Research Fellow - Microfluidic Cell Culture – Gut-on-a-chip International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory INL Portugal

Ref.07.18.34 - Research Fellow- Microfluidic Cell Culture – Gut-on-a-chip


Type of contract:Limited duration

Research Centre:International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory INL

Number of vacancies: 1

Duty Station: Braga, Portugal

Career Stage: Up to 3 years after PhD

Open date for applications: 31st July

Closing Date for applications: 21st August



The International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory – INL (, was founded under an international legal framework to perform interdisciplinary research and to deploy and articulate nanotechnology for the benefit of society. INL aims to become the world-wide hub for nanotechnology addressing society’s grand challenges in Ageing & Wellbeing and Mobility & Urban Living and developing a Safe & Secure Society.


This call is related to the Scientific Research and Technological Development Projects identified hereunder, which are cofunded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and National Funds through the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).


Project specifications: INL participates in the following Scientific Research: Biotechnology

(a) Name of the project: MICRODIGEST - Micro-device for human gastrointestinal tract simulation

(b) Reference number: 031716 co-funded by FCT and the ERDF through COMPETE2020

(c) Scientific Area: Biotechnology – Food and Pharmaceutical


(d) Description:


Orally administered bioactive compounds (nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals etc.) show their effects only after gastrointestinal (GI) digestion and intestinal absorption. GI digestion by gastric acid and/or enzymatic degradation may deactivate oral administered active compounds. Encapsulation is often required, using nanoparticles, nanocapsules, micelles, etc., to protect the bioactive compound. Thus, the stability must be tested during food/drug development using simulated body fluids or artificial digestive juices. After that, the intestinal absorption should be evaluated to predict the oral bioavailability in humans. In addition, an increased interest on the gut microbiota has been evolved, within the scientific community, such as the influence of different functional diets in gut microbiota dynamics.

The general objective of this project is to fabricate a modular micro-device to mimic the complete GI tract intended to predict the digestibility and bioavailability of bioactive compounds (in encapsulated or free form). The micro-device will recreate the physiologic conditions in separated modules, to mimic a different step of the digestion process, allowing the study of isolated steps or alternatively, the whole process.  Microsensors will be coupled at different stages for pH, fluorescence and transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) measurement to control the pH, assess the permeability of fluorescent compounds and evaluate the cellular monolayer integrity indicating any adverse effect, respectively. The microfluidic system will be fabricated in a biocompatible polymer (polydimethylsiloxane – PDMS). Different coatings of the PDMS will be tested to reduce the absorption of small molecules, since hydrophobic and fluorescent molecules tend to diffuse into the PDMS reducing their concentration in solution and consequently affecting the accuracy and reliability of the assay. Modules containing cell cultures will integrate pneumatic microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMS)-based actuators, a new strategy to simulate physiological peristalsis motions, using a key enabling technology. The mechanical deformations are crucial to induce epithelial cells differentiation. The proposed micro-device will constitute a gastrointestinal tract (GIT)-on-a-chip to be used as an alternative to simple/poor in vitro cell cultures (static cultures) and animal experimentation. This will become an essential tool in the food and pharmaceutical industry and research fields to understand the efficacy and safety of food additives, bioactive ingredients or compounds. Improving the effectiveness of preclinical predictions about drug response and safety in humans is critical to reducing costly failures in clinical trials. The accomplishment of the proposed objective is ensured by combining and strengthening the knowledge of different research teams at INL: cell culture, microfluidics, microfabrication, MEMS and microbiology.


Description of the functions and key primary responsibilities: The successful candidate will work on the Spintronics Group. She/he will be assigned the following working plan:


1)     Characterize and optimize bulk materials used in the fabrication of the target stacks (CIPT characterization of MTJ stacks, VSM characterization of MTJ stacks and simpler magnetic stacks) and characterization of material dispersions across 200 mm wafers.


2)     Microfabricate and Nanofabricate arrays of devices and devices appropriate for high frequency transport measurements from the wafers with the optimized stacks.


