PhD Candidate in Experimental Soft Matter Physics: Protein Assembly for Artificial Meat

PhD Candidate in Experimental Soft Matter Physics: Protein Assembly for Artificial Meat

Published Deadline Location
22 May 30 Jun Amsterdam

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Job description

The PhD project in which you will be participating aims to develop a fundamental understanding of protein assembly and protein structure formation for the design of artificial meat. Understanding of filamentous protein networks is essential for designing and creating artificial bioinspired materials such as plant-based meat analogues and tissue for food and medical applications. Yet, despite the growing demand of meat analogues, making and understanding these networks and their physio-chemical properties remain a grand challenge. Recent breakthroughs in shear-cell and extrusion techniques offer opportunities to make fibrous plant-based structures without additives. In this project, we explore rheology and direct imaging on selected protein model systems to make and investigate filamentous protein networks. The PhD project is in collaboration with Wageningen University, where further characterization of the protein gels in terms of their water binding and juicy properties and sensory attributes will be performed to reach an overarching understanding of these meat analogues, from structure to (sensory) properties.

What are you going to do?

Mimicking filamentous network structures to exhibit specific physical and sensory properties are desirable for a wide range of applications from meat analogues to artificial tissues for implants. Yet, besides progress in synthesizing or assembling ever more complex bio-inspired structures, manufacturing filamentous plant-protein based structures with rheological and sensory properties of real meat remains a grand challenge, which has not been met to date. Most products in the market consist of texturized vegetable proteins, other proteinaceous ingredients, fat and other particles that are glued together into comminuted products. The creation of stronger anisotropic (fibre) structures is key to mimic meat texture and improve juiciness.

Recently, major breakthroughs in designing, visualizing and understanding structure formation and emergent physical properties of (protein) networks have been achieved in Soft Matter science. These breakthroughs allow tuning the structure and mechanical response of colloidal and biological gels and fibrous networks and offer a unified understanding of gelation and yielding. In this project, we will apply this recent progress in Soft Matter Science to design and understand plant-protein based gels for applications in meat analogues.

You will study the structure and structure-property relationship of proteins assembled under various conditions of shear and extrusion, inducing an anisotropic “filamentous” texture. You will create these structures from plant-based proteins, visualize them, and relate the structure to their physical properties. Together with rheology and food experts at Wageningen University (Dr M. Habibi, Prof. A.J. de Goot, Prof. M. Stieger), we will then relate these properties to an overarching physical and sensory understanding of the juiciness of meat analogues.

You will:
  • Work in the Soft Matter group at the Institute of Physics (IoP) of the UvA, in the group of Prof. Schall, in collaboration with Wageningen University (WUR).
  • Use the infrastructure of the IoP to make, image and characterize the protein network structures using rheology, extrusion, microscopy and (light)scattering techniques. Further access to food-related characterization is available via collaboration with WUR.
  • Be fully integrated in the Soft Matter group at UvA and the consortium with Wageningen University and industrial partners (Unilever, DSM, Rival Foods).

Your profile
You have:
  • A Master degree in Physics, Physical Chemistry or Food Science;
  • Experience in the following fields: Soft Matter, Colloids, Rheology, Protein assembly.

You should be able to:
  • Work at the interface between (Bio-)Physics, Soft Matter and Food Science;
  • Collaborate and adapt in an international team and possess excellent communication skills in oral and written English.

Our offer
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). 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 € 2,770,- to € 3,539,- (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.

About us
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.

The Institute of Physics (IoP) of the Faculty of Science combines the Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute (WZI), the Institute of Theoretical Physics (ITFA) and the Institute for High Energy Physics (IHEF) and is one of the large research institutes of the faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. The Soft Matter group at the WZI is a large, vibrant group combining diverse directions in Soft Matter, and is part of the Soft Mater Research Priority Area (RPA) within the Faculty of Science. Within this Soft Matter RPA, Physics, Chemistry (and Informatics) institutes collaborate on current most thriving topics, encompassing world-leading groups on both experiments and theory/computation.

This PhD position on Protein Assembly for Artificial Meat is available in the Soft Matter group of the WZI, in a consortium with the Physics of Food and Food Process Engineering groups in Wageningen.

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

Any questions?
Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:

Prof. Peter Schall:

Job application
If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. You can apply online via the button below. We accept applications until and including 30 June 2024.

Applications should include the following information (all files besides your cv should be submitted in one single pdf file):
  • A detailed CV including the months (not just years) when referring to your education and work experience;
  • A letter of motivation;
  • A list of university grades
  • Contact details of two academic referees (who will be contacted when shortlisted)

A knowledge security check can be part of the selection procedure.
(for details: national knowledge security guidelines)

Only complete applications received within the response period via the link below will be considered.

The selection process commences immediately, but will close when suitable candidates have been found. Any other correspondence in response to this advertisement will not be dealt with (Formal closing date: 30th of June).

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

No agencies please.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 13023


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Science Park 904, 1098XH, Amsterdam

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