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Experimental/Theoretical PhD Position in Topologically Active Soft Materials and Complex Fluids


School of Physics

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About the Project

Soft materials and complex fluids made of polymers are all around us and make most of materials we encounter every-day, from plastics to living cells. One of the most important polymers is DNA, which is not only the carrier of genetic information but it is now broadly studied in soft matter and nowadays employed in applications such as DNA origami, drug delivery and hydrogels. One of the most striking features of DNA is the extreme conditions in which it is stored: two meters of DNA are tightly packaged in each of our cells in such a way that it can be accessed, read and copied at all times. To achieve this, DNA is constantly mechanically and topologically manipulated by proteins that expend energy. The aim of this project is to draw inspiration from the action of these proteins to realise novel complex fluids made of DNA that can change its topology in time in order to make responsive materials.

The project includes a mix of numerical and experimental research: the student will learn basic principles of polymer physics and polymer/DNA modelling and will be trained to study solutions of DNA enhanced by proteins mainly using microrheology (consisting in optical microscopy followed by sophisticated image analysis). This research will be supported by close international collaborations with experimental groups such as that of Prof R Roberston-Anderson (U of San Diego) and Prof C Dekker (TUDelft) which will provide expertise on complementary experimental techniques. There will be regular exchanges with these two groups and ample opportunities for the student to travel independently and to attend international conferences.

The student will be working in Davide Michieletto’s lab (https://www2.ph.ed.ac.uk/~dmichiel) -- broadly interested in topological problems in polymer and biological physics and in topological states of soft matter -- and within the Institute of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems (ICMCS, https://www.ph.ed.ac.uk/icmcs), one of the best groups in the world for soft matter (both theoretical and experimental). The University of Edinburgh is ranked 20th among the top universities in the world (https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2021) and the town is itself a unique, vibrant place in which to live.

Students should hold a 2.1 Hons degree or above, or equivalent, in physics, chemistry or a related discipline. A Master’s degree in one of the above fields would be advantageous. As the project includes a mix of numerical and experimental research on soft matter and DNA biophysics, a background in either simulations or experiments and willingness to learn the other are strongly recommended. Applicants should submit their degree certificate, transcripts, a covering letter, CV and two academic references using the following link:
https://www.ph.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate-research/how-apply

Potential applicants should contact Davide Michieletto ([Email Address Removed]) for further information.

Funding Notes

Due to funding restrictions applicants must be UK/EU nationals. This is a Royal Society fully-funded PhD position for 3.5 years; comprising a tax-free stipend of £15,285 p.a. plus home/EU fees.

Students should hold a 2.1 Hons degree or above, or equivalent, in physics, chemistry or a related discipline. A Master’s degree in one of the above fields would be advantageous. As the project includes a mix of numerical and experimental research on soft matter and DNA biophysics, a background in either simulations or experiments and willingness to learn the other are strongly recommended.
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