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PhD position: Active Polymer Physics

Faculty of Science – Institute of Physics

Vacancy details of PhD position: Active Polymer Physics
Publication date 12 May 2021
Closing date 1 July 2021
Level of education Master's degree
Hours 38 hours per week
Salary indication €2,395 to €3,061 gross per month
Vacancy number 21-346

Are you a highly motivated physicist with a strong interest in (soft) active matter and physics? We are seeking an excellent and ambitious PhD candidate to carry out interdisciplinary research on active polymerlike physics.

In the large family of active matter, active polymers are of considerable interest due to their prevalence in biological systems on multiple length scales. On the nano and microscale, biology provides many examples of active, flexible structures ranging from actin filaments and microtubules (the main constituents of the cytoskeleton in living cells) to flagella in sperm, algae, bacteria, and a diversity of other planktonic microorganisms. Our knowledge of polymer activity and its behaviour and conformation in various flow situations or complex environments is mostly theoretical. To date, no appropriate experimental system exists: most of the current experimental systems are based on the assembly of point-like particles (e.g., patchy colloidal particles). They are complicated to manipulate (microscopic systems, experimental conditions).

To surpass these limitations, we recently introduced in the Soft Matter group active entities relying on a living biological worm: the Tubifex tubifex worm. We found that they are making excellent candidates and experimental platforms to study the behaviour of active polymers in various situations.

This project aims to increase further our understanding of the behaviour of active flexible filaments and investigate their behaviour in various model situations such as flows, complex fluids, and crowded environments.

How activity affects the behaviour of this living polymer? How do they behave in the presence of an external force field or more complex environment? Can we propose a minimal model to capture their behaviour? This research project paves the way toward a novel and exciting field of research on active polymers.

What are you going to do?

You are expected to perform fundamental research to explore the behavior of active polymers in different situations.

You will:

  • perform experiments on a living polymerlike system (Tubifex tubifex) but also active chains made from bots;
  • model the behavior of these active chains (in collaboration with the CSM group);
  • design and built non-standard experiments to investigate their behaviors in various situations;
  • present your results in international workshops and conferences;
  • work collaboratively between research groups in the WZI: The soft matter group and the computational soft matter (CSM).
  • take part in the teaching efforts of both groups, including supervision of Bachelor and Master students.

What do we require?

We are looking for a candidate with:

  • a creative, curious, and driven nature;
  • a strong background in Physics and a Master’s degree in Physics, Engineering, Computational Science, or a related field;
  • an eagerness to learn new techniques, collaborate and combine numerical simulations, theory, and experiments;
  • excellent written and oral communication skills in English.

Other skills, experiences, and documents that would benefit your application:

  • previous experience in an experimental lab: microscopy, rheology, imaging technics;
  • demonstrated experience with programming and modelling software (MATLAB, Python, …);
  • scientific publications.

Our offer

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students. 

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be € 2,395 to € 3,061 (scale P) gross per month, based on a fulltime contract (38 hours a week). This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.

About us

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

This four-year PhD project will be carried out in the Soft Matter group and supervised by Antoine Deblais, within the Institute of Physic of the University of Amsterdam. The group’s interests focus on a brand range of topics ranging from (complex) fluids, metamaterials to biophysics and benefit from an exceptional scientific environment, in hard and soft condensed matter, computational physics and advanced materials. The Institute of Physics is part of the Faculty of Science.


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 1 June 2021. You can apply online by using the link below. 

Please send your application as a single pdf document (please upload in the field marked 'CV') that includes:

  • a motivation letter (max 1 page) that explains why you are specifically interested in the fields of (soft) Active Matter;
  • a detailed curriculum vitae, including list of grades;
  • a pdf version of your MSc thesis (or if not finalized yet, an abstract);
  • if applicable, pdf versions of your scientific publications.

the name and email address of at least two referees. The referees will only be contacted if you are shortlisted. The recommendation letters should be sent to

Applications without a motivations letter will not be taken into consideration. However, with this motivation letter your application will receive our full attention.

no agencies please