PhD position - Nanostructural characterisation of protein interactions with lipid bilayer membranes

Context & Job description

Project Tile: Nanostructural characterisation of protein interactions with lipid bilayer membranes : basis for biosensor development

This PhD project is in the field of biosensors based on nanostructured biomimetic tethered lipid bilayers (tBLM) to detect plasma proteins. These proteins are used as biomarkers of severe pathologies including cancer, but their detection is difficult due to their relatively low abundance. Often present in glycosylated form they form complexes with lipids in order to be transported in the blood. A lipidic environment is thus an appropriate environment for a biosensor, also including the capturing antibody, to detect all biomarkers bound to protein/lipid complexes in blood samples. A proof-of-concept biosensor utilising tBLM connected to an Impedance Spectroscopy was developed recently for the detection of a glycosylate protein cancer biomarker soluble VE-cadherin by utilizing a tBLM produced by SDx Tethered Membranes Pty Ltd. The PhD student will perform a nanostructural characterisation of the interaction between peptide and protein biomarkers and tBLM, and will identify the role of the lipid part to modulate the interaction between tBLM and specific peptides and proteins. These fundamental results will provide the basis for biosensors and analytical procedures that can detect scarce biomarker proteins from other high-abundance proteins and from lipidic moieties in blood samples. The biosensors envisaged are based on nanostructured tBLM in which we have optimised the lipid composition for specific proteins interactions.

Further information may be obtained from Giovanna Fragneto ( and from Marco Maccarini  (email:, Donald Martin (email:    


Expected profile

  • Degree allowing enrolment for a PhD (such as MSc, Master 2 de Recherche, Laurea or equivalent) in physics, materials science, chemistry or closely related science
  • A background in large scale facilities experiments (neutron and x-ray scattering), and knowledge computer programming (C++, Python) would be an advantage
  • Ability in handling of biological materials would be an advantage
  • Proficiency in English (A proof of upper-intermediate level would be advantageous and can be provided in the application. Applicants originating from native-English-speaking countries can apply without the need for proof of level. An official degree conducted in English will be also accepted as a proof; Students without proof upper-intermediate level may still apply and their level of English will be checked during the interview).
  • Compliance with the Marie Sklodowska-Curie mobility rule: candidates may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than twelve months in the three years immediately before the date of recruitment.
  • At the date of recruitment, early-stage researchers must be in the first four years of their research careers and have not yet been awarded a doctoral degree.
  • Candidates must satisfy eligibility criteria according to the partner university requirements for PhD enrolment.

More details about the application procedure on

Working conditions

The successful candidate will be enrolled in the doctoral school of Université Grenoble Alpes and based full-time at the ILL (Grenoble, France), other than a 3-month secondment at SDX-membranes (Roseville, Australia). Additional visits totaling no more than 3 months may be made to the University Grenoble Alpes when needed. Furthermore, a varied pedagogical training programme will be offered to the successful candidate throughout the 3-year PhD project.

More details on the InnovaXN programme on

Company description

InnovaXN is a Horizon 2020 MSCA COFUND programme providing an opportunity for 40 industrial companies to work with 40 PhD students, performing advanced research and exploiting the unique characterisation techniques of the ESRF and ILL. Through collaborations with industry, innovation will be the central theme of the programme. This will provide a unique cross academic-industry science setting, secondment opportunities and society-relevant research, training the future key researchers able to tackle major research and societal challenges.

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