Chemical Engineering: Fully Funded EPSRC DTP and Swansea University PhD Scholarship: Design, manufacturing and testing of “living” cellular microfluidic sensors


   School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

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  Dr F Del Giudice  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

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)

Supervisors:

Aligned programme of study: PhD in Chemical Engineering

Mode of study: Full-time 

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. 

The Rheological Microfluidic lab sits within the broader Complex Fluid group and focuses on areas of research bringing together complex fluids (e.g., polymer solutions) and microfluidics. For instance, we pioneered the use of polymer solutions to promote co-encapsulation of particles above the stochastic limit. We also developed a microfluidic device for rapid simultaneous measurements of rheological properties at different temperature and using fingerpick of fluids. We are currently exploring implementation of machine learning within the field of droplet microfluidics. Our overall vision is to introduce disruptive technologies that challenges the status quo. 

The student will also work within the Biomedical Engineering Simulation and Testing (BEST) Lab led by Dr Hari Arora. There are currently >20 researchers in the group with >10 PhD level working on advanced experimental and computational mechanics problems. A relevant area of focus within the group includes the development of novel measurement methods to study medical devices and suitable simulated environments for biomechanical testing. There is a wide range of expertise within the BEST Lab to support on specialist topics as well as interdisciplinary skills development of the successful candidate. 

Eligibility

Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University) 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.

EPSRC funded studentships are available to home and international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise international students, once the limit has been reached, we are unable to make offers to international students.  

We are still accepting applications from international applicants.   

International students will not be charged the fee difference between the UK and international rate. Applicants should satisfy the UKRI eligibility requirements. 

ATAS

Please note that the programme requires some applicants to hold ATAS clearance, further details on ATAS scheme eligibility are available on the UK Government website. 

ATAS clearance IS NOT required to be held as part of the scholarship application process, successful award winners (as appropriate) are provided with details as to how to apply for ATAS clearance in tandem with scholarship course offer. 

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

This scholarship covers the full cost of tuition fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rate (currently £18,622 for 2023/24).
Additional research expenses will also be available.

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