PhD Fellowship in Experimental Soft Matter 2019, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

University of Amsterdam


May 22, 2019

Opportunity Cover Image - PhD Fellowship in Experimental Soft Matter 2019, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

PhD position in Experimental Soft Matter

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 at the University of Amsterdam. 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. A PhD position on active colloidal architectures is available in the Soft Matter Group of the WZI and the RPA.


The aim of this project is to assemble colloidal superstructures and investigate their nonequilibrium behavior when activated by self-propelling particles. Recent breakthroughs have yielded patchy particles that can assemble into a manifold of colloidal superstructures; simultaneously, self-propelling particles have emerged, which provide microscopic activation. Here, we combine both innovations to investigate the physics of 'active architectures', synthetic analogues of their biological counterpart. The position is available in the Soft Matter Group of Prof. P. Schall of the WZI.

Project description

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.

Your aim 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 to design novel active materials. 

The experimental research involves binding “patchy” colloidal particles with specific valency 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 the structures continuously out of equilibrium.

You will be embedded in the lively research environment of the Van der Waals-Zeeman institute, and will be linked with a computational project on the same topic within the Soft Matter RPA. You will assemble and investigate active colloidal superstructures and work together with the computational student to investigate the physics of active architected matter. Doing so, you will join the recently initiated RPA on Soft Matter, an inspiring cross-disciplinary consortium with diverse expertise from three different institutes.


The PhD student we are looking for:

  • has a Master degree in Physics or Physical Chemistry;
  • has experience in the following fields: colloidal synthesis or assembly, active colloids, Soft Matter, (non-equilibrium) Statistical Mechanics;
  • should be able to collaborate and adapt in an international team and possesses good communication skills in oral and written English.

For more information click "LINK TO ORIGINAL" below.

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Publish Date
May 13, 2019