PhD: Detecting The Pathology Specific Chemo-Mechanics Of Epithelial Tissue In Dysplastic Barrett’s Oesophagus Using Light Scattering

University of Exeter - College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Oesophageal cancer (OC) is the eighth most common cancer in males in the UK and one with dismal prognosis – only 12% of patients survive OC for more than 10 years.

Vibrational spectroscopy techniques based on infrared or visible light are nondestructive, label-free and chemically specific, providing information on the structure and molecular make-up of matter. Raman spectroscopy through an endoscope has shown high sensitivity and specificity for detecting Barrett’s oesophagus (BO)-associated high-grade dysplasia (HGD) and adenocarcinoma, as well as the ability to grade dysplasia in ex vivo tissue. Early detection and endoscopic resection of BO-associated HGD can prevent progression to invasive OC.

Brillouin spectroscopy is an emerging technique in biomedicine – it provides information on the micromechanics of tissues through a nondestructive contactless approach at high frequencies (GHz). Preliminary data demonstrated the existence of correlations between elasticity and composition (epithelial cells vs extracellular matrix) in BO. Through this multidisciplinary collaboration, we propose to develop a new approach to investigate the heterogeneity in structure, elasticity and composition of epithelial tissue in BO based on a combination of light scattering techniques and consensus histopathology. This will enable early detection of OC and potentially lead to novel treatment routes.

This PhD studentship will conduct histopathology of oesophageal cancer at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and micro-spectroscopic analysis to extract the chemical and mechanical property gradient of tissues. The PhD student will benefit from working in this multidisciplinary environment as well as from regular travels and meetings between sites. This research would suit a candidate with a Physics, Biosciences or Biotechnology, Chemistry degree, with previous experience using analytical tools such as microscopy and spectroscopy techniques. This fully funded PhD studentship is available from 1 October 2017 for 4 years, with expected completion date 30 September 2021.

You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Physics or related subjects. Experience in optics, spectroscopy, microscopy and biomedical applications is desirable.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Dr Francesca Palombo via email:

Additional Funding Information

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,553 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. 

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South West England