The Environmental Microfluidics Group in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at ETH Zurich, together with the Laboratory for Interfaces, Soft matter and Assembly in the Department of Materials at ETH Zurich, are seeking a dynamic and motivated doctoral student for a project on a new engineering technology to gain insights into the relation and interactions between individual microorganisms.
Doctoral position on “Sequential capillary assembly of microorganisms as a powerful new single-cell technology”
The ability to position single microorganisms at precise locations and in controlled spatial arrangements would be highly desirable – yet is to date largely unavailable – for a broad range of biological applications, including studies of microbial physiology and microbe-microbe interactions. At the simplest level, accurate spatial patterning of microorganisms would enable reliable, long-term imaging of large numbers of individual cells. More uniquely, it would transform the ability to quantify microbe-microbe interactions by providing full control over distances, because interactions among microbial cells are often based on chemical signals, whose propagation is strongly distance-dependent. This project will focus on developing for microbial studies a technology first introduced for colloidal particles – called ‘sequential capillarity-assisted particle assembly’ (sCAPA) – to enable the creation of controlled arrays of individual microorganisms for studies of microbial symbiosis or chemical exchange among cells. The research will involve setting up and testing the sequential deposition of microorganisms from different species. The broad goal of the PhD is to gain insight into single-microbe physiology and microbe-microbe interactions under controlled environmental conditions, coupling accurate spatial patterning and microfluidics.
The successful candidate will have a strong engineering background, preferably with experience in biophysics and soft matter, and a desire to work experimentally at the interface between soft matter physics and biology. Existing experimental experience is a plus. The candidate will have the opportunity of working in a highly interdisciplinary, cutting-edge environment, to interact with researchers from many different disciplines, to get skilled on a number of engineering approaches, and learn about fundamental biophysical processes of microorganisms. The ability to work independently, but also interact with a team as necessary, will be great assets. The project will be jointly supervised by the groups of Prof. Roman Stocker and Prof. Lucio Isa.