PhD Studentship (3 years)

Aston University - School of Engineering and Applied Science

Membrane Chromatography using polymer nanofibers for the separation of human therapeutic cells

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, to be undertaken within the Aston Institute of Materials Research Group at Aston University. The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on Polymer Science.

The position is available to start in July 2018 (subject to negotiation)

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the home/EU fees rate plus a maintenance allowance of £14,553 in 2017/18.

Applicants from outside the EU may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home/EU’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees, currently £12,005 in 2017/18.

As part of the application you will be required to confirm that you have applied for, or, secured this additional funding.

Background of the Project

Despite recent advances in stem cell biology, immunotherapy and transplantation, substantial barriers still exist in the large-scale specific separation of a discrete population of human therapeutic cells from a mixture. Haematopoietic Stem Cells, for example, which are used to treat patients with blood and immune system disorders, account for 0.05-0.22% of the peripheral blood mononuclear cells and their isolation for a single treatment lasts ~5 hours and costs £15,000. Currently, the ‘gold standard’ in ‘cell-cell’ separation is Magnetic Affinity Cell Sorting (MACS), a technology that is considered to be gentle, fast and scalable. That said, magnetic methods are invariably expensive, and suffer from drawbacks when applied to niche cell populations. An alternative to MACS is affinity chromatography. The chromatography of cells, however, entails major difficulties given their large size, fragility and tight attachment to the adsorbent matrix, which makes their quantitative recovery in viable form a significant problem.

In light of the above, the aim of this project is to develop a new, generic, high-throughput cell affinity selection system, based on electrospun polymeric nanofiber adsorbents. Adsorptive membranes represent one of the most promising developments in the chromatography of large fragile biological entities in recent years, because they offer excellent separation performance, combined with low back pressures, short residence times and high volumetric throughputs. In the proposed work, novel nanofibrous membranes will be fabricated and tested for positive cell selection, thereby creating a new downstream processing tool that will enable cellular therapy products to reach the clinic fast and at significantly reduced cost.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have a first class or upper second class honours degree or equivalent qualification in Biological Chemistry, Chemical/Biochemical Engineering or a related subject, with an interest in Biomaterials and/or Bioseparations. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience in a laboratory-based discipline.

For informal enquiries about the project contact Dr Eirini Theodosiou by email

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

The online application form, reference forms and details of entry requirements, including English language are available here.

Applications must also be accompanied by a research proposal giving an overview of the main themes of the research, and explaining how your knowledge and experience will  benefit the project.  Details of how to write your project proposal are also included in the How to Apply section.

Closing Date: 31st May 2018

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Midlands of England