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Developing high-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques to study confined and nanoscale rheology

   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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  Dr A Ponjavic, Prof A Mackie, Dr A Sarkar  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Understanding the structure of gel networks is critical for optimising their performance when developing novel functional materials and to understand vital biological processes. How we taste, perceive and process food, for example, completely rely on the performance of complex biomaterials such as saliva and mucus. These are conventionally characterised using macroscopic techniques that measure properties including diffusion and rheology, but such measurements do not accurately describe the heterogenous nature of nanoscale networks. 

In this project, you will develop new 3D single-particle tracking [1] and fluorescence lifetime viscometry techniques [2] to study the nanoscale properties of gel networks in situ. This will be applied to establish the first nanorheological characterisations of mucus, oral lubrication and novel protein-based hydrogels for functional drug delivery.

This interdisciplinary work spans multiple research areas including: optical engineering, rheology, biophysics and food science, which offers flexibility in terms of tailoring the research direction to align with your interests. You will be part of the Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group (School of Physics and Astronomy) and the Food Colloids and Soft Matter at Interfaces Group (School of Food Science and Nutrition). Candidates should have a background in physics, engineering, chemistry, food science or a closely related field and a keen interest in method development.

Funding Notes

A highly competitive EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship consisting of the award of fees with a maintenance grant (currently £15,609 in session 2021/22) for 3.5 years. This funding is open to all applicants, with a number of awards for Non-UK nationals limited by UKRI to 1.  All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship and selection is based on academic merit.


1. Carr, A.R., Ponjavic, A., Basu, S., McColl, J., Santos, A.M., Davis, S., Laue, E.D., Klenerman, D. and Lee, S.F., 2017. Three-dimensional super-resolution in eukaryotic cells using the double-helix point spread function. Biophysical journal, 112(7), pp.1444-1454.
2. Ponjavic, A., Dench, J., Morgan, N. and Wong, J.S.S., 2015. In situ viscosity measurement of confined liquids. RSC advances, 5(121), pp.99585-99593.
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