PhD scholarship in Soft Nanobiomechanics

DTU Mechanical Eng
Thursday 04 Apr 19

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One PhD student position is open in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (DTU Mekanik), Technical University of Denmark (DTU). The overarching goal of this project is to characterize the interfacial mechanical properties of biological systems on nanoscale mainly by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM). Specific systems/subjects of interest are mainly two; (i) blood coagulation (thrombosis) and (ii) bacterial inoculation on mucus layer.

As well known, thrombosis occurs by polymerization of fibrinogen into fibrin network as initiated by platelets. While this process is essential to cure after blood vessel tissue damage, it can result in obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. Either to biochemically dissolve (thrombolysis) or to physically remove (thrombectomy) clots from endothelial surfaces, it is of vital importance to fully understand the cohesion forces between coagulating substances in the thrombus as well as between thrombus and epithelial cell surfaces. While previous studies with AFM mostly have been focused on characterizing morphology or single molecular force spectroscopy of fibrinogen molecule, we attempt to characterize the integrating forces of thrombus itself. Bacterial inoculation on mucus layer is another outstanding example that requires a quantitative characterization of nanoscale intermolecular interaction in biological systems. While mucus layer, the slimy hydrogel formulated from mucin glycoprotein on epithelial cell surfaces, plays a protective function against pathogenic microbes, effective penetration of molecules across mucus layer is often desirable for drug delivery. Thus, a full characterization of the interactive forces between microorganism/drug molecules and mucus layer is essential for a desired manipulation of microbial adhesion or drug delivery. While the two subjects mentioned above have their own significances, they are correlated with each other in that some cells can both host fibrinogen/fibrin as well as secrete mucus. Thus, this type of cells can provide an in-vitro model platform for both studies.

This project is funded by DTU’s Alliances and Strategic Partnership PhD scholarship and the Department of Mechanical Engineering (DTU Mekanik).

Responsibilities and tasks
The project will be conducted mainly in the Section of Materials and Surface Engineering (MTU) at the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In addition, the project includes a collaboration with Prof. Yoon Sung Nam (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)), who is interested in identifying a peptide sequence that can specifically bind to fibrin but not fibrinogen. This will help to identify the locations of early stage of thrombus in human body. Additionally, some bacteriophage will be used as a therapeutic methodology to cure diseases caused from bacteria-infection hosted on mucus layers. Thus, based on the established nanobiomechanical knowledge the on thrombus and bacterial/bacteriophage inoculation on mucus at DTU Mekanik, and the project will be extended to characterize the interfacial forces (i) between the peptide sequence and fibrinogen/fibrin, (ii) bacteria/bacteriophage to mucus at Professor Nam’s laboratory, KAIST.

Candidates should have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree. The successful candidate should have: 

  • M.Sc. in the field of materials science, chemistry, physics, biology, mechanical engineering or related subjects
  • Experience in surface science and/or atomic force microscopy (desirable, but not required)
  • Experience and/or interests in carrying out interdisciplinary project
  • Ability to work independently, to plan and carry out complicated tasks
  • Good communication skills in English, both written and spoken
Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

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Further information
Further information may be obtained from Associate Professor Seunghwan Lee, DTU, Department of Mechanical Engineering, , tel.: + 45 4525 2193. 

You can read more about Department of Mechanical engineering at  

Please submit your online application no later than 5 May 2019 (local time)Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:
  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)

Candidates may apply prior to obtaining their master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.

Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Mechanical Engineering covers the fundamental engineering disciplines within Solid mechanics, Fluid mechanics, Coastal and Maritime Engineering, Energy systems and energy conversion, Materials and Surface Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Engineering design and Product development. The department has a scientific staff of about 150 persons, 95 PhD students and a technical/administrative support staff of about 80 persons.

DTU is a technical university providing internationally leading research, education, innovation and scientific advice. Our staff of 6,000 advance science and technology to create innovative solutions that meet the demands of society, and our 11,200 students are being educated to address the technological challenges of the future. DTU is an independent academic university collaborating globally with business, industry, government and public agencies.