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Ph.D. student position - Magnetically triggered drug nanocapsules in hydrogels

Project background

Smart wound dressings require ways to release antimicrobials with precise timing and dose. The dose should be high enough to kill all bacteria present but not be continuously applied to induce antimicrobial resistance. The administration of antibiotics, if needed, should take place days after closing the wound dressing. It can, therefore, not be continuously released.

We have shown that hybrid nanoscale capsules of polymers or lipids with tiny magnets put in their shells can be used to trigger the release and control the release rate using magnetic fields. Magnetic fields are harmless to and penetrate both the body and wound dressings.

Your future job

You will improve the magnetically actuated nanocapsules to make them robust, stable over a long time and demonstrate the encapsulation of potent antibiotics while still controlling their release magnetically.

You will encapsulate the nanocapsules in wound dressing materials and study the effect of antibiotics release on bacteria in contact with the wound dressing and the cytotoxicity effects on cells.

A successful demonstration means implementing the concept in wound dressing prototypes developed by STIMULUS.

What we offer

Work in a transdisciplinary research group of physicists, chemists, and microbiologists, in the Institute for Biologically inspired materials, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. At your disposal are the state-of-the-art labs of the Institute for Biologically inspired materials, including synthetic chemistry labs, TEM, SEM, confocal microscopy, colloidal techniques, microbiology, and cell culture facilities.

A European, transdisciplinary, structured doctoral education through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network STIMULUS. You will spend extended time performing research and receiving training with our partners.

What you should do now

Suppose you are interested, and you have or will finish the equivalent of a European master’s degree next year in physics, chemistry, materials science, or related discipline. In that case, you can apply to us by submitting:

  • Cover letter including your motivation to apply for the chosen position and research interests
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Diploma for the highest finished degree (expected date of graduation if your master’s degree is not completed)
  • Full transcript of grades for your university studies (with grade key in English)
  • Reference letters or reference contact persons

Make sure that you submit all the requested documents, or we will not consider your application. The application should be submitted in English; we might additionally ask you to provide a TOEFL test. You cannot have resided in Austria for more than 12 months during the last 3 years to be eligible.

We especially encourage female applicants, applicants from minority groups, and applicants with disabilities.

You can find more information on the STIMULUS consortium and on the selection process on the STIMULUS website. We plan the interviews for the second half of February 2021, with the possibility to start soon after that. Applications are welcome until the 31st of January 2021.

Employment conditions

  • 40 hours per week for 36 months.
  • Gross salary: € 2,929/month (following the terms of the collective agreement for university staff, B1), plus additional mobility (€ 1,200/month) and (when applicable) family allowance (€ 500/month).

Contact and submission of applications

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Erik Reimhult

E-Mail: tiziana.fresu(at)boku.ac.at

Website: https://boku.ac.at/nano/bimat, https://www.stimulus-etn.eu/

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Ph.D. student position – Studying bacteria-wound dressing interactions with holographic imaging and cytometry

Project background

Identifying and quantifying pathogens is a cumbersome process, usually performed by plating and qPCR (genome) analysis. These identification methods, unfortunately, tell us nothing regarding how bacteria attach to and interact with materials and cells. Similarly, optical microscopy is used to image bacteria and biofilms, but it does not allow us to identify bacteria easily and its 2D-nature precludes studying binding interactions.

We have worked on a new technique to image cells in 3D fast enough to capture how they move and interact, and to identify them by their physical properties. This technique, holographic phase-contrast microscopy, can be used to analyze tens of thousands of bacteria rapidly to determine their species and phenotype, in a way similar to flow cytometry.

Your future job

You will apply holographic cytometry to characterize various pathogens relevant to healthcare-associated infections, achieving rapid, label-free identification of bacteria.

You will apply holographic methods to investigate hydrogels, bacteria, and their interactions, including the early stages of biofilm formation and infection.

You will complement the investigations of the dynamics using holographic imaging with scanning electron microscopy of the detailed morphology of bacteria, biofilms, hydrogels, and the interface between the two, relevant in the context of wound dressings.

What we offer

Work in a transdisciplinary research group of physicists, chemists, and microbiologists, in the Institute for Biologically inspired materials, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. At your disposal are the state-of-the-art labs of the Institute for Biologically inspired materials, including TEM, SEM, all sorts of optical microscopy and colloidal techniques, microbiology, and cell culture facilities.

A European, transdisciplinary, structured doctoral education through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network STIMULUS. You will spend extended time performing research and receiving training with our partners.

What you should do now

Suppose you are interested, and you have or will finish the equivalent of a European master’s degree next year in physics, chemistry, materials science, or related discipline. In that case, you can apply to us by submitting:

  • Cover letter including your motivation to apply for the chosen position and research interests
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Diploma for the highest finished degree (expected date of graduation if your master’s degree is not completed)
  • Full transcript of grades for your university studies (with grade key in English)
  • Reference letters or reference contact persons

Make sure that you submit all the requested documents, or we will not consider your application. The application should be submitted in English; we might additionally ask you to provide a TOEFL test. You cannot have resided in Austria for more than 12 months during the last 3 years to be eligible.

We especially encourage female applicants, applicants from minority groups, and applicants with disabilities.

You can find more information on the STIMULUS consortium and on the selection process on the STIMULUS website. We plan the interviews for the second half of February 2021, with the possibility to start soon after that. Applications are welcome until the 31st of January 2021.

