PhD Studentships: Technology For The Sensing, Manipulation and Characterisation of Single Cells

University of Leeds

Supervisors: Contact Dr Chris Wood or Professor Christoph Wälti to discuss this project further informally.  

Project description

The ability to sense and precisely manipulate biological systems, such as single cells, is of fundamental importance to a range of emerging clinical procedures. Stem cell therapies are a prime example, owing to the capability of adult stem cells to develop (‘differentiate’) into almost any type of cell in the human body, making them ideal for treating a broad range of medical conditions. The ability to transport, trap, measure and alter the phenotype of single cells, non-destructively and controllably, will lead to radical advancements in the treatment of many currently incurable conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, diabetes and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, these techniques will provide the capability to control the spatial proximity of few-cell populations, allowing investigation of cell-cell communication and the role of extracellular messenger molecules in the spread of e.g. pathogenicity in biofilms.

In this PhD project, you will develop a novel platform for isolating and studying individual cells by non-destructively trapping them in situ using combinations of microfluidics, acoustic waves and dielectrophoresis. Acoustic waves, specifically surface acoustic waves (SAWs), are mechanical perturbations that are induced in piezoelectric materials using electronic circuitry and which can be used for label-free cell separation. Unlike traditional lab-on-a-chip cell manipulation techniques these type of acoustic wave devices can (a) mechanically stress the trapped material in a controllable fashion, (b) sense alterations to the trapped material system by changes in their acoustic or dielectric properties, and (c) can be used in high-conductivity cell media (critical for the study of mammalian cells).

The use of other interrogation techniques, both in situ (e.g. electrochemical) and ex situ (e.g. Raman), will then be employed to probe the trapped cells, and to measure extracellular material used in cell-cell communication. This novel platform will enable the sensing and precise manipulation of cells using non-invasive electronic and microfluidic techniques and will produce fundamental advances across the physical and biological sciences and engineering.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master's degree in a relevant engineering or science degree.

How to apply

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the ‘Technology for the sensing, manipulation and characterisation of single cells’ as well as Dr Chris Wood as your proposed supervisor.

When making an application, you will need to provide us with:

  • Degree certificates
  • Transcripts
  • CV including academic study, work experience and any publications
  • Two academic references or email address of academic referees.

The above information and documents are required before your application will be circulated.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office
e:, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000.

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Northern England