MSc & PhD Positions - Interactions Between Soft Nanoparticles

Date and Time


Dutcher Lab
University of Guelph


The Dutcher Lab at the University of Guelph is seeking qualified MSc and PhD candidates to work on the characterization of new nanomaterials based on phytoglycogen (PG), a highly branched glucose polymer produced as compact, soft, hairy nanoparticles in the kernels of sweet corn. Not only are PG nanoparticles useful for applications in personal care and biomedicine, but they also provide an ideal system for studying the physics of soft nanoparticles. The Dutcher Lab uses a wide variety of techniques to characterize the structure, morphology, hydration and mechanical properties of PG nanoparticles, and our data show dramatic changes to the particle properties with simple modifications to the particles. One of the important measurements is called rheology, in which the mechanical properties of aqueous dispersions of PG nanoparticles are measured as a function of particle concentration [1,2]. At high concentrations, in which the particles are forced into contact, these measurements reveal the nature of the interaction between PG nanoparticles and, more generally, provide insight into the nature of the soft colloidal glass transition. Recently, we have shown that partially digesting PG particles using dilute acids produces smaller, less dense particles and significantly changes the interactions between the particles at high concentrations so that, surprisingly, the soft colloidal glass transition can be studied on experimental timescales [2].

We are looking for applicants who are excited to contribute to the forefront of investigating novel properties of soft nanoparticles. This work will involve performing simple chemical and physical modifications to PG nanoparticles, such as attaching chemical groups to the outer surface of the particles that add charge and/or hydrophobicity, and then measuring the mechanical properties of aqueous dispersions of the modified PG nanoparticles using a state-of-the-art rheometer. These data will be used together with data from other techniques such as atomic force microscopy, multi-angle light scattering and advanced computer simulations to achieve an understanding of how the interactions between PG particles change with modifications of the particles. This work should lead to new applications of natural, safe, sustainable PG nanoparticles.

[1] H. Shamana, M. Grossutti, E. Papp-Szabo, C. Miki and J.R. Dutcher, Soft Matter 14, 6496 (2018).
[2] H. Shamana and J.R. Dutcher, Biomacromolecules 23, 2040 (2022).


Position Requirements and Expectations

  • Completed or close to completing a Bachelors or Masters degree in physics, physical chemistry or a related field of physical science
  • Interest and strong motivation to work at the forefront of the physics of soft nanoparticles
  • Strong analytical skills and the ability to think critically and creatively
  • Strong problem-solving skills and work ethic
  • Excellent hands-on laboratory skills including the use of advanced instrumentation
  • Ability to work safely and responsibly in a laboratory
  • Ability to apply sophisticated data analysis techniques to experimental data
  • Ability to program in Python and work with large databases
  • Ability to work effectively in a team environment
  • Strong oral and written communication skills

Start Date

The anticipated start date is in Fall 2024.


Application Process

Interested applicants should send a cover letter, CV and the names of up to three referees to ( In your cover letter, you should highlight your relevant previous experience and training. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until all positions are filled. Only applicants selected for an interview will be contacted. The Dutcher Lab and the University of Guelph are committed to building a diverse and inclusive community. All qualified applicants are invited to apply, but we particularly welcome applications from individuals that identify with groups traditionally underrepresented in the physical sciences, and we will strive to hire individuals who share our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

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