PhD Position Emergent Mechanics of Entangled Active Polymer-like Matter

Research / Academic

Are you a highly motivated physicist with a strong interest in soft active matter and statistical mechanics? We are seeking an excellent and ambitious PhD candidate to carry out interdisciplinary research on mechanical properties of active polymer-like matter which combines experiments and simulations.

A grand challenge in active matter physics is to understand the beautiful yet complex collective phenomena emerging in large social assemblies, such as in ant rafts, fish schools, bird flocks, human crowds, and swarms of robots. The interplay between self-drive (activity) and interactions of constituents leads to novel collective properties with no counterparts in equilibrium systems. Despite encouraging theoretical advances, understanding the emergent collective properties of realistic active systems beyond toy models remains challenging. For instance, some types of worms and ants with flexible bodies form entangled aggregates that cannot be explained without invoking their internal dynamics. Here, we propose a joint experimental-theoretical research project that aims at understanding this novel aspect of active matter by addressing the following question:

What novel mechanical properties emerge from the interplay between activity, internal dynamics and topological entanglements in dense active polymer-like matter?

This project will be carried out in a collaborative setting under joint supervision of Dr. Sara Jabbari-Farouji and Dr. Antoine Deblais at the Institute of Physics (IoP), comprised of an exciting team of researchers with a strong emphasis on a feedback loop between experiment and theory. Building on computational and experimental expertise in our groups, you will combine coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations with rheology of worms to uncover the effect of activity on the mechanical properties of entangled active polymer-like matter.

What are you going to do?
You are expected to do an original and fundamental research on collective behavior of active polymers combining computational and experimental work.

You will:

  • Perform Brownian dynamics of active filaments potentially combined with theory.
  • Design, use and built non-standard experiments to investigate the mechanics of living Tubifex tubifex worms under various conditions.
  • Attend group meetings and present your results in seminars.
  • Present your results in international workshops and conferences.
  • Take part in the teaching efforts, including supervision of Bachelor and Master students.


You have:

  • a creative, curious, and self-driven nature with an interest in interdisciplinary projects;
  • A MSc degree in science, preferably in physics, or a closely related discipline
  • a strong background in physics and/or computational science;
  • good programming skills;
  • an eagerness and capability to learn new techniques and to combine numerical simulations, theory, and experiments
  • excellent written and oral communication skills in English.
  • good time management skills and take charged of your PhD project
  • Team spirit to collaborate with other lab members

Other skills, experiences, and documents that would benefit your application:

  • A strong background in statistical physics
  • Previous experience in Soft Active Matter Physics or Mechanics (rheology).
  • Some experience with data analysis
  • demonstrated experience with programming and modelling software (Python, LAMMPS, Hoomd-blue, etc.).
  • scientific publications if applicable.

Salary Benefits:

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). The preferred starting date is as soon as possible. This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.

The gross monthly salary, based on 38 hours per week and dependent on relevant experience, ranges between € 2,541 to € 3,247 (scale P). This does not include 8% holiday allowance and 8,3% year-end allowance. A favourable tax agreement, the '30% ruling', may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Universities of the Netherlands is applicable.

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at Science Park we offer you multiple fringe benefits:

  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime) and extra holidays between Christmas and 1 January;
  • multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;
  • a complete educational program for PhD students;
  • multiple courses on topics such as leadership for academic staff;
  • multiple courses on topics such as time management, handling stress and an online learning platform with 100+ different courses;
  • 7 weeks birth leave (partner leave) with 100% salary;
  • partly paid parental leave;
  • the possibility to set up a workplace at home;
  • a pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;
  • the possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;
  • help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you're moving from abroad.

Are you curious to read more about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits, take a look here.

Work Hours:

38 hours per week


Science Park 904