2 September 2021 | The newest issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 118 no. 35), one of the world’s most-cited multidisciplinary scientific journals, features a research paper of a former EuroTechPostdoc team: Professors Jaap den Toonder (Eindhoven University of Technology, TU/e) and Yves Bellouard (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, EPFL) and postdoctoral researcher Tanveer ul Islam (TU/e and EPFL) have developed a breakthrough fabrication approach for biologically sized artificial cilia. Those tiny hairs mimic their biological counterparts and could be used in future microfluidic devices and sensors. The three researchers managed to fabricate for the first time magnetic artificial cilia as small and manoeuvrable as the ones found in nature.

Tanveer ul Islam was selected as a fellow under the EuroTechPostdoc programme in 2018. He did his fellowship at TU/e and a secondment at EPFL. During the two-year programme, he and his two supervisors were able to demonstrate the viability of his research idea, and to continue the work in the frame of a much broader research project supported by an ERC Advanced Grant awarded to Jaap den Toonder.

Highly motile magnetic artificial nano-cilia
False color scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of magnetic artificial nano-cilia with sizes equivalent to their biological counterparts capable of undergoing extreme deflection and very high frequency actuation. © Tanveer ul Islam, Jaap den Toonder, Yves Bellouard

Two questions to EuroTechPostdoc fellow Tanveer ul Islam

Tanveer ul Islam, TU/e
Tanveer ul Islam
Microsystems Section, Mechanical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology

Dr ul Islam, congratulations on your impressive research results and their publication. How has your current work benefitted from the EuroTechPostdoc fellowship?

The collaborative postdoc project between two different universities under the EuroTechPostdoc programme shaped the work into its present form, and more ideas are being tested, which involve the use of instruments and expertise of the secondment university. One of the interesting ideas that is being tried at the EPFL lab is the use of lasers to locally actuate the developed cilia in different directions and motion profiles. The extension of the research work in different directions would not have been possible without the collaborative approach adopted by the EuroTech fellowship. I must say that I am lucky to have got the chance through the EuroTech fellowship to work with Prof. Jaap den Toonder and Prof. Yves Bellouard, who go long back and know each other’s work very well and are great friends as well. Because of this, every meeting and discussion with them has been refreshing and fun and overall, it has been an amazing experience working with them. I would want to continue working with them for as long as possible.

Besides helping you advance your research, what did you appreciate most about the fellowship?

Working on the research project is quite engaging and often it would be difficult to find time and learn about other activities. The yearly EuroTechPostdoc workshops – one in Switzerland and one in Germany – were extremely helpful in getting informed about a number of things including awareness about the EuroTech schemes and policies, special sessions on how to handle and store research data, training on improving presentation skills, sessions on the European patent rules and policies, detailed presentations on the research grants we could apply for and motivating us to go for one, and many other things.

Apart from the annual workshops, the seminars, presentations, and other events organized by EuroTechPostdoc programme managers Laura Pander and Karen Luijten at TU/e were equally helpful and I would never miss one. As I am still working at TU/e, I am still getting invited to any EuroTech events and drinks organized at TU/e, thanks to Laura and Karen for that. I think these events at the university level or the annual workshops strengthen the sense of being a part of a bigger group like the EuroTech or Marie-Curie fellows. EuroTech should continue organizing these events as I think they are helpful in many ways.

Further information

To read more about the research results and their application of Tanveer ul Islam, Jaap den Toonder and Yves Bellouard, see this article on the website of Eindhoven University of Technology.

To read the full research paper, click here.

The EuroTechPostdoc programmes

The EuroTechPostdoc programme and its successor, EuroTechPostdoc2, are unique postdoctoral MSCA fellowship programmes for talented researchers who have already demonstrated excellence and potential in their field. They provide exceptional research and career development opportunities and fund interdisciplinary collaborative research projects carried out under the supervision of two professors/senior scientists at two EuroTech Universities. Both programmes have been co-funded by the EU’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme.

To learn more about the EuroTechPostdoc programme, click here.

New call in November 2021

Its successor, the EuroTechPostdoc2 programme, will open a new call for 35 postdoctoral fellowships in November 2021. To learn more about the programme, click here.

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