Scientific Internship: Building a microfluidic device to make “minimal cells"

Date posted July 26, 2021
Type Scientific Internships

In bottom-up synthetic biology, researchers try to build a minimal cell from scratch and from well-defined components. Giant lipid vesicles are frequently used to mimic a cell’s membrane. As an intern in our Physics of Cellular Interactions group headed by Dr. Kristina Ganzinger, you will “breath life’ into these vesicles by building a microfluidic device that can make lipid vesicles of defined content, for example a minimal cytoskeleton. This is a project right at the forefront of bottom-up synthetic biology, since the reliable fabrication of these function vesicles remains a major bottle-neck for the research in this field.

More about the project

In this project, you will build a device which makes lipid vesicles using a microfluidic chip without surfactants . Your project will involve setting up the device as well as optimizing and improving its performance. Once built, you will encapsulate cytoskeletal proteins in these vesicles, image them by fluorescence microscopy and analyse the image data using automated scripts.

Yandrapalli, N., Petit, J., Bäumchen, O. et al. Surfactant-free production of biomimetic giant unilamellar vesicles using PDMS-based microfluidics. Commun Chem 4, 100 (2021).

About the group

Our group focuses specifically on processes that are critical to the immune system. Inspired by previous research projects that have shown the importance of spatiotemporal constraints for T cell activation (Nat Immun 2016), we investigate the interplay of membrane topography and signaling. This means exploring how cells shape their membranes not only in response to signals, but also to detect and discriminate them. One way in which we address these questions is by reconstituting cytoskeletal and signaling processes in model-membrane systems (“artificial cells”). By combining this synthetic biology approach with tools from single-molecule biophysics (JACS 2013, PloS One 2013, Nat Commun 2021) and microfabrication (Angewandte 2020, ACS Syn Biol 2021), we study signaling in isolation from cellular cross-talk.


You have a Bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry or a related subject and will participate in a Master study during the entire internship period. The internship must be a mandatory part of your curriculum. You have a nationality of an EU member state and/or you are a student at a Netherlands University. Please note: As of January 2021 the UK is no longer an EU member state. You must be available for at least 5 months.

Experience with handling lipids, microfluidics or 3D printing/CAD design would be an advantage, and you should like the idea of working in a collaborative, ambitious and international environment.

Terms of employment

At the start of the traineeship your trainee plan will be set out, in consultation with your AMOLF supervisor.

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:
–  CV;
–  List of followed courses plus grades

And a short motivation why you would like to do this project with us.

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

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