2 PhD positions in experimental and computational soft matter

Updated: 6 months ago
Deadline: 15 Nov 2018

Institute of Physics and Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences
Publication date
24 September 2018
Level of education
Master's degree
Salary indication
€2,266 to €2,897 gross per month
Closing date
15 November 2018
38 hours per week
Vacancy number

The Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the University of Amsterdam's (UvA) Faculty of Science. HIMS performs internationally recognized chemistry and molecular research, curiosity driven as well as application driven. Research is organized into four themes: Sustainable Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.

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.

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.

We invite applications for a four-year research position at the PhD level. There are two PhD positions in the field of Soft Matter available. One is on theoretical/computational research in the Computational Chemistry & Physics group of Prof. P.G. Bolhuis of HIMS, the other is on experimental research in the Soft Matter Group of Prof. P. Schall of the WZI.

Project description

The two positions are part of a joint project 'Activating viscoelastic colloidal architectures'. 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.

The aim of these two PhD positions 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 for the design of novel active materials. 

The experimental and computational research will involve binding 'patchy' colloidal particles with specific symmetry 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 it continuously out of equilibrium. The computational approach involves molecular (Browinan) dynamics simulations together with rare event techniques that should be performed in close connection with the experiments.

The positions will be embedded in the lively research environment of the Van der Waals-Zeeman institute and the Van’t Hoff Institute for molecular Science, where they will strengthen the recent collaborations between the colloidal and soft matter group of Prof. P. Schall and the computation chemistry and physics group of Prof. P. Bolhuis. You will work together closely to investigate the physics of active architected matter. You will also join the recently initiated RPA on Soft Matter, an inspiring cross-disciplinary consortium with diverse expertise from three different institutes.


We expect you to have:

  • a Master's degree in Physcis or Physical Chemistry;
  • experience in the following fields: colloidal/nanoparticle synthesis or assembly, Soft Matter, Statistical Mechanics (for the experimental position);
  • experience in the following field: computational soft matter, molecular simulation, statistical mechanics, programming (for the computational position).

You should be able to collaborate and adapt in an international team and possess good communication skills in oral and written English.

Further information

For more information you are welcome to contact:


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 draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching of undergraduates.

Based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from €2,266 in the first year to €2,897 in the last year. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable. Favourable tax agreements may apply to non-Dutch applicants.

Job application

The UvA is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees. We value a spirit of enquiry and endurance, provide the space to keep asking questions and cherish a diverse atmosphere of curiosity and creativity.

Please submit your application by electronic mail using the link below.

To process your application immediately, please quote vacancy number 18-565.

Your applications must include:

  • a curriculum vitae (including contact details of one or two academic referees;
  • a motivation letter (why did you choose to apply for this position), clearly indicating for which position (experimental or computational) you apply;
  • a list of university grades.

Please upload all documents as a single pdf file in the field marked CV.

The selection process commences immediately, but will close when suitable candidates have been found. Any other correspondence in response to this advertisement will not be dealt with (Formal closing date: 15 November 2018). #LI-DNP

No agencies please

Published by  University of Amsterdam

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