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A Study into the Utility of Bioimpedance Spectroscopy to provide Predictive Information about Skin Breakdown

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, December 08, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project based in the Department of Chemistry under the supervision of Prof Toby Jenkins.

Bioimpedance is the application of an alternating potential and measure of the resultant current to a biological system such as skin or tissue. Biological tissue can be modelled as resistances (the extra-cellular and intra-cellular spaces), and capacitances (the biological cell membranes). As epithelial tissue degrades, the low frequency resistive component decreases in magnitude as cells die, and the extracellular space becomes higher in volume (and hence lower in resistance). Impedance spectroscopy does not appear to be widely or commercially used in skin / wound infection diagnosis, but convincing data from cancer diagnostics (in particular cervical cancer), has been published.(1, 2)

The hypothesis is that impedance spectroscopy of skin and wounds could:

1. Give early warning of tissue breakdown, which might lead to early diagnosis and prevention of pressure ulcer formation;
2. Give a measure of incipient infection in a wound;
3. Correlate with infection depth in tissue and infection severity;
4. Give information as to whether a wound is on a healing pathway or not. A recent paper in Nature Communications gives support to this hypothesis.(3)

The aim of the project will be to investigate whether impedance spectroscopy will have future utility in wound and skin diagnostics and healing / infection prognosis for wounds. Ultimately the project will aim to prototype a low-cost electrode – impedance analyser which could be incorporated into wound dressings. Electrodes will be purchased and evaluated for their effectiveness in measuring pig skin impedance. Various electrode types and configurations and effect of gel and electrode size will all be evaluated.

Pressure ulcers are formed by continuous pressure on often poorly vascularised skin (often in tandem with nerve neuropathy). In addition, pressure ulcers are frequently made more severe by concomitant incontinence (wet skin breaks loses strength and is more susceptible to frictional damage). Faeces contains proteases which may cause direct skin breakdown (nappy dermatitis).

Porcine skin will be used as an ex vivo model system, with which to measure the effect of static pressure, microbial infection and proteolytic degradation by impedance spectroscopy. Moreover, the effect of urinary incontinence on the rate of skin breakdown will also be studied by bathing skin in artificial urine for different times prior to measurement. Faecal incontinence will be modelled via application of high density cocktails of E.coli and Enterococcus faecalis and Candida albicans, contained within an artificial matrix, on the skin model.

Candidate requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or high Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK) in a Bioscience or Chemistry but must have an interest in microbiology (though specific experience not required). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous. Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement

How to apply:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be addressed to Prof Toby Jenkins.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form:

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020.

Funding Notes

UK and EU candidates applying for this project will be considered for a University Research Studentship in collaboration with ConvaTec. The studentship will provide funding for up to 3.5 years and will cover UK/EU tuition fees as well as providing a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019-20) and a budget for research and training expenses.


(1) Gynecologic Oncology, 2007, 107, S40-S42.
(2) The Lancet, 2000, 355
(3) Nature Communications 2015, 6, 6575.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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