PhD Studentship: Design of a Microfluidics Integrated Skin-on-a-Chip Tissue Model

Queen Mary University of London - Institute of Bioengineering, School of Engineering and Materials Science and Blizard Institute

A studentship in the design of novel “Tissue-On-A-Chip” models of the skin is available in the groups of Dr J. Gautrot and Dr J. Connelly. The research will focus on the development of novel in vitro skin model that can be used for fundamental biological studies as well as drug efficacy or toxicity testing. Such tissue models are important to replace animal models, but also make better prediction of safety and efficacy testing, based on human cells.

Cells cultured on 2D matrices poorly recapitulate the function and phenotype of cells in vivo. To address this issue, new 3D culture systems are being developed, but need interfacing with multiple compartment if the true complexity of tissues is to be captured and to control parameters such as flow and interstitial pressure, perfusion with nutrients, growth factors, cytokines or drugs and simple sampling of secreted factors or metabolites. Microfluidic systems are perfectly suited for this task and offer advantages for imaging of samples and standardisation of procedures. This project will explore the fabrication of microfluidic-based skin models and apply them to the understanding of skin sensitization mechanisms in response to specific chemicals.

This project will develop microfluidic chips loaded with biomimetic hydrogels encapsulating cells, recreating the structure of human skin (dermis and epidermis). Microfabrication of the chips and their characterisation (electron microscopy) will be carried out. The impact of the device architecture on cell behaviour and tissue formation, the dynamics of these processes, the impact of perfusion with growth factors and drugs, and the occurrence of sensitisation will be studied via (live) microscopy, immunostaining, western blotting and qPCR. This project will be integrated with other projects in the Gautrot lab, focusing on the development of biomaterials and biomimetic hydrogels as well as their microfabrication (, in close collaboration with the Connelly lab, with expertise in skin biology and wound healing models (

Our research group has a strong track-record in the field of materials science: their design and synthesis, application as smart materials and biomaterials, microfabrication and study of cell interactions (see Biomaterials 2010, 2012, Nature Materials 2012, Nature Cell Biology 2010 and Integrative Biology 2013, Nano Letters 2014, Acta Biomaterialia 2016). The successful candidate will join our multidisciplinary team and build a strong expertise in the fields of materials chemistry, structural, physical and mechanical characterisation, microfabrication and processing.

Supervisor: Dr Julien Gautrot, E-mail:

QMUL Research Studentship Details

  • Available to Home Applicants only. (See: details) 
  • Full Time programme only.
  • Applicant required to start from January 2017 (flexible starting date during 2017).
  • The studentship arrangement will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend (£16,296 in 2016/17) for three years.
  • The minimum entry requirement is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) in Biology or Biomedical Engineering.
  • If English is not your first language, a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS (6.5+ overall, minimum score of 5.5 in all sections).

Application Method: Application on the Medical Engineering programme (Full Time, Semester 2 start):

Further Guidance:

Please include a reference to ‘2016 SEMS IoB JG’ to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.

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