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2 PhD positions: Developing and utilizing Modular Organ-on-Chip technology

Job description

The BIOS Lab-on-a-Chip chair (“Miniaturized systems for biomedical and environmental applications”) aims at the research and development of Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC) systems. The Applied Stem Cell Technologies (AST) group aims to use (stem) cell culture models to make patient-specific replicas of the human body, so that every patient can get tailor-made therapy. Both groups are embedded within both the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology and the TechMed Institute of the University of Twente. MESA+ is one of the world’s largest nanotechnology research institutes; and it’s the largest research institute in this field in the Netherlands. TechMed is the University of Twente's research centre for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine. The institutes combine their research efforts in the domain of organ-on-a-chip in the Organ-on-Chip Center Twente (OoCCT), a center of expertise that focuses on organ-on-chip development and application.

Research in this project will be part of the “SMART Organ-on-Chip: Standardized open Modular Approach to Recapitulate Tissues” project funded by the Dutch government (NWO-AES). This project is a continuation of our recently published work, see the following links for details:

Job specifications:
Organ-on-Chip (OoC) is a game-changing approach in which human cells are cultured in microfluidic chips simulating and predicting the response of healthy and diseased human tissues. OoC has the potential to revolutionize today’s biomedical testing procedures that often involve ethically challenged animal testing and, most importantly, lead to variable results. Despite its promise, OoC adoption is hampered by profound technical and functional limitations. In this multidisciplinary project, engineers and biomedical researchers join forces with 26 end users to overcome these limitations by developing a novel, Standardized, open and Modular OoC Approach to Recapitulate Tissues (“SMART OoC”).

The current landscape of OoC technology is highly fragmented, with many different chips, sensors, devices, and readouts that are not or only partially compatible with each other. Developers of OoC technology have no common standards to use in the development of new prototypes and products. This means that technical solutions can typically only be applied in a narrow subdomain of the field of OoC, after which they have to be re-developed and adapted to be applicable for other subdomains. As a result of this fragmented development, it takes a lot of time and effort for users of OoC technology to combine and integrate the available technical solutions into an OoC that is suitable for their desired application. Such OoCs are typically difficult to work with, have a low throughput, and lack the ‘plug-and-play’ automated control that is needed for widespread adoption. These shortcomings are widely acknowledged and detrimental for the successful development and application of OoC.

Position 1: SMART docking plate development:
The main goal of this project is to further develop the existing prototype technology as described in this article of a ‘plug-and-play’ microfluidic docking plate with microfluidic building blocks (like OoCs, but also other basic functionality such as sensors, mixers, and reservoirs) into a fully functional SMART docking plate, specifically focusing on (1) internal fluidic routing between chip modules and (2) electrical interfacing for technical chips with electrical functionality. The activities within this position will relate to advanced microstructure design, prototyping, and manufacturability, as well as microfluidic valve design, and sensor integration.

Position 2: Integrating docking plate, chip modules, and readout technology:
The SMART OoC project will develop several parts, including the SMART docking plate as mentioned above, as well as various OoC and sensor (readout) modules that are clicked onto this plate. It is your aim in this position to develop prototypes of the SMART docking plate that are ‘fit-for-purpose’ and that work seamlessly with the various modules that will be connected to them. You will work with users (both at the University of Twente and at other partner institutes) to implement these SMART docking plates and associated systems in the relevant research settings. You are expected (1) to develop and establish the SMART docking plate as an ‘open technology platform’ in that it will be easy for developers and users to participate in its development and implementation, (2) work with project partners to demonstrate functionality of the SMART OoC platform in studying inflammation and fibrosis in various organs (e.g. heart, skin, joint).

Your profile

  • You have, or will shortly acquire, a Master’s Degree in a relevant field, like e.g. biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical (micro) engineering or physics;
  • Knowledge or experience in microfluidics, organ-on-chip, and/or cell culturing is considered as a key advantage;
  • You are able to work independently yet able to function in this multi-disciplinary project and have experimental skills;
  • You are proficient in English;
  • You have excellent communication and teamworking skills;
  • For position 1, we are looking for an engineering-type of personality. Knowledge of microfabrication (especially focused on polymer processing), microfluidics, and a basic background in electronics is preferred.
  • For position 2, a demonstrated interdisciplinary background with experience in (medical) cell biology and engineering will be most important.

Most importantly, the BIOS Lab-on-a-Chip and AST groups in general, and this project in particular, are very challenging multidisciplinary environments. It is therefore essential to show willingness to look beyond disciplinary boundaries, to learn new techniques and skills required for this project.

Our offer

The terms of employment are in accordance with the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Universities (CAO) and include:

  • A fulltime PhD position for four years, with a qualifier in the first year;
  • Full status as an employee at the UT, including pension and health care benefits.
  • The salary will range from € 2.434,- (1st year) to € 3.111,- (4th year) gross per month, plus a holiday allowance of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A solid pension scheme;
  • Excellent facilities for professional and personal development.

Information and application

Please send your application before the 1st of October 2021 (deadline: 30 September 2021, 23:59 CET) via the 'Apply now' button below, and include:

  • a motivation letter, emphasizing you specific interest and motivation to apply for this position. Clearly indicate in the subject of your motivation letter which position has your preference!
  • a detailed CV (resume);

For questions regarding position 1, contact Mathieu Odijk (m.odijk at utwente.nl). For position 2, contact Andries van der Meer (andries.vandermeer at utwente.nl).

About the organization

The faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) uses mathematics, electronics and computer technology to contribute to the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). With ICT present in almost every device and product we use nowadays, we embrace our role as contributors to a broad range of societal activities and as pioneers of tomorrow's digital society. 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. It has been accommodated in three multidisciplinary UT research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centre and Digital Society Institute.

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.

As an employer, University of Twente offers jobs that matter. We equip you as a staff member to shape new opportunities both for yourself and for our society. With us, 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.

2 PhD positions: Developing and utilizing Modular Organ-on-Chip technology
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