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Micro-scale assessment of tissue biomechanics for non-invasive cancer staging

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, June 05, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project is one of 16 four year PhD Studentships funded by Medical Research Scotland (https://www.medicalresearchscotland.org.uk) to be delivered jointly by the named University and External Partner Organisation (EPO). The Studentship will provide the first-class academic and additional training provided by the EPO and additional partner needed to equip the successful candidate for a science career in an increasingly competitive market.

"Micro-scale assessment of tissue biomechanics for non-invasive cancer staging and treatment planning" to be delivered by the University of Strathclyde [Supervisors: Dr Helen Mulvana (Department of Bioengineering, University of Strathclyde), Professor Tony Gachagan (Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Strathclyde) and Professor Laura Machesky (Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, University of Glasgow)] and National Physical Laboratory (NPL) (https://www.npl.co.uk/) [EPO supervisor: Mr Mark Hodnett].

Ultrasound elastography is an imaging method that can detect large-scale changes in tissue stiffness to be presented as a colour map or stiffness estimate. However, the physical property that is measured to make the estimate varies with the clinical ultrasound system used, preventing comparisons between machines or over time. The sensitivity with which features can be distinguished by size or stiffness are also limited so elastography is commonly used to establish that further investigation and biopsy are needed.

Tumour tissue is stiff because it is dense, with lots of multiplying cells, a higher density of extracellular matrix fibres, chaotic network of blood vessels and poor lymphatic drainage. But the cells themselves need to be very elastic to escape the tumour, they also spread more quickly when confined. Cells also modify their surroundings so local stiffness increases. These cellular level insights suggest that non-invasive microscale tissue characterisation will reveal new information that could be used in diagnosis and treatment planning.

Advances in high resolution ultrasound hardware and programmable array systems now allow us to probe tissue at the micro-scale. In this project the student will develop micro-scale tissue characterisation by combining elastography with information extracted from the sound signals that are scattered by these tiny tissue volumes. When this data is mapped and compared to pathology we expect distinct patterns to emerge based on disease stage and aggression. This information can be used to help detect and diagnose cancer without the need for biopsy.

This project will be based at the University of Strathclyde in collaboration with our co-investigators at the (Beatson Institute for Cancer Research (University of Glasgow) and NPL. The student will also spend time on secondment at NPL in Teddington, enabling them to gain additional experience of acoustics research and its applications out with the University setting. In addition to the excellent transferrable skills training available to all post-graduate researchers at the University of Strathclyde, the student will also benefit from becoming part of the NPL Post Graduate Institute of Measurement Science, a pioneering initiative that aims to enhance the employability of researchers undertaking PhD study and their ability to tackle industry-led research challenges within measurement science.

ENQUIRIES:
Enquiries should be sent by email to Dr Helen Mulvana:


APPLICATIONS:
Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in an appropriate area. Applications are encouraged from graduates with backgrounds in engineering, physics, mathematics or computer science and related disciplines.The ideal candidate will have an interest in imaging processing and its use in tissue characterisation. A Masters degree in a relevant discipline would be advantageous as would experience and an aptitude for laboratory work.

To apply applicants should send a CV, the contact details of 2 references (including email address and phone number) and a covering letter, explaining their interest and suitability to the project by email to Dr Helen Mulvana:


Please note, your application may be shared with the funders of this PhD Studentship, Medical Research Scotland and NPL.

Interviews are expected to take place 3-4 weeks after the closing date for applications. In light of the current coronavirus situation, interviews may be conducted by video conference.

It is anticipated that the PhD Studentship will start in October 2020.

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides: an annual tax-free stipend of £17,500, increasing to £18,000 over the four years; tuition fees at UK/EU rates only; consumables; and generous travel allowance. International fees are not covered.

References

https://www.strath.ac.uk/staff/mulvanahelen_elizabethdr/

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