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PhD position on Modeling the tumor microenvironment in an organ-on-chip using smart matrices

Tumour tissues are smart: they know how to grow, spread and escape treatment. In this project, we aim at developing a smart tumour-on-chip model and validating it for testing (immuno)therapies.

As a PhD student working on this inter-disciplinary project, you will oversee the development of a smart vascularized breast tumour-on-chip model, using various hydrogel matrices (off-the shelf and animal-free). Next, you will be involved in the advanced characterization of the tumour microenvironment focusing on spatial and temporal variations found in the tissues in vivo. Furthermore, you will interact with a researcher developing a societal and ethical assessment trajectory.

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Key takeaways

  • Hours
    40 hr.
  • Salary indication
    Salary gross/monthly
    based on full-time
    € 2,770 - € 3,539
  • Deadline
    31 Jul 2024

The AMBER (Applied Microfluidics for BioEngineering Research) group seeks a qualified candidate for a PhD position for a project that aims to develop an advanced breast tumor-on-chip model incorporating essential cellular, physical, and chemical elements that impact therapeutic response; to validate this model for antibody-drug conjugates and immunotherapies; and to conduct an innovation trajectory towards societal acceptance.

Tumour tissues are highly heterogeneous and vary with disease progression. This heterogeneity often correlates with poor treatment success. Yet, current in-vitro/in-vivo tumour models do not properly incorporate spatio-temporal heterogeneity and have thus limited translational value. As such, innovative approaches are needed for advanced modelling of the tumour microenvironment, that correlate spatio-temporal alterations to therapy responses. Such approaches will be a game-changer towards in vitro pharmacokinetics studies and provide a trajectory towards personalized medicine, when using patient-derived materials.

Your role in this project will initially be on the establishment of the breast tumour-on-chip model, including its design, fabrication, cellular culture in commercially available hydrogels, and its first-stage characterization in terms of spatial and temporal heterogeneity across the tumour tissue. Next, together with a post-doctoral researcher at UTwente, you will implement new non-animal-derived hydrogel matrices in the tumour model as well as novel molecular sensors for pH, O2 and tissue stiffness, developed in the frame of the project. You will also contribute to the validation of the resulting tumour-on-chip model through the testing of small chemotherapeutic agents in the model, followed by more advanced immunotherapeutic treatments, in close collaboration with a postdoctoral fellow at the radboudumc. A researcher at Saxion, with whom you will interact, will complete the team, focusing on societal and ethical aspects related to the development of new and advanced tumour-on-chip models for therapy assessment.

This PhD research position is part of a larger 4-year project, which is funded by the Dutch Science Organization NWO. This larger project is a national project conducted in close collaboration between the university of Twente, the Radboud university medical centre (radboudumc), Saxion, the University of Applied Sciences, the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) as well as a variety of industrial and societal partners.

Your profile

  • You have a master’s degree in engineering – either bio(medical) engineering with affinity for microfluidics / organ-on-chip models or mechanical engineering with strong affinity for biological/medical applications.
  • You have experience with cell culture and molecular analysis
  • You have interest and aptitude in modelling (e.g., COMSOL) (not mandatory but desirable)
  • You are an enthusiastic and highly motivated researcher.
  • You are independent, pro-active, and have a well-structured working style
  • You have a creative mindset and excellent analytical and communication skills.
  • You have a good team spirit and like to work in an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented environment.
  • You are proficient in English for communication, both in writing and oral

Our offer

  • As a PhD candidate at UT, you will be appointed to a full-time position for four years, with a qualifier in the first year, within a very stimulating and exciting scientific environment;
  • The University offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues;
  • Your salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU);
  • You will receive a gross monthly salary ranging from € 2.770,- (first year) to € 3.539,- (fourth year);
  • There are excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme;
  • A minimum of 232 leave hours in case of full-time employment based on a formal workweek of 38 hours. A full-time employment in practice means 40 hours a week, therefore resulting in 96 extra leave hours on an annual basis.
  • Free access to sports facilities on campus
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid);
  • A training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a suitable plan for education and supervision;
  • We encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence, while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other staff.

Information and application

Are you interested in this position? Please send your application via the 'Apply now' button below before the 31st of July 2024, and include:

An interview and a scientific presentation will be part of the selection procedure.

For more information regarding this position, you are welcome to contact Prof. Séverine Le Gac, email: s.legac@utwente.nl.

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About the department

You will work in the AMBER (Applied Microfluidics for BioEngineering Research) research group, at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Sciences (EEMCS), University of Twente in close collaboration with Dr. Paez (DBE-TNW, UTwente) and Dr. Verdurmen (Radboudumc).

AMBER is an internationally oriented group focusing on the development of innovative microfluidic and miniaturization strategies for biological and medical applications. Our activities include the development of miniaturized devices for life science applications, such as diagnostic devices and organ-on-chip (OoC) models in the fields of cancer research, reproductive biology and medicine and plastic toxicity.

About the organisation

The faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) uses mathematics, electronics and computer technology to contribute to the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). With ICT present in almost every device and product we use nowadays, we embrace our role as contributors to a broad range of societal activities and as pioneers of tomorrow's digital society. As part of a people-first tech university that aims to shape society, individuals and connections, our faculty works together intensively with industrial partners and researchers in the Netherlands and abroad, and conducts extensive research for external commissioning parties and funders. Our research has a high profile both in the Netherlands and internationally. It has been accommodated in three multidisciplinary UT research institutes: Mesa+ Institute, TechMed Centre and Digital Society Institute.

Want to know more?

Le Gac, S. (Severine)

Le Gac, S. (Severine)
Full Professor

Le Gac, S. (Severine)
Full Professor

Do you have questions about this vacancy? Then you can contact Severine for all substantive questions about this position and the application procedure. For general questions about working for the UT, please refer to the chatbot.

How to apply

Step 1

When you see a vacancy that appeals to you, you can apply online. We ask you to upload a CV and motivation letter and/or list of publications. You will receive a confirmation of receipt by e-mail.

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Step 2

The selection committee will review your application and you will receive a response within 2 weeks after the vacancy has been closed.

Step 3

1st interview.
The 1st (online or in person) meeting serves as an introduction where we introduce ourselves to you and you to us. You may be asked to give a short presentation. This will be further explained in the invitation.

Step 4

2nd interview.
In the second interview, we will further discuss the job content, your skills and your talents.

Step 5

The offer.
If the conversations are positive, you will be made a suitable offer. If applicable, we will sign you up for screening.

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About the faculty EEMCS

Curious about what the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) stands for? Check out the EEMCS website for more information.

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