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Engineering biological soft microrobots for the treatment of cancer

Project Description

Start date: October 2020
Duration: 3 years (full time)
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (in collaboration with School of Life Sciences)

We will integrate microrobotics (CSEE) with stem cell and cancer biology (Life Sciences) to develop a novel microrobotics platform for efficient and effective delivery of therapeutic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

These MSCs will be genetically modified to express an anti-cancer protein known as TRAIL that induces cancer cell death, leaving normal tissues unaffected. While delivery of TRAIL with MSCs is functional and leads to tumour regression and remission, as we have already shown in several tumour models, increasing the delivery to tumour tissues holds the potential to further enhance the therapeutic benefits.

We will address this objective by transforming the therapeutic MSCs into soft microrobots. This will be achieved by loading TRAIL-expressing MSCs with magnetic nanoparticles allowing guidance with an external magnetic field. This electromagnetic steering system, we have previously developed and published, can increase the concentration of microrobots in locations of interests.

The dynamic magnetic actuation will be used for steering the microrobots. The discrete element method (DEM)-based computational platform we previously introduced, will be modified to include diverse motion modes for feedforward steering.

Furthermore, to show proof of concepts in feedback swarm control of microrobots, we will be using an optical camera integrated with actuation system.


We are looking for applicants with an MSc or BSc in Mechatronics, Medical Robotics, Biomedical Engineering or related subject areas.

How to apply

You can apply for this postgraduate research opportunity online (

Please include your CV, covering letter, personal statement, and transcripts of UG and Masters degrees in your application.

The University has moved to requiring only one reference for PhD applications and these can be received after a conditional offer has been made so the absence of these will not hold up the recruitment process.

Find out more about this studentship and information on how to apply on our website (

Funding Notes

A full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (£5,103 in 2020-21) (further fee details - international students will need to pay the balance of their fees) plus a doctoral stipend equivalent to the RCUK Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20, stipend for 2020-21 tbc).

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