PhD position in Experimental Soft Matter

PhD position in Experimental Soft Matter

Published Deadline Location
9 Apr 15 Jul Amsterdam

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Job description

The Institute of Physics (IoP) has a PhD position in Experimental Soft Matter.

Structural architectures in living cells, such as the cytoskeleton in muscle or plant tissue, are both viscoelastic and active, i.e. undergo continuous injection of energy, leading to remarkable collective, non-equilibrium properties. Understanding such phenomena remains one of the grand challenges of modern statistical physics. While active fluids (swarms, swimmers) have seen an explosion of interest recently, their solid (elastic) counterparts remain completely unexplored. In this project, we want to combine activity and viscoelastic architecture in synthetic (colloidal) systems to discover the emergent collective behaviour of active viscoelastic architectures, such as locomotion, shape changes and unusual transport properties, all hallmarks of their biological analogues. Building on our breakthroughs in colloidal architecture control, we will self-assemble and activate architected colloidal materials to investigate their non-equilibrium response, active instabilities, and nonlinear shape changes.

Your aim is to discover general principles of active architectures and living matter, something that cannot be done for their molecular counterparts. By probing these phenomena in experiments at the colloidal scale and in simulations, we will unravel the as-of-yet unexplored physics of active elastic solids and achieve key insights into the statistical mechanics of living systems that in turn can be used to design novel active materials. 

The experimental research involves binding “patchy” colloidal particles with specific valency into complex architectures via directly controllable critical Casimir forces. This combination allows exquisite control of the architecture’s local topology and connectivity on the one hand, and bending rigidity and stiffness on the other. The colloidal architectures will be activated by implementation of active particles driving the structures continuously out of equilibrium.

You will be embedded in the lively research environment of the Van der Waals-Zeeman institute, and will be linked with a computational project on the same topic within the Soft Matter RPA. You will assemble and investigate active colloidal superstructures and work together with the computational student to investigate the physics of active architected matter. Doing so, you will join the recently initiated RPA on Soft Matter, an inspiring cross-disciplinary consortium with diverse expertise from three different institutes.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


The PhD student we are looking for:

  • has a Master degree in Physics or Physical Chemistry;
  • has experience in the following fields: colloidal synthesis or assembly, active colloids, Soft Matter, (non-equilibrium) Statistical Mechanics;
  • should be able to collaborate and adapt in an international team and possesses good communication skills in oral and written English.

Conditions of employment

The appointment will be on a temporary basis for a period of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it can be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will be draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expected to assist in teaching of undergraduates.

Based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from €2,325 in the first year to €2,972 in the last year. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable. Favourable tax agreements may apply to non-Dutch applicants.


University of Amsterdam

With over 5,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.  

The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.


Institute of Physics

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. Within the Faculty of Science the Physics, Chemistry (and Informatics) institutes collaborate in the Soft Matter ‘Research Priority Area‘ (RPA). The RPA encompasses world-leading groups on both experiments and theory/computation. A PhD position on active colloidal architectures is available in the Soft Matter Group of the WZI and the RPA.


The aim of this project is to assemble colloidal superstructures and investigate their nonequilibrium behavior when activated by self-propelling particles. Recent breakthroughs have yielded patchy particles that can assemble into a manifold of colloidal superstructures; simultaneously, self-propelling particles have emerged, which provide microscopic activation. Here, we combine both innovations to investigate the physics of “active architectures”, synthetic analogues of their biological counterpart. The position is available in the Soft Matter Group of Prof. P. Schall of the WZI.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2325—€2972 per month
  • University graduate
  • 19-218


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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