3)     Participate in the high frequency transport characterization of the devices produced, with an emphasis on the RF characterization of Vortex Nano-oscillators in the frequency and time domain.


4)     Participate in micromagnetic simulations of the structures nanofabricated


5)     Collaborate with researchers from other institutions participating in the project (University of Porto) towards planning the experiments, analyzing the data and providing project deliverables.



Description of the functions and key primary responsibilities: The successful candidate will work on the Life Sciences Department. She/he will be assigned the following working plan:

-         Achieve the aims of the project through the execution of experimental work, treatment of results and elaboration of reports;

-         Disseminate the scientific results publishing the work in high quality journals and participating in national and international conferences;

-         The experimental work includes cell culture, physic-chemical characterisation of nanostructures, toxicological and safety assessment (in vitro studies) and microfabrication. The candidate could also participate in the supervision of master students and junior researchers.


Specific Eligibility Conditions

Candidates must meet the following conditions, as they are required by the nature of the duties candidates will be required to perform:

  • PhD in Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biological Engineering or related areas;
  • Expertise/scientific knowledgeinphysic-chemical characterization (DLS, HPLC, FTIR, TEM, SEM, NMR, fluorescence spectroscopy) and in vitro biological studies of nanostructures (cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, ROS production, uptake, etc);
  • Experience with intestinal cell lines, cell differentiation and co-cultures is welcome;
  • Microfabrication for microfluidic cell culture;
  • Knowledge of the guidances on the risk assessment of the application of nanoscience and nanotechnologies in the food and feed chain and in vitro digestion protocols;
  • Experience in the supervision (or co-supervision) of PhD and post-graduate students (e.g. MSc) is very welcome;
  • International mobility experience will be highly evaluated;
  • Strongmotivation to workboth, independently and as part of a team, in aninterdisciplinaryenvironment, with the ability to paycloseattention to details and to meetdeadlines;
  • Strong data analysis and communicationskills;
  • Experience in carryingoutresearch in collaborationwithotherresearchgroups, academy and industry.


 Applications that not meet these conditions will not be considered.


Supervision: The work plan will be developed at the INL under the scientific guidance of Dr. Catarina Gonçalves. The successful candidate will be integrated in the Food Processing Group. 



 Selection Committee

The selection of candidates will be carried out by a Selection Committee consisting of the following persons:

1)     Dr.Catarina Gonçalves

2)     Dr.Pablo Fuciños

3)     Dr.Lorenzo Pastrana

4)     Patrícia Oliveira


Duration of the contract

The total duration of the employment contract shall be 30months and may be renewed based on the performance of the individual. In any case the contract cannot exceed the duration of the project. The expected starting date is 1st October 2018.


Duration of the contract

The total duration of the employment contract shall be 30 months and may be renewed based on the performance of the individual and eventual project extension. In any case the contract cannot exceed the duration of the project. The expected starting date is 1st October 2018.


General Eligibility conditions, required qualifications and expertise: Candidates must comply with the following requirements:

(a)   Hold a PhD Degree within the field of the selected vacancy;

(b)   Be a Portuguese citizen, a European Union citizen or a non-European Union Citizen with a scientific and professional curriculum that demonstrates an appropriate profile for the activity to be performed;

(c)Fluency in English is required.


Supporting Documents

Candidates must enclose the following supporting documents in pdf format, failing which the application will not be considered:

(a)Cover letter;

(b)Curriculum Vitae;

(c)Official transcripts of all relevant academic degrees;

(d) At least one recommendation letter.


Evaluation process

The evaluation process will follow a three-stage process:


1 - Candidate eligibility check:

Only full applications will be considered. The applicant will be responsible for the data submission and validation. The application language is English.

Applications that do not meet the eligibility conditions will not be considered.


