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PhD Studentship: Harnessing the bio-mechanical features of circulating tumour cells for their isolation in microfluidic devices

UCL - Mechanical Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: London
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £20,000 to £30,000 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 17th May 2022
Closes: 31st July 2022
Reference: 1884535
 

Harnessing the bio-mechanical features of circulating tumour cells for their isolation in microfluidic devices

PhD project description:

Cancer Research UK’s statistics suggest that individuals have over 40% likelihood of suffering from cancer during their life. Most forms of cancer are characterised by excessive proliferation of cells in the form of solid tumours, which often shed cancer cells into the patient’s bloodstream to other secondary locations (metastasis cascade). These cells, known as Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs), are scarce (a single cell in one billion blood cells) and difficult to isolate. At the same time, CTCs can be an excellent source of diagnostic information because they contain information on the type of disease, which can help decide targeted drug therapies and treatment monitoring. Additionally, their presence and quantity are indicative of patient prognosis. Therefore, the development of chemical-free, fast, and efficient (high throughput) methodologies for isolating viable CTCs, without losing its biological characteristics (unmodified), is critical for next generation point-of-care analyses of cancer.

Person specification:

  • Applicants are preferred to have a first-class undergraduate and master’s degrees (or equivalent) in Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Mathematics or a related discipline.
  • The position is only open to UK or EU citizens with at least 3 years residency in UK (exceptional overseas candidates can be also considered)
  • Excellent organizational, interpersonal and communication skills, along with a stated interest in interdisciplinary research, are essential.
  • Experience in computer programing and strong knowledge in solid mechanics and/or fluid mechanics and/or microfluidics would be essential.
  • Fluency and clarity in spoken English as well as good written English in accordance with UCL English requirements (TOEFL>92 or IELTS>6.5).

Studentship description

Aim: In the physics-based isolation devices (such as the Parsortix® system), in addition to geometrical characteristics of the cells (i.e. cells size) and the fluidic devices (i.e. the size of constrictions), the cellular mechanical properties such as stiffness, degree of compressibility, viscoelasticity and adhesiveness may also influence the separation efficiency. Motivated by the gap in knowledge and the impact on patient care, the main aim of this PhD project is to investigate the role of cell biomechanical properties in cellular interactions with fluid flow and complex geometries. To achieve the main aim the student will employ a range of advanced computational and experimental approaches.

Supervisory panel, environment and training: The PhD project will be jointly supervised by Professors Emad Moeendarbary (extensive expertise in cell mechanics and microfluidics) and Ryo Torii (world-leading expert in computational biofluid mechanics) from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Eligibility: Applications are accepted from home (UK) and EU citizens only. Please refer to the following website for eligibility criteria: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospectivestudents/graduate/research/degrees/mechanical-engineering-mphil-phd

Closing Date and Start Date: Please submit all applications by 23:59pm on Sunday 31st July 2022.The start date is 1st Sep 2022 (Duration of this role will be for 4 years).

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