Fully-funded Cancer Research UK Imperial Centre PhD studentship exploring biomechanical regulation of cell extrusion and migration during metastasis using microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices.
The Braga Group (National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London) and Au Laboratory (Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London) are seeking a PhD candidate to explore the interaction of tissue biomechanics and cellular signaling in migration during cancer metastasis. The successful candidate will be co-supervised at Imperial College London and will have the unique opportunity to advance the state of the art at the intersection of microdevice development and cancer metastasis.
90% of cancer associated deaths are a result of metastasis. Most adult tumours are comprised of tightly bound epithelial cells organized into continuous sheets. The extrusion of cancer cells from these sheets is an important initial step in metastasis, yet we still do not understand many of the fundamental mechanisms that drive this process. This project will expand upon recent work by the Braga Group demonstrating that confinement of doublets into geometric shapes (2D micropatterned substrates) dramatically influences intercellular boundaries, cortical tension and cell motility. This project will explore how cell-cell and cell-ECM adhesions, intrinsic forces (cortical tension) and extrinsic biomechanical forces (extracellular environment) contribute to the cell extrusion and migration in three dimensions. To accomplish this, the successful candidate will develop state-of-the-art force-responsive microfluidic epithelia-on-a-chip and tumour cell migration-on-chip platforms.
Microfluidic platforms will be developed and fabricated in the Au Laboratory at Imperial College London South Kensington, which has expertise developing microfluidics as tools for investigating cancer. These platforms are designed to mimic the unique microenvironment present in the human body and have precisely tuned mechanical/fluidic environments that make them ideal tools for studying microscale biomechanics. Molecular biology and exploration of oncogenic signaling will be conducted in the Braga Group at Imperial College London South Kensington, which has expertise in investigating the biological cues that drive cell migration and adhesion.
Upon completion of the PhD, the successful candidate will be uniquely equipped for high-demand careers within academia or industry with desirable skills in a) Bioengineering including organ-on-chip device development, cleanroom microfabrication, computer-assisted design, computational modeling and b) Cancer Cell Biology including cell-line engineering (CRISPR/cas9), quantitative live-cell imaging, genomic and proteomic analyses, drug screening and statistical analysis.
To find out more about our laboratories please visit https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/v.braga
Eligibility and funding
This PhD student position is fully funded for 4 years, inclusive of a generous stipend of £21,000 per annum, tuition fees and research expenses and is available to UK and EU candidates. The anticipated start date of this position is October 2020.
Imperial College London is fully committed to the continued success of students from the EU. Candidates who start in 2020 are guaranteed UK-level fees for the entire duration of their course and this position is funded by UK-funds through CRUK. To read more about Imperial’s commitment to EU students, please read: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/about/imperial-and-the-european-union/support-for-students/
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 (2.1 or first class) degree in engineering, life sciences, physical sciences or other relevant field. Laboratory experience and proficiency in microfluidics/MEMS, cancer biology and molecular techniques are highly desired but not required. Training for all relevant skills will be provided.
**Motivated oversea students (non-UK/EU) are encouraged to discuss alternative funding routes with Dr Au and Dr Braga directly.
Closing date for all applications: 23.59 on Sunday 15th March 2020
Interviews will be held soon after that date.