This scholarship is funded by Swansea University and Université Grenoble Alpes.
Start date: 1 October 2019
Subject areas: Physics, Physical Chemistry, Engineering
The Laboratoire TIMC-IMAG at the Université Grenoble Alpes (France) and Swansea University (United Kingdom), jointly invite applications for a three-year co-tutelle PhD programme focussing on “Novel Protein Interface to Improve Biocompatibility of Implantable Medical Devices”.
The scientific challenge of this project is to use novel protein-derived biopolymers (Ultrabithorax -Ubx - Swansea University) in biomimetic membranes to address the technological challenge of improving the biocompatibility for biomembranes used for implanted medical devices (UGA-TIMC). These membranes will be based on self-assembled lipid bilayers, similar to those found in cell membranes.
The objectives of this PhD program are the following:
In the first part of the PhD (Swansea University), the student will learn the techniques to produce the protein, form protein-based materials at the liquid/air interface, transfer to solid supports, and general material/structure characterization techniques. Production of Ubx-based materials will closely follow and be guided by techniques optimised by the Meissner group. During this work, the student will develop cloning and protein expression skills. The student will develop new techniques to make Ubx-based materials and coat structures with the materials. The student will then learn techniques to study the mechanical and electrical properties of the Ubx-based materials. Mechanical properties will be studied by the use of small force tensile tester (Deben MT200N) and, possibly, atomic force microscopy. Electrical properties will be studied using a custom-designed four micro-probe system in the Centre for Nanohealth.
In the second phase of the PhD program (UGA-TIMC), the student will focus on the cytotoxicity and biocompatibility of the Ubx materials. The Ubx materials will first assessed for biological suitability using the bioengineering techniques and equipment in at TIMC-IMAG, including for example diffusional properties, thickness and roughness (dynamic holographic microscopy, atomic force microscopy, confocal microscopy). Cytotoxicity will be tested using cell-lines in the laboratory (HUVEC, HeLa, 3T3) and biocompatibility using protocols in TIMC-IMAG for implantation in rats and/or rabbits. The use of large scale facilities for neutron and X-ray scattering (such as the Institut Laue Langevin and the ESRF) might also be considered to performed nanosctructural characterisation of the biomembranes.
This research program offers considerable breadth of experience to the student; from the development of fundamental understanding of structure development in a self-assembling soft-matter system, through to the use of this knowledge to design improved biomimetic membranes.
The first part of the PhD will be carried out at Swansea University under the supervision of Professor Kenith Meissner, with co-supervision from Dr Paolo Bertoncello and Dr Anthony Higgins. The second part will take place at the Université Grenoble Alpes, Laboratoire TIMC/IMAG in the SyNaBi group, under the supervision of Professor Donald Martin and Dr Marco Maccarini. The PhD degree will be conducted as a co-tutelle and double-badged from Swansea University and the Université Grenoble Alpes.
As this is a joint degree, applicants must meet the entry/funder requirements of both universities: a recognised master’s degree in Physics, Physical Chemistry, Engineering that preferably includes biomedical/chemical engineering courses (or major), and an appropriate English language qualification (https://www.swansea.ac.uk/international-students/requirements/english-requirements/
Candidates should have a strong background in thermodynamics/statistical mechanics and also possess strong mathematical and programming skills.
Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.