PhD in Ultrafast Phototransient Imaging and Spectroscopy

PhD in Ultrafast Phototransient Imaging and Spectroscopy

Published Deadline Location
30 Jan 13 Apr Amsterdam

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As part of our ERC StG funded PIRO project, you will develop and apply a novel non-linear ultrafast phototransient infrared microscope for biological and biomedical applications.

Job description

We are looking for an experimental lead to develop and apply a novel ultrafast phototransient infrared microscope as part of our ERC StG funded PIRO team at the VU Amsterdam ( Your project combines concepts from nonlinear optics, holographic imaging, femtosecond spectroscopy with biological and biomedical samples to address outstanding challenges in biophotonics and biomolecular imaging.

You will join a team of 2 PhD students and the PI (Matz Liebel) who have already addressed some of the major milestones on our way towards implementing the phototransient microscope. Your task will be to take the crucial next steps towards realising the projects vision: to unlock currently unavailable imaging capabilities in the form of high-throughput, spectrally resolved, vibrational imaging with sub-diffraction limited spatial resolution. We will then use our technological advantage over the state-of-the art to address unmet challenges in biophotonics: from heat-transport in biological matter to diagnostic imaging and antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

The ERC PIRO project in a nutshell
Medical imaging and diagnostics require rapid, large-area, observations and quantitative, target-specific, signals. Vibrational imaging is a prime-candidate in this regard: it provides vibrational, or chemical, information without requiring costly and often difficult to use labels. However, even after decades of research it remains difficult if not impossible to simultaneously obtain this crucial information while covering meaningful observation areas.
Together, we will deliver the necessary tool for the job in the form of a novel vibrational imaging platform: a phototransient infrared holographic microscope (PIROscope). The PIROscope is inspired by an ultrafast holographic microscope that we implemented over the past years: it combines femtosecond IR-excitation with visible readout to, ultimately, retrieve spectrally resolved quantitative images with an unprecedented combination of imaging speed, spectral observation window and spatial-resolution. During PIRO we will implement the PIROscope and validate it for biomedical imaging. We will then use our edge over the state-of-the-art to take first steps towards PIRO-based diagnostics by high-resolution visualising breast cancer tissue and the metabolic activity of antibiotics-treated bacteria.

Your duties
  • develop and optimise the PIROscope
  • apply the platform to answer exciting questions in biophotonics
  • implement pump-probe based ultrafast imaging schemes
  • develop assays//prepare samples for PIRO imaging
  • work and maintain high-power tuneable femtosecond light sources


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


You should be excited about experimental science and hold a master’s degree in chemistry, physics or engineering with an outstanding track record. Proficiency in English (written and oral) are required. Previous experience in (non)linear optics, spectroscopy, microscopy or digital imaging are desired but not a must. Finally, the ability to independently and creatively work in a diverse interdisciplinary environment is essential.

As a university, we strive for equal opportunities for all, recognising that diversity takes many forms. We believe that diversity in all its complexity is invaluable for the quality of our teaching, research and service. We are always looking for talent with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This also means that we are committed to creating an inclusive community so that we can use diversity as an asset.

We realise that each individual brings a unique set of skills, expertise and mindset. Therefore we are happy to invite anyone who recognises themselves in the profile to apply, even if you do not meet all the requirements.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year.

A challenging position in a socially engaged organisation. At VU Amsterdam, you contribute to education, research and service for a better world. And that is valuable. So in return for your efforts, we offer you:
  • a salary of minimum € 2.770,00 (PhD) and maximum € 3.539,00 (PhD) gross per month in the fourth year, on a full-time basis.
  • a position for at least 0.8 FTE. Your employment contract will initially last 1 year. If there is sufficient perspective, this will be extended to a total of 4 years.

We also offer you attractive fringe benefits and regulations. Some examples:
  • A full-time 38-hour working week comes with a holiday leave entitlement of 232 hours per year. If you choose to work 40 hours, you have 96 extra holiday leave hours on an annual basis. For part-timers, this is calculated pro rata.
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Our team

We develop next generation optical imaging and sensing platforms in the context of future biomedical, pharmaceutical and clinical applications. We are particularly interested in label-free or digital approaches: low-cost key-enablers for democratizing state-of-the-art healthcare globally. We realise this vision by combining fundamental research with systematic platform and assay development. Sometimes, we meet our target by simplifying and adopting existing technologies. On many occasions, however, we start from a curiosity-driven hypothesis where applicability is a long term high-gain objective. To realise our vision, we combine an interdisciplinary toolbox ranging from molecular biology over ultrafast optics to digital holography with the key-ingredient being creativity and room for personal development. Selected research topics are outlined below.

Faculty of Science
Researchers and students at VU Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science tackle fundamental and complex scientific problems to help pave the way for a sustainable and healthy future. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to malnutrition, and from molecules to the moon: we cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. Our teaching and research have a strong experimentally technical, computational and interdisciplinary nature.

We work on new solutions guided by value-driven, interdisciplinary methodologies. We are committed to research, valorisation and training socially engaged citizens of the world who will make valuable contributions to a sustainable, healthy future.

Are you interested in joining the Faculty of Science? You will join undergraduate students, PhD candidates and researchers at the biggest sciences faculty in the Netherlands. You will combine a professional focus with a broad view of the world. We are proud of our collegial working climate, characterised by committed staff, a pragmatic attitude and engagement in the larger whole. The faculty is home to over 11,000 students enrolled in 40 study programmes. It employs over 1,600 professionals spread across 10 academic departments.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam stands for values-driven education and research. We are open-minded experts with the ability to think freely. - a broader mind. Maintaining an entrepreneurial perspective and concentrating on diversity, significance and humanity, we work on sustainable solutions with social impact. By joining forces, across the boundaries of disciplines, we work towards a better world for people and planet. Together we create a safe and respectful working and study climate, and an inspiring environment for education and research. Learn more about our codes of conduct

We are located on one physical campus, in the heart of Amsterdam's Zuidas business district, with excellent location and accessibility. Over 5,500 staff work at the VU and over 30,000 students attend academic education.

Diversity is the driving force of the VU. The VU wants to be accessible and receptive to diversity in disciplines, cultures, ideas, nationalities, beliefs, preferences and worldviews. We believe that trust, respect, interest and differences lead to new insights and innovation, to sharpness and clarity, to excellence and a broader understanding.

We stand for an inclusive community and believe that diversity and internationalisation contribute to the quality of education, research and our services.

Therefore, we are always searching for people whose backgrounds and experience contribute to the diversity of the VU community.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences; Engineering
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3623


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)

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De Boelelaan 1085, 1081HV, Amsterdam

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