PhD Student on immunomodulatory effects of micro-/nanoplastics at the human placenta
Materials science and technology are our passion. With our cutting-edge research, Empa's around 1,100 employees make essential contributions to the well-being of society for a future worth living. Empa is a research institution of the ETH Domain.
The Particles-Biology Interactions Lab enables particle-based solutions for diagnostics and therapeutics driven by clinical needs. We are active in characterizing, understanding and steering the interaction of particulate materials with human cells or tissues and provide expertise in the interdisciplinary field of particulate materials safety and applications for industry or authorities.
Your tasks
Micro-/nanoplastics (MNP) are global contaminants of great concern due to their high abundance and low rate of degradation, yet their health consequences are largely unexplored. We are looking for a highly motivated and enthusiastic PhD student to achieve new insights into immunomodulatory and endocrine effects of MNP at the human placenta that could prime the fetus for the development of allergies in later life. 

  • Production and characterization of real-life MNP particles by abrasion of plastic products 
  • Investigation of the interaction of MNP with environmental and food allergens 
  • Determination of the placental transport of MNP and MNP-allergen complexes to estimate fetal exposure 
  • Investigation of the immune/inflammatory response of the placenta and fetal immune cells to MNP and MNP-allergen complexes
Your profile
  • Master's degree in biology, biomedical engineering, life science or a related field 
  • High motivation to work in an interdisciplinary project 
  • Extensive experience with advanced cell/tissue culture work 
  • Expertise in immuology nanotoxicology and particle characterization is highly beneficial 
  • Excellent skills at science communication (verbal and written)
Our offer
  • A highly stimulating research environment in the Empa laboratories in St.Gallen
  • Access to state-of-the-art infractructure and equipment 
  • Opportunity for close collaborations with experts from different fields (engineers, chemists, clinicians) 
  • Support to present work at scientific conferences and to publish in high quality journals 
  • Support for personal development

The project will be carried out at Empa St.Gallen under the supervision of Dr. Tina Buerki-Thurnherr. You will be registered as a PhD student at the ETH Zurich under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Kirstin Schirmer. The position is available immediately but the starting date can be negotiated.
We live a culture of inclusion and respect. We welcome all people who are interested in innovative, sustainable and meaningful activities - that's what counts.
We look forward to receiving your complete online application including a letter of motivation, CV, certificates, diplomas and contact details of two reference persons. Please submit these exclusively via our job portal. Applications by e-mail and by post will not be considered.
Sarah Stüdli, Bereichspersonalleiterin / HR Partner
  Dr. Tina Bürki-Thurnherr
Group leader
Particles-Biology Interactions

Your future place of work
Lerchenfeldstrasse 5
9014 St. Gallen
Empa as an employer
Innovative, sustainable, meaningful activities
Creating added value for society
International, multicultural working environment
Freedom to create and develop
Culture of inclusion and respect
Excellent balance between different areas of life
Multiple award-winning and certified employer
Benefits for rail, mobile, childcare, catering, etc.