/High Throughput Characterization of Biomolecules using Solid-State Nanopores

High Throughput Characterization of Biomolecules using Solid-State Nanopores

Leuven | More than two weeks ago

With cutting edge solid-state 'nanoscopes', zoom in on individual biomolecules to unravel their properties with hands-on applications and nanoscale engineering.

Nature has discovered that tiny holes are useful for a lot of things, from selectively allowing the transport of specific molecules into your cells, to making your heart beat. Humans have even since figured out how to exploit such systems to sequence the DNA of organisms onboard the International Space Station! 


At imec, we aim to scale the implementation of these tiny holes - nanopores - for unparalleled throughput in biomolecular applications via world-class solid-state fabrication facilities. This marriage of the millennia of nature-optimised biomolecular phenomena with state-of-the-art solid-state nanoscale engineering promises a turnkey solution to many aspects of biophysics and bioengineering, from disease diagnostics and monitoring to genomic and proteomic sequencing.  


At the core of nanopore technology lies a relatively simple principle. A nanopore in an electrolyte solution conducts current in an electric field. Charged molecules in the same electric field can be pulled through the nanopore to produce measurable changes in this current. These changes can then be used to study a host of properties and phenomena, from the size and shape of individual molecules to the dynamics of molecular interactions.  


This Master’s project seeks to exploit these simple principles in unique and clever ways to leverage the sensitivity of our single-molecule sensors and help realise their potential. This path involves tackling some pressing challenges facing the field and will lead to the development of a highly multidisciplinary skill set. This project will involve: 

  • The electrical characterisation of solid-state nanopore systems. 

  • Hands-on biomolecular sample preparation (e.g. proteins, DNA) and introduction into single-molecule sensing systems. 

  • Executing highly sensitive electric measurements at the picoampere scale using a range of state-of-the-art amplifier configurations. 

  • Investigating the transport properties of biomolecules through commercial and imec-fabricated solid-state nanopores (e.g. the 'translocation' properties of speed, signal strength, SNR). 

  • Analysing and interpreting electrical signals to understand molecular properties like topology, charge, and interaction. This will involve some field-established intuition, but we're also looking into AI! 

  • The design of novel biomolecular configurations and sensing schemes for application in: 

    • genomics and proteomics; 

    • biomolecular assays; and 

    • DNA-based data storage and readout (like designing and reading a molecular barcode!) 


This work will be carried out in the highly interdisciplinary Life Sciences Department at imec, Leuven. Our group’s research activities focus on the development of novel tools for health care applications, where current projects vary from lab-on-a-chip systems to photonic sensing and imaging devices. For this internship project, we are looking for an enthusiastic student eager to shape tomorrow’s health care technologies, as we aim for research and development at the highest international level and expect that this technology will have a direct impact on point of care biomedical research, diagnostics, and precision medicine. 

Type of project: Combination of internship and thesis, Internship, Thesis

Required degree: Master of Bioengineering, Master of Science, Master of Engineering Science

Required background: Biomedical engineering, Bioscience Engineering, Chemistry/Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Nanoscience & Nanotechnology, Physics, Other

Supervising scientist(s): For further information or for application, please contact: Eric Beamish (Eric.Beamish@imec.be)

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