PhD Position in Medical Photonics

Utrecht University


PhD position in Photonics Translational Research - Medical Photonics (MEDPHOT) (1.0 FTE)

Job description

Extracellular vessicles (EV) are small biological particles mostly secreted from living cells. The number of EVs circulating in the body has been related to the health condition. We have recently developed simple and scalable optical technology that can detect and count EVs with high accuracy and sensitivity. This project is part of the NWO Perspective programme “Photonics Translational Research – Medical Photonics (MEDPHOT)”, in which 7 universities, 1 institute and 12 companies collaborate to develop and validate new optical biomarkers that are needed to realize earlier diagnosis, improved treatment and better quality of life in areas that will drive health care costs in the future: oncology, asthma and neurodegeneration.

To confirm the high potential of extracellular vessicles (EVs) as disease biomarkers, the central scientific challenge of this project is to realize a reliable characterization of the smallest, single EVs at high throughput. Therefore, two state-of-art technologies for single nanoparticle detection in fluids, nanoCET and microfluidic resistive pulse sensing, will be extended with fluorescence detection to characterize EVs based on their protein expression. As a PhD candidate you will be asked (1) to develop a microscope compatible with the nanoCET technology and capable of simultaneous detection of light scattering and fluorescence emission, (2) to calibrate measured fluorescence intensities on calibration nanoparticles, and investigate reproducibility, (3) to develop and test procedures to characterize EVs in clinical samples using the developed systems, and (4) to collaborate with Researchers in a closely connected project for measuring EVs in clinical samples using the developed systems and relate the outcome to disease.

You will be a member of the Nanophotonics research group and will be encouraged to pursue your research goals with guidance from senior members of the group and reach a level of independence commensurate with a PhD degree in 4 years. Open collaboration, diversity, the highest level of research integrity and a safe and pleasant working environment are core values of the group. You will further closely collaborate with the Department of Biomedical Engineering & Physics (Professor Ton van Leeuwen, Dr Edwin van der Pol) at Amsterdam UMC, and with consortium partners.

Furthermore, you will report on your results at national and international meetings, through peer-reviewed publications, and in the form of a PhD thesis and you will benefit from the expertise of the Nanophotonics group of the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science. As a member of this world-leading interdisciplinary institute you will have access to a wide range of laboratory infrastructure, instrumentation, and technical support. In addition, the Complexity Center at Utrecht University offers courses and expertise in data science and applications related to machine learning.


We are looking for a collaborative candidate who has:

  • a MSc degree in (applied) physics, biomedical engineering, or a related field;
  • affinity with optics, microfluidics, signal analysis and programming;
  • the ability to combine practical skills with analytical insights;
  • good communicative skills in English, both spoken and in writing;
  • the motivation to work in a multidisciplinary research group in order to bridge the gap between a biochemistry lab, a physics lab and the clinic.


  • a full-time PhD position, initially for one year with an extension to four years in total upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period;
  • a full-time gross salary that starts at €2,395 and increases to €3,061 per month in the fourth year (scale P of the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities (cao));
  • benefits including 8% holiday bonus and 8.3% end-of-year bonus;
  • a pension scheme, partially paid parental leave, and flexible employment conditions based on the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities.

In addition to the employment conditions laid down in the cao for Dutch Universities, Utrecht University has a number of its own arrangements. For example, there are agreements on professional development, leave arrangements and sports. We also give you the opportunity to expand your terms of employment yourself via the Employment Conditions Selection Model. This is how we like to encourage you to continue to grow.

More information about working at the Faculty of Science can be found here.

About the organization

The Nanophotonics group performs innovative experiments on light-matter interaction in complex photonic matter. Our work connects to applications in sustainable technology, semiconductor manufacturing, photonic computing and biomedical research. Laser systems that achieve or exceed the state of the art in stability, pulse energy or controllability enable us to produce world-leading results in the study of ultracold gases, strongly scattering media, nonlinear photonics and photonic quantum fluids. A wide network of academic and industrial collaborations provides context for our research and opportunities for our group members and students.

At the Faculty of Science there are 6 departments to make a fundamental connection with: Biology, Chemistry, Information and Computing Sciences, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Physics. Each of these is made up of distinct institutes which work together to focus on answering some of humanity’s most pressing problems. More fundamental still are the individual research groups – the building blocks of our ambitious scientific projects.

Utrecht University is a friendly and ambitious university at the heart of an ancient city. We love to welcome new scientists to our city – a thriving cultural hub that is consistently rated as one of the world’s happiest cities.We are renowned for our innovative interdisciplinary research and our emphasis on inspirational research and excellent education. We are equally well-known for our familiar atmosphere and the can-do mentality of our people. This lively and inspiring academic environment attracts Professors, Researchers and PhD candidates from all over the globe, making both the university and the Faculty of Science a vibrant international community and wonderfully diverse.

Additional information

If you have any questions, please contact Dr ir Sanli Faez, via

Do you have a question about the application procedure? Please send an email to


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. If you have the expertise and the experience to excel in this role, then simply respond via the “Apply now” button! Please enclose:

  • your letter of motivation;
  • your curriculum vitae;
  • a summary of your grades for your B.Sc. and M.Sc.;
  • a summary of your MSc thesis.

If this specific opportunity isn’t for you, but you know someone who may be interested, please forward the link to them.

Please note: Due to the current situation regarding the Corona virus (COVID-19) the process of selection and interviews is subject to change. Initial interviews will most likely be conducted online.

Some connections are fundamental – Be one of them

The application deadline is

In your application, please refer to


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