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Protein-nanoparticle conjugates for next-generation single-molecule sensing

Department of Applied Physics

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Dr Peter Zijlstra , Prof M Merkx Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Molecular Plasmonics group at Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands, has an open PhD position on protein-nanoparticle conjugates for next-generation single-molecule studies of protein-protein interactions.


Proteins and their interactions are the cornerstone of biological processes. The dynamic cooperation between multiple species is key to various processes including chaperone-mediated protein folding. Herein multiple chaperone proteins cooperate to aid in folding of a peptide, and to prevent its aggregation. The dynamics of these multi-molecular interactions is not easily captured because current single-molecule sensors (a) only work in dilute solutions or (b) only resolve a single species at a time. Capturing the dynamics of such protein machinery at physiological conditions therefore remains one of the grand challenges in the field. In our group we have developed plasmon sensors with single-molecule sensitivity. These sensors employ single-molecule plasmon-enhanced fluorescence, are compatible with high concentrations, and give access to short (millisecond) timescales due to strong plasmon-enhancement of the fluorescence.

Project description

The candidate will develop plasmonic sensors for dynamic protein-protein interactions, particularly chaperone-mediated processes. The candidate will perform protein expression and chemical functionalization of plasmonic nanoparticles and develop next-generation sensing assays with single-molecule sensitivity. The protein-nanoparticle conjugates will be used to study multi-protein interactions using plasmon-enhanced fluorescence in collaboration with a postdoc on the same project. The project will be co-supervised by dr. P. Zijlstra (Molecular Plasmonics) and Prof. M. Merkx (protein engineering).

Application procedure

We welcome applications from candidates with a MSc degree or equivalent in biophysical chemistry or a related field. Experience with optical studies of nanoparticles and protein chemistry is advantageous. We offer a fixed-term, 4-year position in a research group with an excellent reputation. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

Applications should be submitted through the link to the institution website in the right panel, or equivalently by navigating to Applications submitted through this application portal will get our full attention.

Funding Notes

This project is fully funded by an ERC Consolidator grant.
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