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PhD position on designing responsive polymer particles for the controlled uptake and release of small molecules (Filled)

3 years full time position at University of Fribourg, Switzerland


Colloidal particles are microscopic or even nanoscopic particles whose surfaces can be functionalized. Their very large surface areas, relative to their small volumes, means you can load each particle with many molecules to deliver and release drugs or bind pathogens and biomarkers at the target site, opening the potential for powerful diagnostic and therapeutic systems. These functionalities depend on tight and quantitative control over the number, distribution, and activity of chemical groups at the particle surface. The SuperCol Innovative Training Network (ITN, 15 Ph.D. positions in total) will combine super-resolution microscopy, colloidal sciences, and advanced modeling to (a) control, (b) visualize and quantify, and (c) rationally design surface-functionality to advance particle-based biomedical applications (

About the project

In these two projects, the Ph.D. students will use super-resolution techniques to study soft and hard chemically functionalized colloids and investigate the internal distribution of small molecules, the kinetics and mechanism of uptake and release, and the impact of tailored surface chemistry on particle-particle interactions.

You will closely collaborate and pay visits to other partners in the project, such as Dutch DSM company ( to learn about industrial uses of colloidal particles in coating products, Technical University of Denmark (Henrik Flyvbjerg) to model the localisation accuracy of small molecules in porous particles and compare to measurements. We will collaborate with University of Rome La Sapienza (Emanuela Zaccarelli) to model the measurements of effective particle-interaction potentials and HiQ (Maria Ada Malvindi, to learn large-scale synthesis of spherical model particles.

About the group

You will be part of the Soft Matter and Photonics (SMP) group in the physics department of the University of Fribourg, headed by professor Frank Scheffold. The projects will be carried out in close collaboration with the Photonics Nanosystems (PNG) group in the physics department, led by Prof. Guillermo Acuna (

The SMP group is a research team of ten to fifteen people, including staff, post-docs, and Ph.D. students. We recently pioneered the use of super-resolution microscopy in the field of colloids and 2D/3D soft materials and the design of hyperuniform disordered photonic materials in 3D. The group regularly publishes in leading journals such as PNAS, PRL, Nat Comm. The group entertains collaborations with laboratories in Europe (Cambridge, Konstanz, San Sebastian), USA (NYU, UCLA), Canada (Ottawa), Japan (Okinawa), with regular visits and exchanges.

Both groups are members of the Fribourg based Swiss National Center of Competence in research ‘Bioinspired Materials.’ (

About Marie Curie ITN

SuperCol establishes a unique and well-structured training network with leading research labs from European universities and industry in the domain of correlative microscopy and colloidal sciences. The 15 PhD students will form a research team that is embedded in leading industrial and academic R&D labs. This will bridge the gap between the various disciplines by uniting their research efforts to solve the challenges.

The SuperCol project is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN) under grant No. 860914.

Job requirements

For the PhD positions, we seek enthusiastic and motivated candidates with MSc degree (or equivalent) in physics, engineering or physical chemistry. They must have an affinity with optical microscopy and lab work. Experience in the areas of colloids, soft matter, super-resolution microscopy is an asset. Good communication skills in English (both written and spoken) are required.

With an appropriate degree the positions are open to anyone, worldwide, as long as they fit the criteria below:

Eligibility rule: Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) shall, at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree.

Mobility Rule: at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the reference date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account. Please note that this is not a nationality criterium.

If you are interested but your situation does not conform to the Mobility rule, please refer to to see if there is another position in the SuperCol network that would suit you.

Conditions of employment

We offer you:

An exciting job in a dynamic work environment; An appointment for three years equivalent to a full-time Swiss National Science Foundation doctoral appointment. The total annual salary is approximately in the range from CHF 47,000 to 50,000 per year. An extension by 6-12 months is likely possible if required.

How to apply

This position has been filled.

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