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2 PhD Positions in Designing and Optimizing Materials for Bacterial-Based Sustainable Biopesticide Delivery Systems

ETH Zurich
Date de publication


2 PhD Positions in Designing and Optimizing Materials for Bacterial-Based Sustainable Biopesticide Delivery Systems

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

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The bioMatter Microfluidics (Dr. Eleonora Secchi, D-BAUG) and SoftMat Group (Prof. Jan Vermant, D-MATL) at ETH Zurich will host two collaborative PhD projects within the BIOMAC-BP consortium, funded by Marie Sk-odowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks HORIZON-MSCA-2023.

Project background

The heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture is crucial for the food supply. However, this practice leads to significant environmental and health issues, including poisoning, environmental degradation, and the development of insecticide resistance. EU policies and the UN Sustainable Development Goals advocate for safer, more sustainable alternatives like biopesticides. However, large-scale implementation of these alternatives faces challenges related to formulation and efficacy.

The BIOMAC-BP consortium addresses the issue of synthetic pesticide use by developing sustainable biopesticide formulations. Funded by Marie Sk-odowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks HORIZON-MSCA-2023, the international consortium brings together experts from various scientific fields, including soft-matter physics, physical chemistry, chemical engineering, microbiology, biophysics and agricultural science, and combines industrial and academic perspectives. The project's main objective is to develop and optimize novel bio-sourced materials to incorporate bacteria capable of producing biopesticides, enhancing the benefits and sustainability of the formulations. This effort aims to reduce synthetic pesticide emissions, improve agricultural practices, and support a greener future for the chemical industry.

Job description

The bioMatter Microfluidics (Dr. Eleonora Secchi, D-BAUG)  and SoftMat Group (Prof. Jan Vermant, D-MATL) at ETH Zurich will host two collaborative PhD projects focused on:

  • Developing energy-efficient, scalable methods for creating particle-stabilized multiphase materials as bacterial delivery systems. By utilizing advective assembler techniques and adapting vacuum foaming methods, the project seeks to control particle accumulation at interfaces in emulsions and foams. This approach will enhance the robustness and efficiency of bacterial carriers, ensuring precise control over droplet and bubble sizes. Expected outcomes include robust bacterial carrier emulsions and particle-stabilized foams, with efficient bacterial incorporation in both systems. The project will be conducted mainly in the SoftMat Group under the supervision of Prof. Jan Vermant.
  • Developing polymeric sprayable gels that mimic the mechanical and adhesive properties of biofilm matrices, protecting bacterial cells from desiccation while allowing nutrient and gas exchange. The biofilms formed by the bacteria of interest will serve as an inspiration for the sprayable gel and will be characterized at the bulk and microscale using a combination of bulk rheology and microfluidics. Their material properties will then be replicated by the synthesized artificial hydrogels, specifically designed to support cell viability and foster the production of biopesticides. Additionally, microfluidics will be used to assess the hydrogels- protective function during the spraying process. The project will be conducted mainly in the bioMatter Microfluidics Group under the supervision of Dr. Eleonora Secchi.


Ideal candidates hold an MSc degree in physics, (Chemical or materials) engineering, material science, or a related discipline and have a background in soft matter, physical chemistry, chemical or material engineering, or related fields. Experience in microbiology or biophysics is beneficial. Additionally, they are fluent in English (oral and written). They show enthusiasm for conducting original research in an interdisciplinary and international team, and strive for scientific excellence.



We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

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We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • CV
  • Cover letter. Please specify to which position you would be primarily interested, the earliest possible starting date and the eligibility for Family Allowance.
  • 3 Reference Contacts.

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Since PhD-students working on Marie Sk-odowska Curie DN projects must comply with the specific conditions defined by the European Commission, candidates must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the recruitment date. Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account.

Further information about the bioMatter Microfluidics (Dr. Eleonora Secchi, D-BAUG)  and SoftMat Group (Prof. Jan Vermant, D-MATL) can be found on our website.

Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Eleonora Secchi, esecchi@ethz.ch (no applications).

About ETH Zürich

ETH Zurich is one of the world-s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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