PhD Studentship - Pushing the Boundaries of 3D Printed Mechanisms for Open Source Instrumentation

University of Bath - Chemistry

Supervisor name: Dr Richard Bownman

Email contact:

Overview of the research

Sharing designs for lab instruments as “open source hardware” could bring about a step change in science and medicine, by making high quality instruments more widely available and easier to customise or automate. This is an opportunity for a talented student with a background in Physics, Engineering, or a related discipline, to study for a PhD aligned with the "Open Lab Instrumentation" [1] project that includes the Universities of Bath and Cambridge as well as our partners STICLab in Tanzania [2]. The project will improve the performance of 3D printed mechanisms, then use these optimised structures together with electronic and optical components to create microscopes, spectrometers, micromanipulators and more. Our first open instrument, the OpenFlexure Microscope [3], has already been reproduced by a number of groups, and tested in applications from malaria diagnostics to water quality monitoring.

You will develop interesting technology while at the same time applying it to real-world problems. Applications for low cost, open source instrumentation range from developing-world healthcare (e.g. diagnosis of malaria or tuberculosis with low cost microscopy) to parallelised, automated experiments across the physical and life sciences, enabled by small and inexpensive instruments.  Developing this technology is a chance to learn how to write library-quality code and hardware documentation, and share it with users around the world. You will learn a range of experimental techniques, get extensive experience of programming and automation in languages including Python, and have the opportunity to visit our partners in Cambridge and Tanzania.

The project would suit someone with strong programming skills and an enthusiasm for mechanical design, but will be strongly interdisciplinary and require you to work with a diverse range of people – including medics, biologists, engineers, and charities.

You will be based within the Centre for Photonics and Photonic Materials (CPPM) in the Department of Physics at the University of Bath, which is a research-led Department, ranked highly in the UK in the latest Research Excellence Framework. You will be supported by an experienced postdoctoral researcher as well as your main supervisor. This researcher, and many resources for the project, are funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, which supports cutting-edge research addressing the challenges faced by developing countries.

[1] News Article:
[2] STIClab:
[3] OpenFlexure Microscope on Github:


UK and EU students applying for this project may be considered for a University Research Studentship which will cover Home/EU tuition fees, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the RCUK Doctoral Stipend rate (£14,777 in 2018/19). Overseas students are not eligible.

Preferred start date

1 October 2018

Application Deadline

13 May 2018

Application link

Further information on how to apply may be found here:

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