PhD position in electromagnetic fields for disruptive artificial kidney technology

PhD position in electromagnetic fields for disruptive artificial kidney technology

Published Deadline Location
9 Jan 20 Feb Utrecht

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A challenging multidisciplinary PhD project on developing a system for improved removal of uremic toxins using electromagnetic fields during dialysis treatment.

Job description

Aim is to develop a system that uses electromagnetic (EM) waves for the enhanced clearance of protein bound uremic toxins during dialysis treatment. Additionally, the more fundamental mechanism behind the EM field induced toxin release will be investigated. The project is part of the prestigious KidneyX prize winning initiative 'Multi-compatible Implantable Toxin Removal Augmentation Module (MI-TRAM)', a collaboration between the UMC Utrecht, Research Hub Imec NL, Utrecht University and RWTH Aachen). For more information and a video, see

Patients with end stage kidney disease - who are either not eligible for transplantation or on the waiting list - are treated by dialysis to replace kidney function. Although lifesaving, dialysis has major shortcomings. The treatment is time consuming, and removal of waste molecules and excess water is inadequate, contributing to reduced quality of life, severe health problems and high mortality (15-20% per year). Current dialysis techniques only partially replace glomerular filtration, but not tubular function of the kidney. As such, toxin removal efficiency of standard dialysis decreases with molecule size & hydrophobicity and ultimately stops at the size of albumin (which must be retained in the blood). Extremely difficult to remove are the so-called protein-bound uremic toxins (PBUTs), due to their strong binding with plasma proteins like albumin. PBUT accumulation affects a host of biological systems and has, amongst others, been linked to the uremic syndrome, cardiovascular morbidity and cognitive function decline in CKD patients. Thus, any artificial kidney would profit from improved PBUT removalImportantly, one of the consortium partners (RWTH Aachen) has shown that strong high frequency EM fields shift the dynamic equilibrium of protein-binding for toxins further to a non-bound state, thereby enabling improved removal of the freed toxins via the dialysis membrane. Producing such strong EM fields currently requires large devices, which limits present use to non-portable/non-implantable devices. Furthermore, this approach causes strong stray fields to the environment, thereby compromising electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). To solve these problems, consortium partner Imec NL has recently patented a miniature system-on-chip, that enables producing the EM fields more selectively across the pores of any hemodialyzer membrane, thereby loosening PBUTs exactly at the location where they can be filtered out (thereby strongly reducing stray fields and improving EMC). This disruptive system-on-chip is so small that it can be used in implantable artificial kidneys.,. Goal of this PhD project is to determine the optimal settings to loosen PBUTs (frequency, power, configuration of electrodes/ setup, continuous vs pulsed EM-fields), investigate EMC and further develop the system-on-chip while exploring the mechanism behind the EM field induced toxin release.


University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC Utrecht)


You are talented, creative and preferably motivated by technological challenges related to biology or medicine. You have a proven research interest and affinity with building, using, and improving test setups (both hardware and software). You feel comfortable with working and communicating within a multidisciplinary team.

You should be highly motivated and qualified as a Master of Science with engineering and biomedical affinity (e.g. biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, medical physics, technical medicine). You should be willing to work in an interdisciplinary environment with both clinicians, engineers and chemists. Furthermore, taking initiative and responsibility for the project and a hands-on approach are highly desired. Finally, you should have excellent English written and oral communication skills. Experience with high-frequency electronics and/or multiphysics modeling software like COMSOL (or others) are regarded as an extra asset.

We offer a full-time position for a period of 3 years with a possible extension to 4 years. Due to the collaborative nature of the project roughly 2/3 of the work will be conducted at the UMCU and 1/3 at Imec NL (located at the Holst Centre at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven). The aim is to obtain a PhD degree. The PhD research project is embedded in the PhD programs Regenerative Medicine and Circulatory Health. These programs provide broad course programs for their PhD students, in the framework of the Utrecht Graduate School for Life Sciences, and organize various scientific workshops and colloquia.

More information about the research aspects for this PhD project can be obtained from:
  • Jeroen Vollenbroek, PhD, assistant professor
  • Fokko Wieringa, PhD, associate professor

Conditions of employment

The maximum salary for this position (32 - 36 hours) is € 3.536,00 gross per month based on full-time employment.

In addition, we offer an annual benefit of 8.3%, holiday allowance, travel expenses and career opportunities. The terms of employment are in accordance with the Cao University Medical Centers (UMC).


You will be part of the department of Nephrology and Hypertension at the UMC Utrecht and Research Hub Imec NL. One important research line at the department of Nephrology and Hypertension focuses on novel renal replacement therapies. This research line is well embedded within the Institutional focus areas Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells as well as Circulatory Health. It involves multidisciplinary translational research aimed at the development and (pre)clinical validation of novel dialysis technologies, in collaboration with several academia, private partners and the Dutch Kidney Foundation.


  • Research, development, innovation
  • Health
  • 32—36 hours per week
  • max. €3536 per month
  • University graduate
  • 2023-2841


University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC Utrecht)

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Heidelberglaan 100, 3584CX, Utrecht

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