/Spatial control of enzymatic DNA assembly using ion charging layers

Spatial control of enzymatic DNA assembly using ion charging layers

PhD - Leuven | More than two weeks ago

Explore selective ion release at sub-micrometer resolution for next-generation synthetic biology

Major steps forward have been taken in the development of microchip-based gene synthesis technologies. Together with more efficient genome assembly and error correction methods, these new technological developments are pushing synthetic biology to a higher level. Current DNA synthesis methods generally rely on the phosphoramidite chemistry, which is unsustainable due to excessive solvent use, expensive, and not readily amenable to miniaturization. Novel approaches make use of enzymes, such as the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT), which can efficiently add nucleotides to existing DNA strands in an aqueous environment. However, controlling the rate of nucleotide addition in vitro remains challenging.


In this PhD, the candidate will explore new methods to exert confined control over enzymatic reactions by manipulation of the local chemical environment within a solution using optical and/or electrochemical means. Specifically, the aim is to explore the potential of a battery-like thin film, applied on top of a micro- or nanoelectrode array, to sustainably take up and release ions, with the purpose of creating a highly localised concentration gradient with which the activity of an enzyme can be controlled. We are looking for a highly motivated researcher who is eager to expand their knowledge of electrochemistry, material science, surface chemistry, micro- and nano-electrode fabrication, fluorescence microscopy and enzymology in a nanotechnological setting. You will be working in the context of an ongoing project, together with an international team of interdisciplinary experts. Hence, the ability to communicate fluently in English (spoken and written) is a must.


This PhD research will be performed in collaboration with Prof. Vitor Pinheiro (KU Leuven / https://pinheirolab.com/), who will act as co-supervisor.

Required background: Electrochemistry, material science, surface chemistry, enzymology, microfabrication

Type of work: 10% literature, 20% modelling, 20% fabrication and 50% setup construction and device measurements

Supervisor: Philippe Vereecken

Co-supervisor: Kherim Willems

Daily advisor: Kherim Willems, Olivier Henry, Maarten Fauvart

The reference code for this position is 2023-121. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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