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Fully Funded EPSRC DTP and Swansea University PhD Scholarship: Design, Manufacturing and Testing of “Living” Cellular Microfluidic Sensors

Swansea University - Chemical Engineering

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Swansea
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £18,622 p.a.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 28th November 2023
Closes: 26th January 2024

Funding providers: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) and Swansea University's Faculty of Science and Engineering

Subject areas: Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Applied Physics

Project start date: 

  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)

Project description:  

Cells are living systems highly sensible to changes to the local environment, meaning that a change of temperature, pH or other properties can result in the cell changing its morphology and overall behaviour. In this project, the successful candidate will employ such cell behaviour to design, fabricate and test microfluidic fibres containing cells; such structures will act as “living sensor”, providing a physical response to a variety of external stimuli such as drug administration, electric signal, mechanical stimuli, and temperature gradients. The impact of this project stems in anticipated applications in diagnostic healthcare and drug development.  

The candidate will design fibres having controlled cells spacing, by using the principle of viscoelasticity-induced ordering in straight microchannels. The advantage over traditional methodologies is that cells will be aligned along a single line in the fibre, meaning that the external stimuli will be uniformly felt along the cell population line, resulting in the first-of-its-kind living tuneable sensor with cell-specific response. Unit sensors will be robustly characterised. Data will train a machine learning model to optimise sensor configurations (for multiple unit sensors) for a given application. The project will bring together Soft Matter, Biomedical Engineering and Data Science to generate a versatile tool with great potential across several fields. Experimental activities will mainly be carried out at the Rheological Microfluidic lab led by Dr Francesco Del Giudice.  

The candidate will use a variety of equipment, including microfluidic fabrication facilities, microfluidic stations to observe the flow and to generate the fibres, and state-of-the-art rheometry. The candidate will also have access to a range of advanced biomechanical characterisation tools to test sensor applicability (e.g. test performance in biomaterial phantoms) and benchmark sensor quality (e.g. compare strain measurements against optical methods such as digital image correlation). Additionally, the candidate will be trained on the development of machine learning algorithms developing advanced skills in both experimental and analytical methods. Collaborating research groups and stakeholders from across disciplines in healthcare and industry will regularly engage throughout. By the end of the project, the candidate will have acquired a portfolio of skills and external collaborators that will provide a strong footing for future careers in either academia or industry. 

Eligibility

Candidates must hold an Upper Second Class (2.1) honours degree in Engineering or similar relevant science discipline. If you are eligible to apply for the scholarship (i.e. a student who is eligible to pay the UK rate of tuition fees) but do not hold a UK degree, you can check our comparison entry requirements. Please note that you may need to provide evidence of your English Language proficiency.

English Language: IELTS 6.5 Overall (with no individual component below 5.5) or Swansea University recognised equivalent.

This scholarship is open to candidates of any nationality.

Please visit our website for more information on eligibility.

Funding Details

This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend of £18,622.

Additional research expenses will also be available.

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