PhD project: Next generation contrast agents for optoacoustic imaging

36 hours a week
€ 2.570 - € 3.271

Closing date: June 19

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For the SWOPT project, funded through the European Innovation Council Pathfinder Grant, we are looking for a highly skilled and enthusiastic PhD student who would like to apply her/his organic synthesis experience and photochemical expertise to the development of clinically relevant optoacoustic imaging agents. The intended start date is 1st of September 2022.The aim of the SWOPT consortium is to enable examination of whole tissues in vivo with the same ease, flexibility and, eventually, abundance of tools paralleling fluorescence microscopy, bringing research and understanding of living organisms to the next level.

Project information

Optoacoustic imaging ('light in – sound out') is an emerging molecular and medical imaging technique that uses dyes as contrast agents. Those dyes efficiently convert optical input to ultrasound output, allowing for the use of ultrasound imaging for the precise localization of the lesion-bound tracer. Optoacoustic imaging is emerging as a clinical modality in Europe, with Groningen being the first center that performs clinical trials on its use.

In the project, you will use molecular approaches to develop the next generation of optoacoustic imaging that uses switchable contrast agents, thus transforming the readout from the spectral domain to the time domain, resulting in drastically increased sensitivity. While the proof of principle for this groundbreaking approach has been shown on photoswitchable proteins, the real clinical potential lies in the use of drug-like photochromic small molecules that you will develop, supported by our collaborators in advanced spectroscopy, theoretical chemistry, photonics and molecular biology.

Working environment
You will be appointed at the department of Radiology, part of the Medical Imaging Center in the UMCG Groningen, with a large part of the work being performed at Stratingh Institute, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen. Close collaboration is envisioned with the advanced spectroscopy groups (Amsterdam, Florence) and key partners in the SWOPT consortium (Munich, Lausanne), including site visits for short research stays.

See this website for more information about the Szymanski-lab.

Job Description

You will have the following main responsibilities and tasks:

  • Literature review of existing systems and choice of the most promising candidates for SWOPT.
  • Design, synthesis, purification, and analysis of new switchable dyes.
  • Spectroscopy studies (steady state, transient, ultrafast) on site and through collaborations.
  • Cooperation with computational chemistry specialists on elucidating the switching mechanisms and the design of new molecules.
  • Synthesis of targeted optoacoustic imaging agents based on the most successful dye designs.
  • Writing of original research articles and reviews on the topic.

What do we ask

  • MSc degree in synthetic organic chemistry, preferably with elements of photochemistry.
  • Experience with the synthesis and purification of organic dyes or photochromic compounds is an advantage.
  • Experience in techniques such as preparative HPLC purification, UV-vis spectroscopy and spectrofluorimetry are an advantage.
  • Motivation, resilience, and independence.
  • Being able to work with excellen organisational skills in a multidisciplinary environment, have good communicative skills and be proficient in the English language.

The UMCG has a preventive Hepatitis B policy. The UMCG can provide you with the vaccination, should it be required for your position.

In case of specific professions a ‘Certificate of Good Conduct’ is required.

What do we offer

The successful candidate will be able to develop his or her research skills within highly experienced and internationally recognized research groups and in addition will receive education within institute research schools.

We offer a four years fulltime (36 hours) PhD position. The intended start date is 1st of September 2022.

Your salary will be a minimum of € 2.570,- gross per month in the first year and a maximum of € 3.271,- gross per month (scale PhD) in the final (4th) year, based on a full-time appointment. In addition, the UMCG will offer you 8% holiday pay, and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. The conditions of employment comply with the Collective Labour Agreement for Medical Centres (CAO-UMC).

For questions about the position

Any questions? Do contact us.


Please use the the digital application form at the bottom of this page - only these will be processed. You can apply until 19 June 2022.
Within half an hour after sending the digital application form you will receive an email- confirmation with further information.


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Nina van Venrooij
Nina van Venrooij Team Recruitment