PhD: From Phase Separation to Living Materials

The Cluster of Excellence livMatS develops completely novel, bioinspired materials systems that adapt autonomously to various environments and harvest clean energy from their surroundings. The intention of these purely technical – yet in a behavioral sense quasi-living – materials systems is to meet the demands of humans with regard to pioneering environmental and energy technologies. The societal relevance of autonomous systems and their sustainability will thus play an important role in their development. The research program of livMatS is characterized by highly interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from a broad range of fields including engineering, chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, the humanities, and sustainability sciences.

The livMatS Cluster of Excellence is offering a PhD research position for the following project:

From Phase Separation to Living Materials

Starting date: 01 September 2023

Project description
Phase separation provides unique capabilities to organisms. It allows spatial coupling of metabolic processes, it protects against parasites in scenarios of competing entities and offers control over its internal microenvironment. In addition to their ability to recruit, concentrate and separate parasitic structures, dynamic phase changes might be used as an alternative approach to activate the formation of structured materials. The focus of this livMatS activity is to use phase separation as a strategy to develop chemically fueled droplets, capable of catalyzing reactions, leading to the discovery of ordered structural motifs. Droplets will be targeted to adapt their properties in response to changing conditions, such as fuel concentration, chemical nature of nucleophiles and the pathway of activation. The PhD student will develop non-equilibrium droplets, work on the analysis of the activated libraries in terms of composition and dynamics and investigate the properties of the droplets such as catalysis and templating. Droplet formation will be followed using analytical techniques and their structural evolution will be monitored using fluorescence microscopy.

Candidate profile
For this project interdisciplinary competences ranging from organic and analytical chemistry to supramolecular and systems chemistry are desirable. The potential PhD candidates are therefore expected to have a master with outstanding grades in one of the following fields (chemistry, polymer science, functional materials) and the strong willingness and provable competence to work interdisciplinary. Previous experience in one of the following areas (solid and solution phase peptide synthesis, dynamic covalent chemistry, spectroscopic techniques) is appreciated, but is not a requirement. In addition, strong competences in scientific presentations and writing (in English language) as well as well as team skills are expected from the successful PhD candidate as he/she will be part of a creative, productive and dynamic research team.

Please hand in:
• Motivation letter detailing why you are interested in this specific project and how your previous research qualifies you for the project (up to 1,500 words)
• Curriculum Vitae with list of publications (if applicable)
• Certified copies of your university degree(s) with grades (BA and MA certificate / Diploma certificate and transcript)
• Short summary of your master’s thesis (up to 1,000 words)
• Work sample (chapter from recent thesis or journal article up to 1,000 words)
• Two referees with contact details and reference letters

Your documents will not be returned after the application process. For this reason, please submit copies only. This position is funded until 31 December 2025 and an extension is possible. The salary will be determined in accordance with TV-L E13. We are particularly pleased to receive applications from women for the position advertised here.

Please send your application in English including supporting documents mentioned above citing the reference number 00003045. Application deadline is 30 June 2023.

Application is to be emailed as one MERGED PDF file to

For questions about the project, contact Dr Charalampos Pappas at