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Bioengineered 3D Organ-on-Chip Microfluidics for Exploring the Transit of Cancer Cell Clusters through the Vasculature

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 15, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The Au Lab in the Department of Bioengineering of Imperial College has a fully funded PhD studentship to develop vasculature-on-chip microfluidic devices to gain a deeper understanding of how tumour cells disseminate and metastasise.

90% of cancer associated deaths are a result of metastasis, a sequence of discrete events in which tumour cells escape from primary tumours and use vasculature networks as ‘highways’ to reach distant organs. Because of the difficulty of tracking individual cells in animals, we have a poor understanding of how cancer cells navigate through blood vessels to reach their destinations. To overcome this challenge, we will develop microfluidics devices coated with human endothelial cells that mimic the architecture and hemodynamic properties of the human microcirculation.

These organ-on-chip platforms are transparent and have mechanical and fluid environments that can be precisely tuned and manipulated making them ideal tools for studying microscale biomechanics. We will study the interactions of mechanics and cancer biology within these organ-on-chip platforms to develop a better understanding of the biomechanical mechanisms that permit and/or halt the transit of cancer cells and their clusters through the vasculature. These findings will be used to develop novel therapies to sabotage the drivers of the metastatic process - cancer cells transiting through the circulation.

Many aspects of this project are based on our previous work showing that potent circulating tumour cell clusters can transit through human-sized capillary vessels - published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

After completion of the PhD, the successful candidate will be well equipped for in-demand careers within academia or industry with many of the following skills: cell & tissue culture, cancer biology, organ-on-a-chip, drug screening, cleanroom microfabrication, computer-assisted design, statistical analysis, computational modeling, scientific writing/presentation skills and project management.

To find out more about the lab and our research goals please visit us at

Eligible candidates should be independently motivated, have good oral/written communication abilities, work well in teams and have obtained a master’s (merit or distinction) or bachelor’s (first class or 2.1) degree in engineering, natural sciences or other relevant field. Laboratory experience and proficiency in microfluidics/MEMS, cancer biology, biophysics, live cell microscopy or computational simulation are desired but not required.

How to Apply
Applicants should send a single PDF document including a one-page cover letter discussing research interest and experiences, a CV and contact information of two professional/academic references to Dr. Sam Au (). Review of applications will begin 15 March, 2019, but applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Deadline for application: Until position filled.

* The 36-month position covers relevant fees and a stipend (~£16,999 per annum)

Cancer metastasis
Vasculature Models
Biomedical engineering

Funding Notes

This PhD student position in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London is fully funded for UK, EU and international candidates (3-years). The anticipated start date of this position is October 2019. More information about our PhD program in Bioengineering at Imperial College London: View Website and more information about Imperial’s commitment to the success of EU students enrolled in 2019: View Website

How good is research at Imperial College London in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.50

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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