PhD Position in Biological Soft Matter

Wageningen University

PhD Position in Biological Soft Matter (Shaping Synthetic Cells)

Location Wageningen

End date Sat 27 February 2021

We are looking for

Have you ever thought about the questions, “What is life?” and “Can we create life-like systems?”. Are you excited about the prospect of building artificial entities, using basic molecular components, that can mimic vital characteristics of living systems? If so, this might be the perfect PhD position for you!

We are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious PhD candidate to join our EmBioSys Lab (, embedded within the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter at Wageningen University. We are a young and interdisciplinary group, interested in building synthetic cells, in order to understand the inner workings of biological systems and to develop real-life applications (from chemical nano-factories to drug delivery systems). With a particular interest in cellular morphogenesis, this PhD project aims to bioengineer cell-mimicking vesicles that can undergo shape transformations and primitive migration. Using on-chip microfluidic techniques, you will design a (semi-)synthetic cortex capable of both generating force and remodeling membranes. In doing so, you will study the fundamental interplay between the actin cytoskeleton, biomolecular condensates formed through liquid-liquid phase separation, and the deformable lipid membrane.

With plenty of freedom for creative thinking, this position offers you an opportunity to tackle exciting and relevant scientific questions using state-of-the-art facilities such as fluorescence (confocal/super-resolution) microscopy, microfabrication and 3D-printing, rheometers, etc. Furthermore, you will be a part of a multidisciplinary and a collaborative department focusing on diverse questions within the field of soft matter. In addition to giving us crucial insights about the role of liquid-liquid phase separation in cellular morphogenesis, this NWO-funded research may ultimately act as a foundation towards building synthetic tissues and designing autonomous micro-robots, with far-reaching implications in biomedicine.

We ask

  • You are an enthusiastic and ambitious scientist. You are creative, inquisitive, and eager to learn new things;
  • you have a strong affinity for interdisciplinary research and the capacity to dive into unexplored areas;
  • you have an MSc degree (or equivalent) in biophysics, soft matter, nanotechnology, physical chemistry, or a related field;
  • you have hands-on experience in handling biological materials, preferably in vitro experiments;
  • you have a good understanding of the basic biophysical and biochemical principles needed for the handling of the involved biological components (membranes, condensates, and cytoskeleton);
  • prior experience in image processing, programming and analysis, or microfluidics is a plus;
  • you are capable of working independently but are also a good team player;
  • you have very good communication and presentation skills, with a good command, both oral and written, over the English language (minimum IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 90).

We offer

We offer you a temporary position for a period of 1.5 years, with an extension of 2.5 years upon successful evaluation. The gross salary per month starts at € 2,395 in the first year, increasing to € 3,061 per month in the fourth year, for a full working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Wageningen University.

In addition, we offer:

  • an 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays that can possibly be arranged so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours per year, with the option to purchase extra hours, and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • flexible working time, with the possibility to work a maximum of 2 hours per week extra and thereby build up extra leave;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle purchase plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • access to the sports facilities on campus.
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for your own initiative in a learning environment. We offer an engaging job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

More information

For more information about the position, please contact Dr. Siddharth Deshpande (Assistant Professor), e-mail:
For more information about the procedure, please contact Rutger Voorrips (Recruiter), e-mail:

You can apply online at until 28 Feb 2021.

We are

The mission of our University is to explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life. With approximately 30 locations, 6,500 employees, and 12,000 students, it is one of the leading organizations in its domain worldwide. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of the unique approach of Wageningen. We have been named Best Employer in Education category 2019-2020.

The Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter group ( is a highly interdisciplinary chair group involved in teaching and research on a broad range of topics in soft matter science, from polymeric assemblies and materials to biomechanics and biomolecular condensates. We operate at the forefront of the field and have many collaborations, both national and international. The team consists of around 25 PhD students and postdocs and a permanent staff of 2 technicians, 3 full-time professors, and 4 assistant and associate professors. The laboratory is very well-equipped with state-of-the-art instruments for optical, mechanical, and thermal characterization.

We are an equal opportunities employer and welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons regardless of their race, sex, disability, religion/belief, sexual orientation, or age.

Apply now