PhD for PIRO

The Biomolecular Imaging Lab (Matz Liebel, at the VU Amsterdam is searching for two PhD students to work on the recently awarded ERC grant “PIRO” to experimentally develop, implement and apply an ultrafast phototransient infrared holographic microscope for biomedical imaging and diagnostics. Both the lab as well as the “PIRO” project are at their starting point. This means that you will have the unique opportunity, and responsibility, to be amongst the first generation of students that kick-starts a completely novel technology. As such, you will be working together with the PI who has >10 years of hands-on experimental expertise in the field. 

FTE: 0.8 - 1

Job description

The group
We develop innovative optical imaging and sensing platforms for future applications in medical diagnostics and the clinic. As they represent low-cost prime-candidates for improving healthcare globally we are particularly interested in label-free or digital approaches. To realise this vision, we combine fundamental and applied approaches, building on an interdisciplinary toolbox ranging from molecular biology over ultrafast optics to digital holography with the key-ingredient being creativity.

The PIRO project
Successful medical imaging and diagnostics requires a combination of rapid, large-area, observations with quantitative and target-specific signals. Vibrational imaging is a prime-candidate in this regard: it provides vibrational, or chemical, information without requiring costly and often difficult to use labels. However, even after decades of research it remains difficult if not impossible to simultaneously obtain said information while covering meaningful observation areas.
Together, we will deliver the necessary tool for the job. You will combine concepts from nonlinear ultrafast spectroscopy and digital holography to develop a novel vibrational imaging platform: a phototransient infrared holographic microscope (PIROscope). The PIROscope is inspired by an ultrafast holographic microscope that we implemented over the past years: it combines femtosecond IR-excitation with visible readout to, ultimately, retrieve spectrally resolved quantitative images with an unprecedented combination of imaging speed, spectral observation window and spatial-resolution.  During PIRO we will implement the PIROscope and validate it for biomedical imaging. We will then use our edge over the state-of-the-art to take first steps towards PIRO-based diagnostics by high-resolution visualising breast cancer tissue and the metabolic activity of antibiotics-treated bacteria.


The candidate must hold a master’s degree in physics, chemistry or engineering with an outstanding track record and a passion for experimental research. Proficiency in English (written and oral) are required. Previous experience in (non)linear optics, spectroscopy or microscopy are desired but not a must. Finally, the ability to independently and creatively work in a diverse interdisciplinary environment is essential.

What are we offering?

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,541 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €3,247 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 0.8 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a total duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • discounts on collective insurances (healthcare- and car insurance)
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavor – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 30,000 students. We employ over 5,500 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to more than 11,000 students.


If you are interested in this vacancy, please apply via the application button before 01/04/2023. including the following documents:
  • Updated CV including Bachelor and Master grades and the contact information of two references
  • Motivation letter
Vacancy questions
For additional questions please contact: Matz Liebel (

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

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Job area: PhD
Educational Level: MSc
VU unit: Faculty of Science
Contract type: Temporary with prospects to extension
Maximum FTE: 1
Maximum salary scale: €3,247 (PhD)
Minimum salary scale: €2,541 (PhD)