(Ref. BAP-2014-528)

Occupation : Full-time
Period : Fixed-term contract
Place : Leuven
Apply no later than : January 01, 2015

We are looking for a dynamic and driven researcher for an international and interdisciplinary PhD project on “Controlling Highly Antibacterial Nanoparticles by supersonic Cluster-beam Engineering”

Controlling Highly Antibacterial Nanoparticles by supersonic Cluster-beam Engineering (PhD position @ UCSC Brescia, Italy and KU Leuven, Belgium)

The position is intended to lead to award a PhD degree in the framework of an international cooperation between the i-LAMP center at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC), Brescia, Italy, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Sciences at KU Leuven, Belgium. The research activity will be carried out at the Nanoscience Lab in Brescia and at the Laboratory of Solid State Physics and Magnetism in Leuven.
We seek a dynamic and driven researcher, interested in developing an interdisciplinary research project involving the synthesis and engineering of Ag NP to obtain ultrathin films with high bactericidal properties directly on metal surfaces.The project aim is to obtain control over NP adhesion to surfaces and to improve the bactericidal efficacy of the NP towards a wide range of bacteria strains.


Controlling Highly Antibacterial Nanoparticles by supersonic Cluster-beam Engineering

Background and Motivation

The increase in health care-associated infections (HAI) due to dissemination of the bacteria through metal objects such as lift buttons or handles remains a major cause of patient morbidity and mortality. An estimated 20% to 40% of HAI have been attributed to cross infection via the hands of health care personnel, who may become contaminated indirectly by touching contaminated environmental surfaces. The implementation of effective control measures to limit the spread of bacteria resistant to most clinically used, if not to any, antibiotics is one of the most important challenges that material science can provide an answer to.
The project addresses this issue by proposing a control measure against bacteria proliferation based on ultrathin films with high bactericidal properties, obtained by a physical synthesis method, alternative to traditional wet synthesis, directly on metal surfaces used in common devices such as elevator buttons, handles etc.
The Brescia group has already obtained highly bactericidal nanoparticle (NP) films on the surface of glass microscope slides, and hence the aim is to extend the synthesis control to surfaces of real objects such as brass and aluminum.

Some of the crucial points to be addressed are:
1)     the control of the NP adhesion to surfaces both through their engineering during synthesis or via the functionalization of the surfaces.
2)     the improvement of the bactericidal efficacy of the NP.

Research Project

The films will be synthesized mainly by supersonic cluster sources available both in Brescia and in Leuven, relying on the production of Ag NP without chemical synthesis. The source at UCSC is based on the pulsed plasma ablation of the material, while sources at KU Leuven use magnetron sputtering or laser ablation based techniques. Both methods are producing a NP beam allowing to directly apply the active film on the suitable substrate surfaces. The cluster sources also provide a simple way to tailor the NP composition by formation of alloys with transition metals such as Ti, in order to control the adhesion of the NP to the surfaces as well as the bactericidal activity of the film. Surface functionalization by simple processes of physical type (Plasma treatments) will be explored as alternative route to control NP film adhesion.
The NP properties will be characterized in detail with a number of scanning probes, structural and spectroscopic techniques, while the activity against bacteria will be tested for a large number of Gram-positive and Gram-negative strains typical of nosocomial environments.
Both the chemical modification of the NP and the combination with plasma treatments could allow to control the concentration and the release rate of Ag ions from the NP. The effect of such treatments on the bactericidal action will be evaluated exploiting an existing collaboration with a microbiology group at the University of Siena. Moreover, clinical investigation on possible toxicity of the synthesized films are available at the UCSC, campus of Roma.


  • Diploma: Master’s degree or comparable qualification in Physics, Materials Science, Chemistry, Engineering or adjacent fields.
  • A strong interest for multidisciplinary research is required.
  • Experience in programming (LabView, Matlab) and competences in automation will be considered as an advantage.
  • Good knowledge of the English language, both spoken and written, is essential.
  • Strong commitment, ability to work in a team, and eager for international mobility.


  • The opportunity to perform experimental research in an interdisciplinary research environment and actively participate in the international collaboration between research groups in Italy and Belgium, with the aim of achieving a doctorate diploma under the joint supervision by KU Leuven and UCSC. The overall tutoring activity will be conducted by two staff members at UCSC and one at KU Leuven.
  • The opportunity to gain didactical experience by being involved in teaching duties for a limited amount of time (e.g., guiding Bachelor and Master students with their experiments and research.


For more information please contact
Dr. Luca Gavioli: tel +39 030 2406723; e-mail: luca.gavioli@unicatt.it
Dr. Emanuele Cavaliere: tel +39 030 2406733; e-mail: emanuele.cavaliere@unicatt.it
Prof. Margriet J. Van Bael: tel +32 16 327646; e-mail: margriet.vanbael@fys.kuleuven.be


You can apply for this job no later than January 01, 2015 via the online application tool

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  • contact research group directly with your questions, we just share the news

  • Is this position open for the  International Candidates as well? Please Reply.

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