2 - Assessment of the Research Experience of the Candidate

The selection of candidates shall be made by means of an assessment of the research experience within the framework of the Project, which shall focus on the relevance, quality and up-to-dateness of the following items:


  • Scientific and Technological Production (‘STP’);
  • Applied and Practice-based Research Activities (‘RA’);
  • Activities  related to the Dissemination of Knowledge (‘DK’);
  • Activities related to the Management of Science, Technology and Innovation programmes (‘MSTI’)


The research experience will be assessed according to the following criteria:


  • STP (65%): Academic Qualifications (AQ) – 10%; Research Quality (RQ) – 40%; Impact and Efectiveness (IE) – 15%;
  • RA (15%): Research Coordination (RC) – 5%; Development, operation and maintenance of core facilities “instrumentation and/or equipment”  (DOM) – 2%; organisation of conferences, symposia and scientific cooperation activities (OCSS) - 2 %; teaching activities “advanced courses or university” (TA) – 3%; research stays and internships (RSI) – 3%;
  • DK (5%): Transfer to other areas of society (TS) – 3%; promotion of the public understanding of science (PPUS) – 2%;
  • MSTI (5%): Development of Laboratory facilities, management of research groups (DFMG) – 3%; evaluation of STI activities (EA) – 2%.


This criteria will have a total valuation of 90%. The minimum threshold for this stage is 75%.

The top four ranked candidates will be shortlisted for interview, provided however that they pass the threshold mentioned above.




Interviews will be conducted through web conference or face-to-face meetings, as may be deemed appropriate.This criterion will have a total valuation of 10%.



The Selection Committee will draw up the minutes of the R&S process in which candidates will be ranked according to their evaluation scores.


Approval and formal offer

Successful applicants will be offered the corresponding positions.


How to apply

The application is made online. Please click on the 'Apply for this job' button.

For the application to be valid, the candidate must complete all required sections of the online application form as well as submit all required documents.


What we offer

  • Social Security costs to be paid by INL;
  • Work Accidents insurance costs to be paid by INL, to provide coverage for work accidents and invalidity benefits;
  • Health insurance with excellent coverage;
  • Tax Benefit: The personnel working at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory are exempt from national income taxes so the only deduction from their part of the salary will be 11 % for social security and 12% for an internal tax;
  • A family allowance of 160€/month for staff members that are married or that are living under the status of “common-law couple” and/or have any dependent child;
  • A child allowance of 200€/month for each dependent child;
  • Free Nursery Service at INL campus (subject to availability);
  • Education fees;
  • Depending on the place of residence, INL covers 100% of travel expenses for all family members.


Financial Benefits

INL offers an attractive financial package appropriate to an international research organization composed by a gross monthly remuneration of 2600€ paid in 12 instalments. Due to INL special legal status as intergovernmental organization, financial benefits are exempt for national income tax. Apart from the salary, INL may offer, depending on the personal situation, additional allowances and benefits for families and non-residents.


Applicable legal and regulatory framework, taking into consideration the international status of the Organisation

The contract will be subject to the INL’s Staff Rules, as amended from time to time, as well as to all other relevant instructions issued by the Organisation. For this purpose, a copy of the Staff Rules shall be provided. The contract may also be supplemented by the terms and conditions of the Financing Contract between the Organisation and the FCT governing the implementation of the FCT Project.

Disputes between the Organisation and the Employed Member of the Personnel shall be settled in accordance with the INL´s Staff Rules.


Notification of results

A ranking list, after final evaluation, will be published at the INL website being each candidate notified via email of the result of their individual application. If the first candidate refuses the offer, the Human Resources will send an offer to the second candidate on the ranking, and so on until the vacancy is filled.

We highly value the interest shown from applicants wishing to become a part of the INL experience. It is important for us to maintain good communications with candidates. No matter the outcome of the application, we always send the applicant an answer. 


Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Principle

INL promotes a non-discrimination and equal access policy, wherefore no candidate can be privileged, benefited, impaired or deprived of any rights whatsoever, or be exempt of any duties based on their ancestry, age, sex, sexual preference, marital status, family and economic conditions, instruction, origin or social conditions, genetic heritage, reduced work capacity, disability, chronic illness, nationality, ethnic origin or race, origin territory, language, religion, political or ideological convictions and union membership.



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