PhD position in nanoscale optical bio-imaging & manipulation

PhD position in nanoscale optical bio-imaging & manipulation

Published Deadline Location
22 Sep 20 Oct Amsterdam

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Are you looking for an exciting 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 researc...

Job description

In the research group Physics of Living Systems at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 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.

In a project that 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. Your duties

We are looking for a motivated PhD candidate to develop, design, implement and apply key innovation to our 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)


  • a Master's degree or equivalent in (applied) physics, engineering, or a related field, with a background in optics, imaging or biophysics
  • experience with optics and imaging, data analysis and computer programming (Python, Matlab, etc.)
  • 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
  • a passion for creative work and a willingness to experiment with novel concepts and ideas

Conditions of employment

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,770 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,539 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 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

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 31,000 students. We employ over 5,000 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
Working at the Faculty of Science means working together with students, PhD candidates and scientists who are focused on their discipline, yet also have a broad view of the world. We are proud of the collegial working environment within the faculty, which is characterised by an ambitious and pragmatic attitude with commitment to the bigger picture. At the Faculty of Science, scientists and students work on fundamental and complex social issues for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, from genetics to pharmaceuticals and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research cover the full breadth of the natural sciences. Scientific teaching and research is highly experimental, technical, computational and interdisciplinary in nature. This is why we collaborate extensively with leading research institutes and industry. The faculty has over 11,000 students studying across 40 educational programmes and employs over 1,600 staff spread over 10 scientific departments, making us the largest science faculty in the Netherlands.
About the department
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.


  • PhD
  • 30.4—38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 16184


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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