PhD Position Acoustic Actuation of Force-Sensitive Protein Nanopores

PhD Position Acoustic Actuation of Force-Sensitive Protein Nanopores

Published Deadline Location
1 May 2 Jul Delft

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Job description

We are looking for a highly motivated and enthusiastic PhD student to work in the field of mechanobiology. The interdisciplinary project concerns the development of a nanoelectromechanical system that integrates surface acoustic wave (SAW) and nanopore technologies to mechanically manipulate biological molecules and materials in biomimetic membranes.
Sensing mechanical cues is crucial for many biological processes. Mechanically-activated protein ion channels detect blood flow, lung inflation and sound waves and are responsible for the regulation of heart beating, breathing and hearing. These protein nanopores respond to pressure by enabling or blocking ion transport across biological membranes. Malfunctioning of these channels accounts for dozens of human diseases. To understand the nanomechanical opening/closing mechanisms of these proteins, it is essential to use tools that can track their dynamic response in real time.
You will create an experimental platform that interfaces acoustic tweezers with high-resolution ionic current detection to study the effect of SAW stimulation on the localization and actuation of force-sensitive protein nanopores. Using fluorescence microscopy and single-molecule conductance measurements, you will (i) monitor the spatial and temporal organization of biomolecules on the nanofluidic chip and (ii) measure the ionic current across the membrane to detect conformational changes induced by membrane perturbation in real-time. In addition, by creating mimics of normal and stiffer membranes (e.g. tumor tissue), you will investigate how the mechanical properties of the membrane influence ion transport through the nanopore.
Results from the project will, on one hand, yield fundamental knowledge of biomechanics at the single-molecule level, and on the other, they will form the basis for a novel lab-on-chip device that enables screening of compounds that inhibit or enhance transmembrane protein function.

The vacant position is in the Dynamics of Micro and Nanosystems (DMN) group. The group focuses on exploiting dynamics of small scale systems to create technologies that can lead to new products in the fields of scientific instrumentation, healthcare and consumer electronics. Our research topics span from measuring and manipulating (bio)materials at the micro and nano scale, to the design of reliable MEMS and NEMS sensors and actuators. You will be part of a new team interested in developing nanoelectromechanical systems for single-molecule biophysics experiments.

You will be working in an international environment in one of the leading technical universities of Europe, with access to the state-of-the art micro-nano fabrication and testing facilities. You will be contributing to a challenging topic in a team comprising of mechanical engineers, physicists and nanoscientists.


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)


Applicants should have the following qualifications:

  • MSc degree in (bio)physics, nanoscience, engineering or a related area.
  • Expertise in MEMS/NEMS, single-molecule techniques or synthetic biology is a plus.
  • Strong experimental and analytical skills.
  • Creative and organized, with a keen interest in interdisciplinary research.
  • Collaborative attitude, with good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Proficient in spoken and written English.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2325 per month in the first year to € 2972 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.


Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers both in business and in a social context. TU Delft offers 16 Bachelor’s and 32 Master’s programmes to more than 23,000 students. Our scientific staff consists of 3,500 staff members and 2,800 PhD candidates. Together we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The Faculty of 3mE carries out pioneering research, leading to new fundamental insights and challenging applications in the field of mechanical engineering. From large-scale energy storage, medical instruments, control technology and robotics to smart materials, nanoscale structures and autonomous ships. The foundations and results of this research are reflected in outstanding, contemporary education, inspiring students and PhD candidates to become socially engaged and responsible engineers and scientists. The faculty of 3mE is a dynamic and innovative faculty with an international scope and high-tech lab facilities. Research and education focus on the design, manufacture, application and modification of products, materials, processes and mechanical devices, contributing to the development and growth of a sustainable society, as well as prosperity and welfare.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • €2325—€2972 per month
  • University graduate
  • TUD00152


Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

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