PhD position: Nano-optics to probe protein structures

The University of Twente is offering a PhD position: Nano-optics to probe protein structures

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logo vacature PhD position: Nano-optics to probe protein structures

Functie omschrijving

Understanding the structure, aggregation, and folding of proteins is a major research area nowadays.  Improper folding and aggregation of specific proteins are among the common cause of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. These diseases currently have a growing prevalence in the world and a high societal economic cost. While protein aggregation has been widely studied, there exists a manifold of questions about the evolution of structural conformations of single proteins before and during aggregation, the aggregation rates of single protein molecules binding to a fibril, and the forces and mechanisms that influence aggregation at the single-molecule level. Insight into these mechanisms can have a great implication for neurodegenerative diseases.

The aim of this project is to realise novel nanophotonic structures that confine optical fields in a deep subwavelength space to probe the structure of single protein molecules. Localized plasmons from plasmonic nanocavities can enhance optical intensity by several orders of magnitude and this will be used to amplify the weak intensity from single proteins. This project will explore new approaches to efficiently interface nano-optical light confinement with protein molecules without influencing their aggregation rates or structures. We are interested to study alpha-synuclein protein, which is the main cause of Parkinson’s disease and it contributes to other neurogenerative diseases. You will work with a team that has expertise in biophysics, single molecule spectroscopy, and nanophotonics.

Vacature details

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  • You have a master’s degree (or equivalent) in physics, electrical engineering, physical chemistry or related fields with a strong background in experimental optics.
  • Experience with nanofabrication techniques and scientific programming (e.g., with Matlab or Python) are added advantages.
  • You are interested to learn new techniques and contribute to building new optical setups.
  • You enjoy working and collaborating with colleagues in a multidisciplinary team.
  • You have excellent communication skills in English, demonstrated with either an appropriate qualification in English or from previous education background.


  • A full-time 4-year PhD position.
  • Excellent and dynamic environment for researchers within our research institute MESA+ (, an attractive campus and lots of facilities for sports and leisure.
  • An offer for a personal development program within the Twente Graduate School.
  • A gross monthly salary of € 2.395 in the first year, up to € 3.061 in the fourth year.
  • A holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, and a year-end bonus of 8.3%.
  • Full status as a University of Twente employee, including pension and health care benefits.

Bedrijfsprofiel Universiteit Twente

TNW Faculty (Faculty of Science & Technology)

The Faculty of Science & Technology (Technische Natuurwetenschappen, TNW) engages some 700 staff members and 2000 students in education and research on the cutting edge of chemical technology, applied physics and biomedical technology. Our fields of application include sustainable energy, process technology and materials science, nanotechnology and technical medicine. As part of a people-first tech university that aims to shape society, individuals and connections, our faculty works together intensively with industrial partners and researchers in the Netherlands and abroad, and conducts extensive research for external commissioning parties and funders. Our research has a high profile both in the Netherlands and internationally and is strengthened by the many young researchers working on innovative projects with as doctoral candidates and post-docs. It has been accommodated in three multidisciplinary UT research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centre and Digital Society Institute.

As an employer, the TNW Faculty offers jobs that matter. We equip you as a staff member to shape new opportunities both for yourself and for our society. With our Faculty, you will be part of a leading tech university that is changing our world for the better. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial climate, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example, with our flexible, customisable conditions.

University of Twente (UT)

University of Twente (UT) has entered the new decade with an ambitious, new vision, mission and strategy. As ‘the ultimate people-first university of technology' we are rapidly expanding on our High Tech Human Touch philosophy and the unique role it affords us in society. Everything we do is aimed at maximum impact on people, society and connections through the sustainable utilisation of science and technology. We want to contribute to the development of a fair, digital and sustainable society through our open, inclusive and entrepreneurial attitude. This attitude permeates everything we do and is present in every one of UT's departments and faculties. Building on our rich legacy in merging technical and social sciences, we focus on five distinguishing research domains: Improving healthcare by personalised technologies; Creating intelligent manufacturing systems; Shaping our world with smart materials; Engineering our digital society; and Engineering for a resilient world.


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