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PhD position on modelling super-selectivity in particle-particle and particle-surface interactions

3 years full time position at University of Rome La Sapienza


Colloidal particles are microscopic or even nanoscopic particles whose surfaces can be functionalised. Their very large surface areas relative to their small volumes means you can load each one with many molecules to deliver and release drugs or bind pathogens and biomarkers at the target site, opening potential for powerful diagnostic and therapeutic systems. The reason that this potential is yet to be exploited is that 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 PhD positions in total) will combine super-resolution microscopy, colloidal sciences, and advanced modelling to (a) control, (b) visualize and quantify, and (c) rationally design surface-functionality to advance particle-based biomedical applications.

About the project

Super-selectivity is expected to provide an improved control of particle absorption, transforming the binding curve from the standard wide sigmoidal shape into the optimal step-like response. This can be made possible by an ingenious design of the ligands on the particles (exploiting combinatorial entropy) and of the receptors anchored on the surface. In recent years, the physics of patchy particles have emerged as a promising framework for interpreting colloidal self-assembly processes, especially for colloids whose heterogeneous

chemical surface imparts control over particle-interactions and ensures functionality. These novel colloidal particles have been suggested as good candidates to achieve super-selectivity in sensing applications. The Ph.D. student will model interactions of coarse-grained but realistic patchy particles by means of theoretical investigations complemented by advanced simulation techniques.

The student will closely collaborate and pay visits to other partners in the project.

About the group

The student will be part of the joint Soft Matter group based at the Physics Department of Sapienza, University of Rome and at the Institute of Complex System of CNR.

The group has a long expertise in theoretical and computational modelling of soft matter systems, including colloidal glasses, colloidal gels, microgels, proteins, patchy particles. Methods such as Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics are commonly used, particularly for the study of effective potentials, evaluation of phase diagrams, self-assembly properties.

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.

For the PhD position, we seek an enthusiastic and motivated candidate with MSc degree (or equivalent) in Physics or similar. He/she must be familiar with soft matter physics and have background in numerical methods.  Good communication skills in English (both written and spoken) are required.

Positions are open to anyone, worldwide, as long as they fit the two criteria below from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Guide for Applicants:

1) 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.

2) 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.

About the PhD position

The position will offer you:

  • An exciting job in a dynamic work environment;

  • A full-time appointment for three years at Physics Department, Sapienza University of Rome (

How to apply

Informal information may be obtained by sending an email to Dr. Emanuela Zaccarelli (emanuela.zaccarelli[at] or Prof. Francesco Sciortino (francesco.sciortino[at]

information on how to apply will be placed here shortly.
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