PhD student position in experimental fluid dynamics: cavitation bioeffects

The research in the newly established Multiphase Fluid Dynamics group examines both fundamental and applied questions in various small-scale multiphase fluid phenomena, such as bubble and droplet dynamics and the resulting fast flows. One of our key objectives is to control bubble oscillations to exploit their energy-focusing characteristics in biomedical applications. We also develop experimental techniques to observe and characterise high-speed multiphase fluid phenomena optically and acoustically. The group is part of the Institute of Fluid Dynamics, which pursues a broad range of experimental, numerical and theoretical research efforts in a friendly and inclusive environment with state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Starting date: 1 April 2023, or later. Negotiable.

Duration of appointment: Maximum 4 years.

Project background

Transdermal drug delivery, i.e., delivering drugs across a patient’s skin, can be facilitated via low-frequency ultrasound via the process known as sonophoresis, or sound-mediated improved permeabilisation of the skin. This allows for larger molecules such as peptides or proteins, which would otherwise struggle to passively diffuse across the skin, to reach the blood circulation thanks to sound-induced mechanical effects. Cavitation is generally suspected to be a major mechanism allowing for the localized, transient and reversible disruption of the outermost layer of the skin which typically represents the most difficult layer to penetrate. However, the exact contribution of cavitation and the distinct cavitation effects such as localised jetting and acoustic emissions in the process are currently unknown. This project aims at comprehensively quantifying and decoupling these physical effects in media relevant for transdermal drug delivery, such as polymer solutions and ionic liquids. The research addresses fundamental open questions in acoustic and cavitation properties of complex fluids and the associated physics, and systematically investigates cavitation effects involved in the acoustically mediated surface perforation through unique temporally and spatially resolved experiments at the micro-scale, coupled with theoretical and numerical modelling. The research leverages an international and interdisciplinary collaboration with biomaterials engineers with an expertise on skin biomechanics. 

More information on the topic can be found in the following related research article:

Zhenwei Ma, Claire Bourquard, Qiman Gao, Shuaibing Jiang, Tristan De Iure-Grimmel, Ran Huo, Xuan Li, Zixin He, Zhen Yang, Galen Yang, Yixiang Wang, Edmond Lam, Zu-Hua Gao, Outi Supponen, Jianyu Li, Controlled tough bioadhesion mediated by ultrasound, Science, Vol. 377, Issue 6607, pp. 751–755, (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abn8699

Job description

We seek to appoint a PhD student to conduct experimental and theoretical research to investigate cavitation effects in ultrasound-mediated transdermal drug delivery. You will design your experimental setup by exploiting the state-of-the-art ultra-high-speed imaging, optical and acoustic facilities available in our lab. You will support your experimental investigations with theoretical and numerical acoustics and fluid dynamics models based on our existing codes. You will be part of an exciting collaboration with our colleagues at the Lab of Biomaterials Engineering at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, which you are expected to visit during the project. In addition to research, you will contribute to teaching and lab activities in the institute.

Your profile

The requirements include a Master’s degree in mechanical, biomedical, aeronautical or chemical engineering, physics, material science or a related field. You should be curiosity-driven, creative, open-minded and independent, and have good communication skills, fluency in English and the willingness to fully commit yourself as a part of an international team. You should also have strong interests in experimental fluid mechanics, multi-phase flows, acoustics, biomedical engineering, and similar. Experience in experimental research is an advantage, but not necessary. However, you should be excited about the prospect of working in a lab.

We offer

ETH Zurich is a family-friendly employer with excellent working conditions. You can look forward to an exciting working environment, cultural diversity and attractive offers and benefits.

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We value diversity

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

Curious? So are we.

We look forward to receiving your application with the following documents: 

  • a motivation letter (max 2 pages) explaining your interests
  • your CV (max 2 pages)
  • diploma transcripts (BSc/MSc) from which the grades are evident
  • and the names and addresses (including email) of three references

Applications are accepted until the position is filled. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For more information on our group and on the Institute of Fluid Dynamics, visit the website ( or contact the group leader, Prof Outi Supponen via email at (no applications).