Nanopatterned ligands to study stem cell adhesion and signalling

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Nanoscience programme. The position is available from 1 November 2018 or later.

Nanopatterned ligands to study stem cell adhesion and signalling

Research area and project description:
The project aims to use advanced molecular patterning approaches based on surface immobilized molecular patterns (for example DNA origami based protein patterns) to study the role of multivalencey and pattern recognition in cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix or adjacent cells and subsequent signaling. The work will contribute to unraveling extrinsic signals in stem cell differentiation of epidermal stem cells.

Using surface nanobiotechnology approaches, ligands will be immobilized on surfaces with controlled spacing, number and pattern to correlate single versus multivalent binding in focal adhesions to stem cell adhesion and differentiation. A secondary goal of the project will be to use the same approaches of co-pattern ligands in specific patterns to study the role of synergistic binding of growth factors within cellular adhesions (e.g. desmosomes) or in the local vicinity of cellular adhesions on signaling within the adhesive complex and later downstream effects. The work will involve both development of the patterning approaches, their advanced characterization using super-resolution optical approaches and the application of these approaches to study specific mechanisms of adhesion and signaling relevant for decision making in stem cell niche environments.

This PhD project is part of the large DG center CellPAT: Center for Cellular Signal Patterns (started 1 November 2017) (, which aims to understand the role of multivalency and patterns in immune recognition, cell adhesion and signaling and disease. The student will collaborate with other students and postdocs at Aarhus University and the international collaborating partners. The PhD project will include one or more research stays at the group of Professor Fiona Watt at the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at Kings College London, UK.

See relevant work from the CellPAT consortium as reference for the DNA origami approach (Andersen E-S et al. Nature 459:73 (2009), Zadegan R et al. Small 11:1811 (2015)) and for the use of protein patterns to study cell and stem cells adhesion and differentiation (Kristensen S et al. Nano Letters 12:2129 (2012), Gautrot JE et al Nano Letters 14:3945 (2014), Andersen A-S Nano Letters 16:2124  (2016)).

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants to the PhD position must have a relevant Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Molecular Biology, Nanoscience, Chemistry or equivalent. Candidate applications based on a Master’s degree will be considered for a 3-year PhD and applications based on a Bachelor’s degree will be considered for a 5-year PhD (including an integrated master’s degree).

Place of employment and place of work:
The place of employment will be Aarhus University and the place of work will be based at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center, iNANO ( in Aarhus, Denmark.

The iNANO center was established in 2002 and at is a major research and education center based at the Faculty of Science and Technology hosting 60 senior scientists, ~100 Postdocs and ~130 PhD students. The center combines expertise and faculty from Physics, Chemistry, Molecular biology and Medicine to carry out world-class interdisciplinary research in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. The center gives access to a broad range of infrastructure, tools and expertise including clean-room facilities. With a 5-year undergraduate nanoscience programme and nanoscience graduate programme ( the center provides a full educational environment. In addition to the large base of basic research, the center has a large number of ongoing industrial projects and partnerships.

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Professor Duncan Sutherland
Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO)
Aarhus University
Gustav Wieds Vej 14
DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

Mobil tlf.: +45 23385789

Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at Graduates School of Science and Technology is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” is documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test, minimum score: 560 (paper-based test) or 83 (internet-based test). The paper-based test must have a “total score”. From August call 2019, GSST no longer accepts the paper-based test.
    Aarhus University does not accept the TOEFL ITP test. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935. You must request that the test centre send your test results to Aarhus University, in order to enable verification of your test results.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 6.5 points
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate  with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, or United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at Aarhus University for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section” Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants able to document that English was the language of instruction during the whole period of their Bachelor’s and/or Master’s programme. This must be documented by uploading an official document from the institution stating this under “language skills documentation”. The onus is on the applicant to provide this information as GSST will not pursue information regarding language of instruction for any programmes or institutions.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to
Choose August 2018 Call with deadline 1 August 2018 at 11.59 PM MET.
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme 'Nanoscience'

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: "Nanopatterned ligands to study stem cell adhesion and signalling"
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

Please note that all information in the application must be in Danish or English.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts and diploma(s)
    Project description (½-4 pages). For technical reasons, you must upload a project description. When - as here - you apply for a specific project, please simply copy the project description above, and upload it as a PDF in the application. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed. The e-mail will also include a link to the application – GSST urges you to check that all mandatory data, marked with an asterisk (*), is registered correctly and all attached files are readable. In case of significant errors, you should reply to the confirmation e-mail with the correct details before the application deadline.

GSST reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSST application guide here.  

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.
  •  The project will only be initiated if final funding (from GSST/the faculty) is secured.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.