Employment conditions

  • 40 hours per week for 36 months.
  • Gross salary: € 2,929/month (following the terms of the collective agreement for university staff, B1), plus additional mobility (€ 1,200/month) and (when applicable) family allowance (€ 500/month).

Contact and submission of applications

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Erik Reimhult

E-Mail: tiziana.fresu(at)boku.ac.at

Website: https://boku.ac.at/nano/bimat, https://www.stimulus-etn.eu/

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Ph.D. student position in microbiology and 3D printing of biofilms

The project               

Bacteria within a biofilm are up to 1,000-fold more resistant to antibiotics and are inherently insensitive to the host immune response. This is particularly relevant for patients affected by Cystic Fibrosis (CF), also called mucoviscidosis. Indeed, once Pseudomonas aeruginosa colonizes the lungs, it can acquire a mucoid phenotype, which renders infections insensitive to antibiotics.

Our preliminary data show that antibiotherapy directly impacts the properties of the extracellular matrix surrounding bacteria in a biofilm [1]. We hypothesize that these changes increase the protection of bacteria in the biofilm, rendering them even less permissive to antibiotherapy.

The main aims of the 3.5 years Ph.D. position are (1) to establish a relevant in vitro model of CF-biofilm, (2) to study the interactions between exopolysaccharides (EPS), antibiotics and P. aeruginosa and (3) to test adjuvants able to restore the efficacy of the antibiotics using high-throughput screening.

Very few studies report on the physicochemical characteristics of EPS and how the micro-environment can be modulated by external compounds, such as antibiotics or other adjuvants. Finding adjuvants that prevent EPS from neutralizing antibiotics administered to biofilms could revolutionize how we tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Your job

  • Isolate, purify, and characterize important exopolysaccharides of Cystic Fibrosis biofilms.
  • Develop bioinks for 3D printing, including P. aeruginosa.
  • Characterize the structure and changes to native and printed P. aeruginosa biofilms due to environmental factors, including antibiotherapies.
  • Elucidate the interplay between EPS remodeling and bacteria behavior.

Your profile

Applicants should have a Master’s degree in microbiology and biotechnology or a related degree of interest with very good to excellent grades, i.e., capable of growing and characterizing bacteria and testing antibiotic efficacy. Experience with microscopy, bioreactors, and 3D bioprinting is preferred but not mandatory.

What we offer

The project is interdisciplinary with strong collaborations across scientific disciplines.

The coordinator of this project is Dr. Olivier Guillaume (TU Wien). You will mainly work at the Institute for Biologically Inspired Materials (BIMat), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. Prof. Erik Reimhult (BIMat) will co-supervise this Ph.D. program. Nevertheless, around 30% of the project will be done at the TU Wien, in the 3D Printing and Biofabrication Group of the Institute of Materials Science and Technology, Vienna (Head, Prof. Aleksander Ovsianikov).

The Reimhult group offers the complete infrastructure, including microbiology laboratories (including bioreactor, HPLC, FPLC, columns for EPS purification, RNA isolation and PCR for gene expression), wide-field and electron microscopes (holographic microscope, SEM, TEM and recently developed DDM to measure locally mechanical properties of hydrogel) and biopolymer characterization equipment (including 1H-NMR, FT-IR, GPC, DSC, and TGA). ITC, DSC, FT-IR and confocal microscopy available at the core facilities “Biomolecular & Cellular Analysis”, “Extremophile Center” and “VIBT Imaging Center”.

The Ovsianikov group has full access to various printing/bioprinting equipment (bioprinter Cell link BioX and 2-photon polymerization apparatus) to conduct ink/hydrogel characterization (rheometer, AFM, 1H-NMR, FT-IR, DSC and TGA if required) and microscopic analyses (confocal LSM700 and LSM800).

The Ph.D. candidate will be registered at the BOKU, 30 h/week with a gross salary of € 2.196,80 14 times per year (following the terms of the collective agreement for university staff, B1), with 10 h/week studies. The candidate will be enrolled in the BioMatInt doctoral school.

We especially encourage female applicants, applicants from minority groups, and applicants with disabilities.

For further information, you are welcome to contact Dr. Olivier Guillaume
E-mail: olivier.guillaume(at)tuwien.ac.at

Website: https://wwwt.tuwien.ac.at/ovsianikov/

or Prof. Erik Reimhult

E-mail: erik.reimhult(at)boku.ac.at

Website: https://boku.ac.at/nano/bimat

To apply, please send your CV, motivation letter, and referee contacts to Ms. Tiziana Fresu (E-mail: tiziana.fresu(at)boku.ac.at). Mark your application “BREATH”.

We will invite shortlisted candidates to interviews after the 28th of February 2021. The position is expected to be filled and to start in March 2021.

Literature

[1]: Heriot M. et al, Interaction of Gentamicin Sulfate With Alginate and Consequences on the Physico-Chemical Properties of Alginate-Containing Biofilms (2019) Int J Biol Macromol

Hertha Firnberg and Elise Richter postdoc positions

We are currently encouraging postdoc candidates eligible for Hertha Firnberg or Elise Richter stipends to contact us. We welcome discussions on possible applications within our fields of interest. After mutual agreement we will support the writing of your application and will host you if you are successful.