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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - Sample-adaptive smart microscopy (Cairn Research and University of Glasgow)

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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  Prof D Reid, Dr Jonathan Taylor  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

3D timelapse microscope imaging of biological samples is revolutionising biology, unlocking the ability to directly witness events such as cell-cell interactions whose location in time and space cannot be predicted in advance. Even more powerful would be the ability for a “smart microscope” to detect and respond to these events in real time without human intervention, for example activating high-resolution imaging in the local area of interest, or applying an external intervention such as photo-ablation targeting of a cell of interest. To achieve this will require new optical and computational developments.

The student will develop an adaptive fluorescence microscopy system capable of observing a live specimen over a wide field of view for extended time periods, but then able to image specific events of interest at subcellular resolution. This hardware will be controlled using existing and newly-developed technologies for cell tracking and event detection in microscopy, to create a smart microscope platform for fully-automated timelapse study of live samples such as zebrafish. This will enable detection and monitoring of events such as immune cell interactions with damaged cells in zebrafish heart muscle, and the ability to selectively modulate these interactions by photo-ablation.

The project will require an equal mix of lab-based optical research and computer-based work. The student will be primarily based in the Imaging Concepts Group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Glasgow University, with a placement at Cairn Research (a leading UK microscopy company) in addition to collaborative work with biomedical research collaborators seeking to use our techniques to further their own research studies. Cairn Research comprises of a diverse team of scientists and engineers with many years of experience designing and validating microscopy equipment and solutions. Between the university and the industrial partner you will experience broad interdisciplinary training, becoming an expert in optical microscopy, instrumentation technology development and commercialisation, but also developing a working understanding of the biomedical research applications that are driving our work. You will work closely with our industrial partner, including a placement in their own research laboratories, and there is the possibility of travel to visit collaborators’ research labs. During the PhD you will be embedded in the Imaging Concepts Group (ICG) at the University of Glasgow, comprised of four academics and 15-20 postdocs, research fellows and PhD students all working on related aspects of optical imaging, with a strong focus on biomedical applications including cardiovascular and ocular biomedicine.

CDT Essential Criteria

A Masters level degree (MEng, MPhys, MSc) at 2.1 or equivalent.

Desire to work collegiately, be involved in outreach, undertake taught and professional skills study.

Project Essential Criteria

Aptitude for experimental optics/imaging lab work.

Aptitude for computer programming (preferably in the Python language).

Willing to work with imaging live biological specimens.


The CDT in Applied Photonics provides a supportive, collaborative environment which values inclusivity and is committed to creating and sustaining a positive and supportive environment for all our applicants, students, and staff. For further information, please see our ED&I statement Forming a supportive cohort is an important part of the programme and our students take part in various professional skills workshops, including Responsible Research and Innovation workshops and attend Outreach Training.

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