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Master thesis project: Development of biodegradable polymers and their use for neural probe insertion

Advertising institute: ICS-8 - Bioelectronics
Reference number: D138/2017, Chemistry, material science or engineering

At the Institute of Bioelectronics (ICS-8) at the Forschungszentrum Jülich, physicists, chemists, biologists, and engineers perform joint research on the scientific principles of the functional link between biological components and electronic components. This collaboration has led to the development of platforms for microfluidics, micro- and nano-patterning, and electronic biosensors. These technologies are not only developed to understand biological processes, but also pave the way for their application in sensor technology and diagnostics. With the advertised position we are planning to strengthen our research efforts to understand the biophysics of neuronal information processing.

Job Description:
One new approach in ICS-8 (or our institute) is to fabricate flexible and penetrating neural probes especially designed for in vivo extracellular recordings, in order to capture neuronal activity. A number of challenges have to be overcame before the aimed application can be used in living organisms. One important issue is that a so-called insertion system needs to be developed. On one hand, the electrode probe should be highly flexible to reduce immune response and on the other hand, the electrode should be able to penetrate the soft neural tissue.For the project, we propose to use biodegradable polymers to coat the neural probes, making them in this way stiff for insertion. When inserted, the degradation of polymers takes place, and must be controlled. Since the composition and treatments of the polymers affect the degradation time, all the parameters must be strictly controlled and engineered towards final goal. The student is expected to test different biodegradable materials (e.g. PEG, PVA, silk, etc.) and coating techniques (spin-coating, dip-coating, drop-casting, doctor-blade). Ideally, the biodegrade materials of choice should be photo-structurable so that an easy implementation into the fabrication process (done using MEMS technology) is possible. The student is expected to test the biocompatibility, the insertion, and feasibility of these biodegradable shuttles using PDMS phantom structures and further actual neural tissue.

Your Profile:

  • Bachelor degree in chemistry, material science or engineering
  • Basics of cell biology
  • Ability to communicate with scientist and technicians from various disciplines
  • Well-structured and systematic research approach
  • Independency
  • Passion for science

What We Offer:

  • Multifaceted work in an interdisciplinary and international setting, as well as a cooperative work environment;
  • Fantastic research equipment facilities;
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich located close to the interface between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and with strong links to the ABCD Region (Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf) which is one of the leading high-tech regions in Europe.

If you are interested, please, send your CV and academic transcripts to Prof. Andreas Offenhäusser (e-mail: For further information please contact Prof. Offenhäusser or visit our website at