Academic Positions Europe

KU Leuven, Belgium

PhD position light-addressable neuroactive matrices

(Ref. BAP-2016-612)

Occupation : Full-time
Period : Fixed-term contract
Place : Leuven
Apply no later than : May 01, 2017
For the Laboratory for Soft Matter and Biophysics we are looking for a motivated candidate (M/F) interested in a 4 year PhD position on a challenging research topic.In this project the aim is to construct optically-addressable nanofiber networks with biological, physical and chemical properties that mimic the dynamic stimuli in neuronal matrices and (2) use these in exploring the cellular responses to localized temperature and electromagnetic stimulation. By combining protein nanofibers with optically active nanoparticles (i.e., metal particles and quantum dots) we build artificial extracellular matrices (ECMs) able to interact with living cells in a bi-directional way (i.e., stimulate and report their activity).


The research groups within the Soft Matter and Biophysics unit study systems ranging from pure soft matter systems such as small molecular glasses to pure biological systems such as brain cells. In the field of soft matter physics, the research activities of our laboratory aim at the understanding of order-to-disorder- and structural phase transitions. For small molecular and polymeric systems we focus on relaxation behaviour in confinement. For colloidal systems, ranging from wormlike micelles to biological building blocks like F-actin, research is centred around the effect of shear flow. For biological materials such as rod-like viruses, DNA and self-assembled protein nanostructures we study the ordering behaviour as well as interactions with inorganic materials. Furthermore, we analyse the intrinsic links between the structure, structural changes, and the functionality of biological macromolecules. At the level of cells and tissues, we are especially interested in their interaction with light and their electronic behaviour and activity. Substantial efforts are continuously made to improve instrumentation in order to obtain real-time information on the structural-, thermal-, and elastic behaviour of biological- and soft materials with high spatial resolution and at time scales down to picoseconds.


In thisproject you will construct optically-addressable nanofiber networks with biological, physical and chemicalproperties that mimic the dynamic stimuli in neuronal matrices and usethese in exploring the cellular responses to localized temperature andelectromagnetic stimulation.

For this weexploit the exceptional cellular affinity of protein fibers and extend theirfunctionality by combining them with light-sensitive inorganic nanoparticles(NPs). Through controlled assembly and orientation, the protein fibers act asbiological templates for the design of nanoparticle arrays. Particular arrayconfigurations will be designed to promote accurate stimulus localization forthermal/electrical cellular activation. Additionally we investigate thepossibility to detect cellular signals by monitoring changes in the opticalproperties of the nanoparticles. In this way, we aim to emulate multi-functional artificial neuronal matricesand investigate the cellular responses to localized stimulation.


  • MSc in Physics, Chemistry, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • Motivated,ambitious, responsible, independent
  • Teamplayer
  • Fluent in English


A 4 year PhD position (scholarship) upon positive yearly evaluation


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Carmen Bartic, tel.: +32 16 37 20 01, mail:
You can apply for this job no later than May 01, 2017 via the online application tool
KU Leuven

KU Leuven is an autonomous university. It was founded in 1425. It was born of and has grown within the Catholic tradition.

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