PhD scholarship in Nanochannel Liquid Cells for in situ Biochemical Phase Change Studies

Updated: 18 days ago

This PhD project is at the interface of Nanotechnology, Physics, Chemistry and Life Science. The project aims at developing our unique microfabricated nanochannel systems and capabilities to perform chemical experiments by mixing reagents, while imaging using electron microscopy with resolution approaching the molecular scale. Establishing this method will benefit many diverse fields of applications.

We will use the systems to explore the reactions and phase changes in biochemical systems with e.g. soft materials and proteins. The PhD will be part of Kristian Mølhave’s Molecular Windows group at DTU Nanolab ( ), and the project is in collaboration with leading researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and at DTU.

Dissolved species of biomolecules or softmatter can separate into distinct phases upon a change on solution composition or dissolve from the solid phase. These are fundamental processes in softmatter and biology, also used to form coatings e.g. for drugs while the dissolution process, e.g. of protein crystals, is another aspect of great importance in medicine. To date the detailed processes occurring have been elusive to follow with the required molecular scale resolution to obtain in depth knowledge. LPTEM is a highly promising candidate for observing such processes beyond what x-ray methods can achieve.

Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) of proteins into concentrated microdroplets (also called coacervation) is a phenomenon that is increasingly recognized to occur in many biological processes, both inside and outside the cell. Recently, the collaborating group at NTU observed how a model system of an intrinsically disordered protein can phase-separate using liquid phase transmission electron microscopy (LPTEM). This PhD will improve the LPTEM approach to study the nucleation and initial growth steps of the LLPS, opening the door for a deeper understanding of other biomacromolecular complexes exhibiting LLPS ability.

Responsibilities and tasks
In this project, 

  • you will develop and create refined versions of our nanochannel systems in our microfabrication cleanroom facility at DTU Nanolab.
  • We have state-of-art optical and electron microscopes that allow you to perform experiments with the systems.
  • You will study phase changes and soft matter processes at DTU with co-supervisor Kristoffer Almdal, and together with visiting collaborators, and by visiting NTU, you will study liquid-liquid phase separation of proteins using the nanochannel systems you have made.
  • You will provide updates and lead the international collaboration in your project
  • You will be mentoring  bachelor and master students

The project requires numerous skills that can be learnt. But if you have competences in them already, your chances of success rise, especially in the core science topics being used and studied: 

  • Polymer, protein and softmatter chemistry/physics
  • Microfabrication
  • Transmission electron microscopy
  • Image Analysis (python, matlab,  Fiji or similar)

Candidates should have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree.

Competences supporting the above tasks is likely an advantage.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide .

The assessment will be made by the supervisor team consisting of main supervisor Kristian Mølhave (DTU Nanolab), co-supervisors Kristoffer Almdal (Prof. DTU Chemistry), Martial Duchamp (Asst Prof, NTU), and experimental supervisor Murat Yesibolati (Post doc, DTU Nanolab).

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years. The scholarship will start as soon as possible.

The project involves PhD exchange stays to work at laboratories at Nanyang technological University in Singapore.

You can read more about
career paths at DTU here .

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Associate Professor Kristian Mølhave, tel.: +45 2512 6672, e-mail: .

You can read more about DTU Nanolab at

Please submit your online application no later than 21 June 2020 (23:59 local time)
We have two PhD projects on liquid phase electron microscopy available for applications simultaneously, and you are welcome to apply for both but do so with separate applications for each.

Applications must be submitted as
one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include: 

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here )

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.

Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Nanolab
The National Centre for Nano Fabrication and Characterization in Denmark is at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). We provide access to a specially constructed facility for advanced electron microscopy and to 1500 m2  of cleanroom allowing state of the art processing to fabricate chips and devices for a large variety of applications. Our expertise is research based, with multiple research groups that focus on methods for imaging and characterization down to atomic resolution and on scalable nanofabrication technologies.

Technology for people

DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 11,500 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. Our main campus is in Kgs. Lyngby north of Copenhagen and we have campuses in Roskilde and Ballerup and in Sisimiut in Greenland.

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