Major recent insights into cancer and neurodegenerative disease have been realized thanks to technological advances that allow single-cell analyses: the study of complex biological systems at the level of individual cells. A universal challenge in single-cell analysis is compartmentalization, i.e. the physical confinement of separate cells to prevent leakage and mixing of cell constituents. For those applications requiring rapid processing of large numbers of cells, compartmentalization can be readily achieved by encapsulating cells in aqueous droplets contained in inert carrier oil. This principle of 'droplet microfluidics' is used in several commercial platforms for single-cell analysis (e.g. 10x Genomics, Mission Bio). Presently, imposed by technological limitations, these platforms are restricted to relatively simple workflows for single-omics analyses. Increasingly however, researchers are moving towards single-cell multi-omics approaches that require more complex cell/droplet manipulations.
In a first phase, leveraging both imec's extensive experience in droplet microfluidics and lithographic processing know-how, the current PhD topic will explore novel large area microfabrication approaches for rapid prototyping, to enable the development of technologies that can handle sophisticated droplet-based workflows for single-cell multi-omics analyses, in a robust and mass-manufacturable manner. The focus will be on process development for known as well as innovative concepts for microfluidic modules with integrated electrodes that allow advanced droplet handling, merging, splitting, interrogation and sorting. In a second phase, the resulting advanced droplet handling capabilities will be exploited to implement state-of-the-art single-cell multi-omics assays. The PhD candidate will translate molecular biology assay workflows into chip designs through extensive interaction with single-cell analysis experts. This topic will be supervised and supported by a team of physicists, engineers and biologists at imec, in close collaboration with experts of VIB-KU Leuven's single cell core.
Required background: Physics, Electrical Engineering, Microfluidics or related
Type of work: 50% design, simulation and fabrication; 50% characterization and experimental validation
Supervisor: Liesbet Lagae
Daily advisor: Maarten Fauvart, David Cheyns
The reference code for this position is 2020-086. Mention this reference code on your application form.
Chinese nationals who wish to apply for the CSC scholarship, should use the following code when applying for this topic: CSC2020-45.