PhD scholarship to Develop a New Optical Microscope for Screening Organ-on-a-Chip Systems

Wednesday 26 Aug 20

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We invite applications for a 3-year PhD fellowship to develop a new optical microscopy technique for imaging organ-on-a-chip systems. As detailed below, this work shall provide a platform for informing biomedical research and clinical interventions.

You will be part of DTU’s Department of Health Technology and will interface closely with the Novo Nordisk Foundation-sponsored Centre for Intestinal Absorption and Transport of Biopharmaceuticals, which is characterized by its interdisciplinary research strategy. The Novo Nordisk Foundation also supports this PhD fellowship (and several future fellowships) through a separate grant dedicated to the development of hardware for sub-cellular imaging and fast screening of complex living samples.

As a PhD Fellow, you will drive the development of a new type of fluorescence microscope for live-sample imaging of organ-on-a-chip systems mimicking the intestinal barrier, i.e., 3D printed scaffolds hosting cells native to the intestine. In close collaboration with biologists and image analysts at DTU and internationally, you will optimize this microscope to pursue a deeper understanding of how biopharmaceuticals and other compounds pass from the intestinal lumen to the blood. The successful team effort will provide new insights, which will advance our means to treat disease as well as our general understanding of biological life.

Responsibilities and tasks
You will play a central role in our mission to develop and apply organ-on-a-chip technology, i.e., engineered biological structures, which can mimic how real tissue responds to, for example, medical treatment. In the long term, this technology can enable animal-test-free pharmaceutical trials and personalized medicine based on trials in organ-on-a-chip systems grown from person-specific cells.

Organ-on-a-chip systems are ‘living’ and also relatively large and complex. Thus, we cannot readily capture details and long-term dynamics in organ-on-a-chip systems with existing microscopes. To further the development of organ-on-a-chip systems, we need a tailor-made imaging platform. By pursuing the development of a high-throughput imaging platform for organ-on-a-chip systems, you will hone your skills with hardware and software development at the interface of traditional engineering, optics, biology, and medicine. In this light, we anticipate that your work will position you well as an investigator and future innovator in the biomedical sciences.

You will be responsible for implementing a novel optical microscope entirely from scratch. This effort will require a broad skillset spanning optics, hardware-software interfacing, and data analysis. Depending on your training-needs, relevant skills will be sharpened through training in our collaborators’ labs abroad. Next, you will use your microscope together with DTU-biologists and image analysts to capture how fluorescently labelled biopharmaceuticals travel through the intestinal barrier. During this application-oriented phase of the project, you will be responsible for applying and optimizing your microscope to provide the best images possible. Your ability to drive hardware/software development will be essential. Likewise, your ability to document, present, and publish scientific findings will be central.

Finally, it is important that you are motivated to contribute to the enjoyable and collaborative work environment in DTU’s new Department of Health Technology, which has hosted our research groups and research centre since 2019.

Qualifications
Candidates should have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree. Previous training with an emphasis on hardware development, hardware-software interfacing, image analysis, and some exposure to fundamental biology/physiology is preferable.


The ideal candidate for the scholarship can:

  • Work independently and prioritize tasks with team-success in mind.
  • Plan and execute complex hardware implementation,
    i.e., interface optics, electronics, and software.
  • Implement routines for image analysis and image visualization.
  • Work constructively in a team of diverse scientists,
    i.e. analyse and contribute to solve biological/mathematical challenges.
  • Use software for instrument control, e.g., LabVIEW.
  • Use software for data simulation and image analysis, e.g., MATLAB.
  • Use software for basic mechanical design, e.g., SOLIDWORKS.
  • Communicate professionally and fluently in English (also in writing).
  • Present insights, progress, and bottlenecks to diverse (non-expert) audiences, including: Local/international collaborators, BSc/MSc students, and the public.
  • Mentor BSc/MSc students, who assist your project through their thesis work.
  • Enjoy science and adhere to the European code of conduct for research integrity.
  • Start work between January 1st and April 1st, 2021.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide.

Assessment
The assessment of applicants will be made by the committee of project advisors:

  • Emil B. Kromann (main advisor)
  • Niels B. Larsen (co-advisor)
  • Kim Mortensen (co-advisor)

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.


Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years.

The workplace will be at DTU Lyngby Campus. Additionally, you will work/study abroad for short periods, likely accumulating to 3-6 months.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here.

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Emil B. Kromann [ebkro@dtu.dk], Associate Professor, Department of Health Technology.

As a PhD fellow, you will be affiliated with multiple laboratories (both new and established) across DTU’s Department of Health Technology. As our department is still relatively young, we have many exciting opportunities to align research strategies across the department and reinvent our approaches to teaching and learning. As a PhD fellow, you will be defining for this process.

You can read more about the overarching research project and the enabling grant (13 Mio. DKK) from the Novo Nordisk Foundation in this news release: Young researcher will develop new supermicroscope for advanced studies of living tissue.

You can read more about the Centre for Intestinal Absorption and Transport of Biopharmaceuticals here: www.citbio.dtu.dk/ 

You can read more about DTU’s new Department of Health Technology here: www.healthtech.dtu.dk/english

Application
Please submit your online application no later than 1 November 2020 (Copenhagen-time). Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and BSc/MSc diploma
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)

Candidates may apply prior to ob­tai­ning their master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.

Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Health Tech engages in research, education, and innovation base on technical and natural science for the healthcare sector. The Healthcare sector is a globally expanding market with demands for the most advanced technological solutions. DTU Health Tech creates the foundation for companies to develop new and innovative services and products which benefit people and create value for society. DTU Health Techs expertise spans from imaging and biosensor techniques, across digital health and biological modelling, to biopharma technologies. The department has a scientific staff of about 175 persons, 130 PhD students and a technical/administrative support staff of about 80 persons.

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 12,000 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. Our main campus is in Kgs. Lyngby north of Copenhagen and we have campuses in Roskilde and Ballerup and in Sisimiut in Greenland.