PhD Position: Mechano-catalysis with molecular machines

Job Description

In the framework of an ERC Consolidator Grant, we seek a talented and ambitious PhD researcher for a challenging research project that spans the fields of molecular machines, catalysis, and mechano-chemistry.

The aim of this project is to develop a new generation of catalysts that transduce light energy into controlled catalytic activity. The design of these catalytic species involves the covalent or supramolecular integration of artificial molecular machines (motors or switches) in an organometallic structure. The light-driven operation of these molecular machines will modify the geometry of the coordination polyhedron around the catalytic center, by mechanical action over the atoms of the first coordination sphere. As a result we expect to develop a tunable catalytic system that operates out of equilibrium, and in which we can modulate the catalytic activity and the stereoselectivity reversibly, by using light.

Catalytic processes that are essential to life occur in living cells –typically, ATP synthesis and gene transcription. These processes are performed by mechano-catalysts that operate continuously, and modulate their reactivity as a response to mechanical processes. Building rudimentary synthetic analogues of these superb bio-machineries will constitute an important step towards a new generation of smart catalysts and ultimately, we expect that it will contribute to a better understanding of how molecular motion is connected to chemical conversion in living systems.

Recent publications on related topics:

1. T. Orlova, F. Lancia, C. Loussert, S. Iamsaard, N. Katsonis, E. Brasselet, Nature Nanotechnology 2018, DOI: 10.1038/s41565-017-0059-x

2. S. Iamsaard, S. J. Aβhoff, B. Matt, T. Kudernac, J. J. L. M. Cornelissen, S. P. Fletcher, N. Katsonis, Nature Chemistry 2014, 6, 229 - 235.

3. T. Kudernac, N. Ruangsupapichat, M. Parschau, B. Maciá, N. Katsonis, S. R. Harutyunyan, K-H. Ernst, B. L. Feringa, Nature 2011, 479, 208-211.


We are looking for a chemist who has extensive experimental experience with synthetic organic chemistry and/or supramolecular inorganic chemistry. Experimental skills should be evidenced by publications (or papers in press) in high quality peer reviewed journals or an MSc Thesis on a relevant topic. We work in an internationally oriented environment, thus fluency in both written and spoken English is a strict requirement. We specifically encourage the application of students who are creative, motivated to work on challenging projects, and with an affinity for disruptive research.

Scientific Environment

The Bio-inspired and Smart Materials group is embedded in the University of Twente (The Netherlands). We are developing adaptive materials that are inspired by the multiscale, sophisticated and stimuli-responsive architectures that are found in nature. To this end, we explore how the movement of artificial molecular motors, switches and machines is expressed, transmitted and amplified across length scales in molecular systems - from the nanoscale up to the macroscopic (functional) level. Our core expertise entails soft matter, where the energy of interaction between molecules is weak, which makes them sensitive to small changes in the environment, or in their composition. The research also implies a special focus on non-equilibrium systems that are fueled by light. Ultimately, our research program seeks to address open questions related to the emergence of life-like functions in chemical systems.

We are part of the Faculty of Science & Technology, where some 700 staff members and more than 1100 students are involved in training and research at the interface between chemical technology, applied physics and biomedical technology. Fields of application include sustainable energy, process technology and materials science, nanotechnology and technical medicine. Research, which enjoys a high profile both at home and internationally, has been accommodated in the multidisciplinary research institutes MESA+ and MIRA.

Our group is also actively involved in the Dutch national advanced research center ARC-CBBC (, that stands for excellent research in major, complex societal challenges related to chemistry and energy. In the frame of this research center we benefit from advanced expertise in homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, materials and synthesis.

Conditions of Employment

The position is available starting from October 2018 and has a duration of 4 years. We provide an inspiring and collaborative team atmosphere, cutting-edge infrastructure, close interaction between supervisor/student, and you will also benefit from the excellent research environment that is available for supramolecular chemistry and catalysis in The Netherlands. Salary and conditions will be in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement (CAO) of the Dutch Universities.

Information and application

For more information about this position, please contact Prof. Nathalie Katsonis, e-mail:, or visit our website To apply, please e-mail a complete CV, reference letters or names of references, and a letter of application to Ms. Nicole Haitjema, Please mention the title of the project in the subject of the e-mail.

Deadline for application: May 15, 2018