Postdoc: Stochastic Molecular Matter

Date posted November 13, 2018
Type Postdoc positions

The Biophysics group and the Soft Robotic Matter group at AMOLF are looking for a Postdoc who will work at the interface between single-molecule biophysics and mechanical metamaterials. In this project, we aim to generate and study a novel type of complex matter that we refer to as stochastic molecular matter, a mechanical metamaterial that is self-assembled from molecular building blocks that stochastically jump between bi-stable states. This idea combines recent developments in mechanical metamaterials, DNA synthesis of nanoscopic objects, and single-molecule biophysics, and could lead to materials showing excitability, oscillations, logical computations, as well as large-scale motion.

In the last 10 years, mechanical metamaterials have been engineered that exploit non-linear mechanical interactions between precisely designed building blocks, to achieve e.g. tunable auxetic behavior, stiffness, and phononic band-gap behavior. So far, these approaches have been mostly limited to macroscopic, centimeter-sized building blocks that can be fabricated using tools such as 3D printing, molding, laser cutting, and folding. As a result, the response of current mechanical metamaterials is fully deterministic and only depends on the magnitude of the applied loading and, if the behavior is hysteric, also on the loading path. At the same time, at the molecular level, new methods of DNA synthesis have been exploited to engineer nanoscopic objects, also referred to as DNA origami. While a range of shapes and modular building methods has been explored in these systems, so far they have been limited to a high degree of rigidity and stability. In contrast, single-molecule biophysics techniques such as optical tweezers have increasingly exposed the prevalence and functional utility of dynamics and stochasticity within biological molecular systems. They not only allow for autonomous self-assembly of complex structures and materials, but also exploit intricate cooperative effects to generate specific conformational dynamics. These recent developments now create the unique and pressing opportunity to engineer a new class of stochastically active metamaterials at the molecular level, which present an original direction within each of the three aforementioned disciplines.

About the group

The Biophysics group (PI Sander Tans) studies biological systems at the single-molecule and single-cell level. Examples include the use of optical tweezers and single molecule fluorescence to probe chaperone-guided protein folding, and precise cellular tracking to elucidate the propagation and feedback of noisy molecular signals within growing cells. See also: tansgroup.amolf.nl.

The Soft Robotic Matter group (PI Bas Overvelde) focuses on the design, fabrication and fundamental understanding of materials that are capable of autonomously adapting to – and even harnessing – variations in their environment. We aim to uncover principles that help us understand how non-linearity and feedback can result in the emergence of complex – but useful – behavior in soft actuated systems. To this end, the Soft Robotic Matter group explores active and sensing elements to implement feedback capabilities and computation in soft architected materials, and uses a combination of computational, experimental and analytical tools. This line of research uniquely combines concepts from soft robotics and architected materials, providing new and exciting opportunities in the design of compliant structures and devices with highly non-linear behavior. See also: www.overvelde.com.

Qualifications

At the start of the PostDoc, you need to meet the requirements for a doctors-degree. The position is open to candidates from a range of backgrounds, including Physics, Chemistry,  Engineering, Mathematics, or a related field. We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with a go-getter mentality. Preferably, the candidate has a strong experimental background, in combination with a sound appetite for numerical/theoretical work. Experience with single-molecule techniques and DNA engineering is an advantage, but not required. Excellent verbal and written communication skills (in English) are essential.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of two years. AMOLF assists any new postdoc with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs.

Contact info

Prof. dr. ir.  Sander Tans
Group leader Biophysics
E-mail: Tans@amolf.nl
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

Dr. ir. Bas Overvelde
Group leader Soft Robotic Matter
E-mail: Overvelde@amolf.nl
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

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