Deadline: 2015-01-12
Level Of Study: PhD

PhD candidate in Soft Condensed Matter Physics

The Institute of Physics (IoP) of the Faculty of Science combines the Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute (WZI), the Institute of Theoretical Physics (ITFA) en the Institute for High Energy Physics (IHEF) and is one of the large research institutes of the faculty. A PhD position is available in the Soft Matter Group of the WZI at the University of Amsterdam.

Project description

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate the assembly of complex colloidal structures made from patchy colloidal particles. Recent breakthroughs in synthesis allow the design of anisotropic colloidal particles which serve as building blocks for complex micron and nanoscale structures. This project explores the assembly of these structures, as well as the underlying physics of the complex assembly process. This will provide insight into the assembly of new micro- and nanoscale structures for tomorrows materials, as well as elucidate principles that also underlie complex biological structures.

The project

New micron and nano particles have the potential to act as building blocks in hierarchical structures of tomorrows materials: the ability to design these particles with exquisite precision over their shape and surface properties promise the creation of new micron and nano-scale structures with exceptional optical and mechanical properties. While recent breakthroughs allow making these particles routinely, the assembly of these particles into functional structures remains a grand challenge: it requires fundamental understanding of colloidal assembly, and the statistical mechanics of equilibrium and non-equilibrium structure formation.

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In this project we will use patchy colloidal particles of well-defined geometry to systematically investigate the assembly of complex superstructures. The particles interact via hydrophobic/hydrophilic patches that can be made with exquisite precision over the patch geometry, width and wetting properties. Using critical Casimir forces in new binary solvents, we can control the assembly of these building blocks into complex superstructures and study the physics of assembly, and the resulting structural and mechanical properties in three dimensions with confocal microscopy.

We will systematically investigate the assembly of structures from di-patch, tri-patch, and higher-order particles and their mixtures as a function of the basic control parameters critical Casimir force, patch width and anisotropy contrast. In collaboration with the simulation group in Amsterdam, we will then elucidate the underlying physical assembly principles to understand both the structure and kinetics. The combination of direct observation and modelling of the assembly process should yield new fundamental insight into principles of structure formation that may be also at play in molecular and biological structures. Furthermore, this work should elucidate new ‘design rules’ to create complex superstructures at the nanoscale. The work will be embedded in the lively environment of the Soft Condensed Matter group in Amsterdam, as well as in local and international collaborations.

The successful candidate will work in an inspiring cross-disciplinary environment with diverse expertise in colloidal synthesis and assembly, rheology and nanomechanics (Soft condensed matter group), and simulations (Simulation group Prof. P. Bolhuis).


  • A Master in Physics or Physical Chemistry;
  • experience in the following fields: colloidal/nanoparticle assembly, Soft Matter, Statistical Mechanics;
  • good communication skills (English). 
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Further information

For more information, please contact:


The appointment will be on a temporary basis for a period of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it can be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). An educational plan will be drafted that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. The PhD candidate is also expected to assist in teaching of undergraduates.

Based on a full-time appointment (38 hours per week) the gross monthly salary will range from €2,083 in the first year to €2,664 in the last year. The Collective Employment Agreement (CAO) of the Dutch Universities is applicable.

Job application

Applications should be emailed to, with in the subject line the position you are applying for and vacancy number 14-432. Please make sure all your material is attached in only one pdf. All applications should include a curriculum vitae, a list of university courses taken with grades, and a single page maximum statement of motivation and research interests.

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