards building intracellular communication networks. We will use a bioengineering approach, applying our microfluidic and protein engineering toolbox to design scalable multi-compartmentalization capable of organizing the intracellular reaction networks and pave a path towards complex synthetic cells.

This PhD position is part of a larger European consortium, SIGSYNCELL. This is a doctoral network funded by the European Commission via Marie-Sklodowska Curie Actions (MSCA), whose goal is training through research. It is a consortium that brings together a dozen European academic partners, in addition to private companies, coordinated by the CNRS in Bordeaux, France. SYGSYNCELL partners include CNRS (F), AMOLF (NL), University of Muenster (DE), University of Ljubjiana (SI), University of Granada (ES), Wageningen University (NL), Ruprecht-Karls-Universitaet Heidelberg (DE), and Imperial College London (UK).


Wageningen University & Research


  • you have an MSc degree (or equivalent) in biophysics, soft matter, nanotechnology, physical chemistry, or a related field;
  • you have a strong affinity for interdisciplinary research and the capacity to dive into unexplored areas;
  • prior experience in microfluidics, protein synthesis, image analysis, or programming and coding is a plus;
  • you are capable of working independently but are also a good team player;
  • you have good communication and presentation skills.

For this position your command of the English language is expected to be at C1 level. Sometimes it is necessary to submit an internationally recognised Certificate of Proficiency in the English Language. More information can be found here.

Mobility conditions
  • MSCA networks require that applicants must not have studied/worked in the host country for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the position’s start date;
  • the individual scientific projects are planned within one of the partner Host Institutions and every Doctoral candidate will spend a part of their doctoral studies in another consortium laboratory (a maximum of 12 months of their 36-month PhD).

Conditions of employment

Wageningen University & Research offers excellent terms of employment. A few highlights from our Collective Labour Agreement include:
  • partially paid parental leave;
  • working hours that can be discussed and arranged so that they allow for the best possible work-life balance;
  • the option to accrue additional compensation / holiday hours by working more, up to 40 hours per week;
  • there is a strong focus on vitality and you can make use of the sports facilities available on campus for a small fee;
  • a fixed December bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent pension scheme.

In addition to these first-rate employee benefits, you will receive a fully funded PhD position and you will be offered a course program tailored to your needs and the research team.

The gross salary for the first year is € 2.770 - per month rising to € 3.539,- in the fourth year in according to the Collective Labour Agreements for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU) (scale P). This is based on a full-time working week of 38 hours. We offer a temporary contract for 18 months which will be extended for the duration of the project if you perform well.

There are plenty of options for personal initiative in a learning environment, and we provide excellent training opportunities. We are offering a unique position in an international environment with a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 19th consecutive time.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees.

Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.

Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about for example helping your partner to find a job, housing, or schooling.

Finally, certain categories of international staff may be eligible for a tax exemption on a part of their salary during the first five years in the Netherlands.


Wageningen University & Research

The mission of Wageningen University & Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With its roughly 30 branches, 7,600 employees (6,700 fte) and 13,100 students and over 150,000 participants to WUR’s Life Long Learning, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. The unique Wageningen approach lies in its integrated approach to issues and the collaboration between different disciplines.

You will work here:
You will join our EmBioSys Lab, embedded within the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter situated at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Led by Siddharth Deshpande, EmBioSys lab is an interdisciplinary group, and our broad vision is to tackle unsolved biological questions through appropriate bottom-up/biomimetic systems and create soft matter-based materials with biotechnological potential. The current research tackles diverse topics: from shaping synthetic cells and studying protein phase separation, to designing biosensors and making stable emulsions. The use and development of on-chip microfluidic technology forms an integral part of the lab. You will be supervised by Siddharth Deshpande, with support from Renko de Vries lab.

Read the 5 reasons why your future colleagues enjoy working at WUR and watch this video to get an idea of our green campus!

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • P1490385-1


Wageningen University & Research

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Droevendaalsesteeg, 6708 PB, Wageningen

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