Phd Synthesis of Self-healing Polymer Brushes – Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands


We are looking for a PhD student (aio) with great interest in surface modification research for a project entitled “Nanostructured self-assembled functional materials” (NanoFun). This PhD position is part of large network of 4 universities and 6 companies that are involved in an NWO-funded CHIPP project.


The Organic Chemistry group ( constitutes a large, interdisciplinary research team involved in teaching and research on organic chemistry, with an emphasis on surface-based reactivity. The group aims to excel in the research and teaching of organic chemistry. The laboratory is extremely well-equipped with a unique set of analysis instruments for bio-organic materials and surfaces, and the group consists of around 20 PhD students and postdocs, a permanent staff of 7 technical employees, two part-time professors with external expertise, 6 assistant and associate professors and one full-time chair (many of whom have received highly competitive national and ERC personal grants). In addition to this, the embedding within Wageningen University & Research adds ample biological input into our focus on chemistry-based bionanotechnology. Currently ca. 1700 students/year take part in one or more Organic Chemistry study elements provided by our faculty.

Wageningen University and Research centre Delivering a substantial contribution to the quality of life. That’s our focus – each and every day. Within our domain, healthy food and living environment, we search for answers to issues affecting society – such as sustainable food production, climate change and alternative energy. Of course, we don’t do this alone. Every day, 6,500 people work on ‘the quality of life’, turning ideas into reality, on a global scale. Could you be one of these people? We give you the space you need. For further information about working at Wageningen UR, take a look at


Designer materials have made way to a range of new possibilities for consumer markets. From stronger and lighter, to having self-healing properties are only the tip of the iceberg of what can be achieved. In this project we will work on state-of-the-art self-healing polymer brushes that are responsive and non-stick/antifouling at the same time.

Polymer brushes (of 10-200 nm thickness) can be grown from a substrate with a molecular structure that governs coating properties (e.g. wettability, chemical resistance or self-healing properties). It can be used to modify the underlying surface in a highly controlled manner. First, the covalent nature of the bonding allows formation of a chemically robust layer over prolonged use. The optimum attachment chemistry will depend on the substrate, but a wide variety of stable attachment chemistries is known. Second, the nature of the brush-forming materials can be varied significantly (from highly polar to highly apolar), and as such the properties of the surface can be tuned, almost at will when combining surface chemistry and organic synthesis. This combination allows for a tailor-made, stable surface functionalization.

The goal of this PhD project is to use controlled polymerization methods to prepare copolymer brushes onto polymer-coated steel. We will also work on protocols for one-step depositions of self-healing coatings, which is fully new and has potential to rejuvenate the field. We aim to achieve this by synthesizing precisely defined monomers, and to use these for the growth of polymer brushes. Intrinsic to the growth process structuring of these brushes can be achieved, and we aim to use this to obtain tunable, rational design of functional/responsive coatings.

This project has many fundamental aspects, which we will hope to unravel, with a keen eye to potential applications. A great challenge can be found in upscaling these nano-based coatings for large industrial use (“nano-for-mega”). Therefore, we also aim to convert previously discovered self-organization principles into scalable deposition methods, and in general: develop deposition methods that are scalable towards industrial use (dip or spray coating, printing).


For this position we request that you have an MSc degree (or equivalent) in Organic Chemistry or Polymer Chemistry, or comparable curriculum. Additionally:

  • A strong background and solid hands-on experience in organic/monomer synthesis and a strong interest (or preferentially experience) in surface analysis and/or polymer chemistry is essential.
  • You must have a deep understanding of physical and chemical properties to be able to design and develop new polymers.
  • Your affinity for the collaborative nature of the project, and good written and oral communication skills in English (minimally IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 90) are crucial for the successful development of this study.


We offer you a temporary position for a period of 1.5 years with extension of 2.5 years after successful evaluation. Gross salary per month €2266,- in the first year rising up to €2897,- per month in the fourth year.

WUR does not only offer a competitive salary but also good (study) leave and a pension of the ABP Pension Fund.


Minds for Innovation is the recruitment partner for this project. For more information regarding recruitment please contact Jolanda de Roo. E:, T: + 316 572 913 50.

For more information about this position, please contact Prof. Han Zuilhof (Chair of Organic Chemistry), e-mail

For more information about the contractual aspects, please contact Mrs. Nicole de Vries (HR advisor), e-mail, telephone number +31 317 485 677.


To apply, please submit:

• a detailed CV
• proof of English language proficiency
• the abstract of your thesis (one page and if available)
• two references
• a letter of motivation (specifying why your experience and knowledge would make you a suitable candidate)

We are looking for candidates who can start preferibly per direct.

Please apply by October 19th

As one of the first selection steps, you will be invited to participate on our specialised online assessment. If you would like to know more about why we use this and how have set it up, then check out our website.