PhD Studentship: Investigation of pH triggered electrical bursts in Glioma cells

University of Bath - Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Bioelectronics is an exciting multidisciplinary field that converges biology, physics and electronics. The emerging field is attracting major attention within leaders of academia and industry. One of the main reasons relies on the ability to develop and characterize systems, which accurately translate cellular signals and/or restore damaged signalling pathways. Microelectrode arrays with planar electrodes on a substrate in close contact with cells in culture, are the most common electrophysiology tools. Their goal has been to detect action potentials in neurons. In order to improve the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and spatial resolution, filters are used to specifically detect events located at about 1 KHz. As a consequence, low frequency events are filtered out, as their detection is impaired or even inhibited.

Our brain is mostly composed by Glia cells. Glia cells have been found to play a fundamental role in all aspects of the nervous system. Glia cells, as well as their transformed counterparts, glioma cells, do not exhibit action potentials like neurons do. Instead, they exhibit distinctive, albeit ultra-weak, single-cell oscillations of the membrane potential. To measure this extremely weak activity, one must realize a new approach. A possibility is to devise innovative large electrodes with enhanced Helmholtz-Gouy-Chapman double layer capacitance. Small extracellular voltages of cells adhered to the electrode induce a displacement current that is enhanced by a gain factor equal to this double layer capacitance. In this way, the minuscule electrical activity can be detected over a population of cells.

This project aims to develop a highly sensitive system able to detect, stimulate and decode electrically quiescent cells such as Glia and their transformed counterparts Glioma cells.

The bioelectronics project within the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering of the University of Bath is looking for a highly motivated candidate to:

  • Design and fabricate transducers
  • Characterize different electrode materials such as Au and Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene)-poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS)
  • Monitor and characterise cell adhesion through electrical techniques such as impedance spectroscopy
  • Develop, conduct and interpret in vitro electrophysiological assays of brain cells
  • Accurately and safely use all biology base equipment regularly, including balances, pipettes, electrophoresis and centrifuges
  • Prepare chemical solution and reagents to the precision appropriate to the task

Candidates should send their application electronically containing an application letter, CV, diploma/degree/mark sheet (official transcript), and reference letters to Applications will be considered until the position is filled.

Essential Background: First class honours MSc degree (or overseas equivalent) in Electrical engineering, Bioelectronics, Biophysics or related field
Knowledge of LabVIEW, MATLAB and Signal Processing would be advantageous. 

Supervisor name: Paulo Roberto Ferreira da Rocha
Email contact:
Research Centre: CAST


Home/EU awards (3 years): Provides tuition fee, £1000 per year Training Support Grant and Stipend (£14,296 2016/7 rate).
Overseas awards (3 years): Provides tuition fee, £1000 per year Training Support Grant, but no stipend.
Successful applicants will ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with an undergraduate Masters first class degree and/or MSc distinction (or overseas equivalent).
(Any English language requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding.)

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South West England