PhD-student: Transmembrane protein mimics for communication between synthetic cells

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As a PhD-student in our Physics of Cellular Interactions group headed by Dr. Kristina Ganzinger, you will apply state-of-the-art techniques to generate transmembrane protein mimics for communication between synthetic cells. With a lot of room for scientific creativity and collaborations, you will also further extend the capabilities of bottom-up synthetic biology by improving our methods to generate and investigate functionalized giant lipid vesicles (GUVs) using microfabrication techniques. You will work in a lively and close-knit research group of about 8 PhD students and postdocs, which work together in small teams on various projects in a highly supportive and social atmosphere that extends to the other research groups at the AMOLF institute, which is housed in a modern building in the east of Amsterdam. 

More about the project
Functionalizing synthetic cells with transmembrane proteins is still a technical bottleneck. You will circumvent the need to solve this technical challenge time and again by generating a modular toolbox for trans-membrane protein mimics – an approach centered around transmembrane peptides. The central goal is to have a protocol for firstly integrating a transmembrane peptide in lipid vesicles (phase-transfer, microfluidics), and then functionalizing it in a second step with an extracellular component for signal sensing and an intracellular component for signal propagation via bio-orthogonal chemistries. In short: you will work on bio-inspired communication across synthetic membranes without the need for laborious transmembrane protein purification/insertion or transport across the membranes. The modular “LEGO” approach means that it would open a general route for generating bespoke artificial receptors for bottom-up synthetic biology in the future. In order to answer these questions, you will integrate methods from synthetic biology and biochemistry to create functionalized lipid vesicles, and use (single-molecule) fluorescence microscopy to study their properties.

More about the SigSynCell MSCA Doctoral Training Network

This PhD project is part of the EU Doctoral Network “Signalling Synthetic Cells (SigSynCell). SIGSYNCELL is a doctoral network funded by the European Commission via Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), whose goal is training through research. It is a consortium that brings together a dozen European academic partners, in addition to private companies, coordinated by the CNRS in Bordeaux (F). Research in the network is focused on developing synthetic cells as systems having the key characteristics function of living systems: their capacity to interact with their environment. More information on the network and the opportunities it offers can be found here:

About the group

Our group focuses specifically on processes that are critical to communication in the immune system ( We address these questions mainly by reconstituting signaling processes in model-membrane systems (JCS, 2019, Small Methods, 2023), developing novel experimental platforms for synthetic biology (ACS Syn Biol 2021) and to study immune cell–target cell contacts, and combining them with tools from single-molecule biophysics (Nat Commun 2021, 2023) and microfabrication (Angewandte, 2020).


You are an experimental (bio)chemist or molecular biologist with a strong interest in synthetic biology and/or biophysical questions. Experience with either protein purification, handling lipids or fluorescence microscopy would be an advantage. You should like the idea of working in a diverse, collaborative, ambitious and international environment. Excellent verbal and written English skills are essential. You will need to hold an MSc-degree, to ensure eligibility for a Dutch PhD examination.

IMPORTANT: for this position, you must also meet the EU’s “Mobility conditions”:

  • MSCA networks require that applicants must not have studied/worked in the host country for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the position’s start date.
  • This project’s Host Institution is AMOLF, but a part of your doctoral studies will be spent in the laboratory of a consortium member (likely 6 months, the maximum being 12 months).

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years, with a starting salary of gross € 2,770 per month and a range of employment benefits. As a MSCA Doctoral Researcher, you will also receive a mobility allowance of €600 and, a family allowance (€660 if applicable). After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at TU Delft or another Dutch university. Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. AMOLF assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses. 
IMPORTANT: in line with Dutch regulations, this PhD project has a duration of 48 months, i.e. 12 months on top of the 36 months funded by SigSynCell.

Contact info

dr. Kristina Ganzinger
Group leader Physics of Cellular Interactions
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100
You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
Please annex your: 
–  Resume; 
–  Motivation on why you want to join the group (max. 1 page). 

It is important to us to know why you want to join our team. This means that we will only consider your application if it entails your motivation letter.

Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis and as soon as an excellent match is made, the position will be filled.

Online screening may be part of the selection.

AMOLF is highly committed to an inclusive and diverse work environment. Hence, we greatly encourage candidates from any personal background and perspective to apply.

Commercial activities in response to this ad are not appreciated.

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PhD-student: Transmembrane protein mimics for communication between synthetic cells
Science Park 104 Amsterdam, Netherlands
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AMOLF carries out fundamental physics with an open eye for applications. The researchers work closely with universities, institutes, and companies.

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