Development of a 3D Traction Force Microscopy method to analyze local forces inside 3D hydrogels

Working group: AG De Laporte

DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials is a research institution financed by the Federal Government and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is member of the Leibniz Association and is located at the Campus Melaten of the RWTH Aachen University. Here international young and experienced scientists belonging to different disciplines develop interactive materials according to the principles of nature. 

DWI invites applications for a position as

Scientific coworker – PostDoc (d/f/m)


DWI offers you a wide range of possibilities to develop further both professionally and personally in an interdisciplinary setting.

The aim of this project is to develop a method to locally and mechanically stimulate cells grown in a 3D environment, which resembles their native habitat. Magneto-responsive microgels will be incorporated inside the hybrid matrix, after which a magnetic field is applied to induce movement of the microgels. The microgels will be confined inside the 3D gel and can locally exert forces on cells and the matrix. To quantify the pN-nN forces generated into the matrix, 3D Traction Force Microscopy (TFM) has to be established. Two different crosslinking mechanisms (enzymatic and light-triggered) will be used to produce the PEG-based microgels and surrounding hydrogels. Fluorescent microspheres (0.1-1 µm diameter) will be dispersed in the pre-polymer solution and physically embedded in the nanometer mesh structure of the microgels and hydrogels. The mechanical properties of the matrices will be altered via the degree and heterogeneity of crosslinking. The prepared hydrogels with fiducial markers will be characterized using rheology, dynamic mechanical analysis, cryo field emission scanning electron microscopy (Cryo-FE-SEM), and confocal and STED microscopy. The measured displacements of the fiducial markers enable the calculations of the local forces exerted by the micro-objects based on 3D numerical algorithms. The obtained forces will be controlled by tailoring the properties of the microgel (size, aspect ratio, stiffness, SPION concentration), the frequency and strength of the magnetic field, and the stiffness of the surrounding hydrogel. Besides the aim to locally mechano-stimulate cells in a 3D environment, this technology will also be applied to investigate local visco-elastic properties of hydrogels.

Your Tasks:

  • Fabricate magneto-responsive microgels, which can undergo movements inside soft 3D hydrogels in the presence of a magnetic field
  • Establish a 3D TFM method to locally measure the forces that are exerted by the microgels, depending on different material properties
  • Apply the system to exert forces on cells grown inside the 3D hydrogel to study mechanobiological processes
  • Work in a close collaboration with national/international recognizable scientists in the field.

Your Profile:

  • You hold a PhD in Physics, Chemistry, Material Sciences, Chemical Engineering or relevant fields, preferentially with previous experience in TMF.
  • You are creative, hard-working, and proactive, and are able to work in a multidisciplinary research team.
  • You have a very good knowledge of the English language (spoken and written)

DWI offers:

  • exciting and challenging tasks as well as development opportunities in a modern scientific organization
  • An open and team-oriented working atmosphere in an international environment
  • The support of an experienced team.

The position is to be filled at the earliest possible date. Remuneration is done under similar conditions as the collective agreement for public service of the federal states (TV-L).

DWI supports you to gain further qualifications. We offer our employees a broad spectrum of career opportunities in an attractive working climate. 

DWI supports equal opportunities of women and men. There is a possibility that the position can also be fulfilled in part-time, unless there are compelling professional reasons to do otherwise.

We at the DWI - Leibniz Institute value diversity and therefore welcome all applications - regardless of gender, disability, nationality or ethnic and social background.

For more information please contact
Mitglied der Wissenschaftlichen Leitung

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Laura De Laporte

+49 241 80-23309
E-Mail Adresse anzeigen

If we have aroused your interest and you are open to new professional challenges, we would be delighted to receive a meaningful application from you. Then please send your application documents by e-mail in one PDF file until 31.05.2020 to Prof. Dr. Laura De Laporte.