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Defined outcomes from chaotic directions – The influence of random nanoscale mechanical stress on cancer cell behaviour and drug resistance

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Zelzer
    Dr A Piccinini
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We invite you to apply for an exciting opportunity for a fully funded PhD project at the interface of material science, engineering, cancer cell biology and mathematic modelling. The project builds on recent work in our groups in the area of light responsive materials, hydrogels, biointerfaces, gene expression, material engineering and mathematical modelling and aims to train a student in a range of skills relevant to academic and industrial employers.

The microenvironment of cells plays an important part in cell behaviour and cell fate. In the past, the influence of various extracellular matrix (ECM) properties such as chemical composition, topography and stiffness on cell behaviour such as stem cell differentiation or development of diseases such as cancer or neurodegenerative diseases has been investigated. Many materials developed in this context are static, i.e. they present a single, predefined condition to the cells. Stimuli responsive materials include a dynamic element in the materials; however, even this falls short in capturing the transient nature of the ECM which is subject to constant and random chemical and physical remodelling.
This project aims to understand the random nature of ECM remodelling and its role in the development of complex diseases. We will design materials that modulate their properties randomly and investigate how these changes affect cancer cell behaviour and treatment. The project will apply a range of material fabrication (polymer hydrogels, peptides) and characterisation (rheology, AFM, spectroscopy, fluorescence imaging) approaches, device engineering to enable light stimulation, cell analysis (e.g. light sheet fluorescence microscopy, cell assays) and computational models to investigate the response of cancer cells to randomly changing microenvironments.


The successful candidate will be placed at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham with a strong collaboration with the Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the Research Complex at Harwell. The School of Pharmacy at Nottingham is 8th in the world for Pharmacy in Pharmacology in the QS World University Rankings 2019 and provides world-leading facilities in material fabrication, characterisation and cell and molecular biology and outstanding postgraduate training infrastructure. The candidate will be able to take full advantage of the world leading facilities in the new Nottingham Biodiscovery Insitute and the Advanced Manufacturing Building as well as the Nano and Microscale Research Centre. This Central Laser Facility has state of the art fluorescence imaging facilities operated under cell culture conditions.

Candidates with experience in at least one of the key areas (material science, chemistry, engineering, cell biology, mathematical modelling) and a keen interest in developing other skills to become a well-rounded, interdisciplinary scientist are encouraged to apply.

This project is part of an MRC funded doctoral training partnership (https://more.bham.ac.uk/mrc-impact/) and the successful candidate will be part of a cohort and expected to participate in cohort training events.
The studentship is available to UK and other EU nationals ONLY. For full details on eligibility, including residence requirements, please see the MRC website (https://mrc.ukri.org/skills-careers/studentships/studentship-guidance/student-eligibility-requirements/). We are not currently accepting applications from overseas students.

Details on how to apply can be found on the website of the IMPACT MRC DTP scheme (https://more.bham.ac.uk/mrc-impact/phd-opportunities/). Applications have to be submitted via this website by Friday 17th Jan 2020, 5pm. Contact with the lead supervisor (Mischa Zelzer, [Email Address Removed]) before submitting an application is encouraged.

Funding Notes

You must hold (or be about to obtain) a First or an Upper Second Class UK undergraduate degree or an equivalent degree from a recognised EU institution, in an area relevant to the projects you are applying for. Qualifications (or a combination of qualifications and experience) which demonstrate equivalent ability and attainment will also be considered. For example, a less than sufficient first degree may be enhanced to meet the requirements by the acquisition of a Distinction at Masters level or significant research experience gained from employment).

How good is research at University of Nottingham in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?
Pharmacy

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.10

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

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