A 4 year EPSRC funded iCASE PhD studentship with Procter and Gamble (P&G) is available in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London to investigate how stimulation of the hair follicle can promote mental wellbeing. This discovery based PhD project will be supervised by Drs Claire Higgins and Parry Hashemi in Bioengineering, and Mr Leigh Knight at P&G. Students with a background in Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Natural Sciences, Neuroscience, Bioengineering or related subjects will be highly suitable for this interdisciplinary project.
There is a clear connection between the skin/hair follicle, and the central nervous system. It is well accepted that disruption of the balance of histamine and serotonin in the brain can lead to decreased wellbeing. Increased neurotransmitter levels in the brain in response to stress are also known to exacerbate skin conditions such as eczema and hair greying. But this connection between the brain and skin/hair follicle is two way; here we hypothesise that by manipulating levels of histamine and serotonin in the skin, we can influence the levels of these neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, thus increasing mental wellbeing.
The Department of Bioengineering at Imperial is highly interdisciplinary. The student recruited to this project will be supervised by Dr Higgins, a Biologist by training with a specialist interest in cutaneous research – her lab uses biological and computational approaches to study the regenerative capacity of human skin and hair follicles. Here, the student will develop models to administer mechanical (ultrasound etc), or chemical stimulation to cells in vitro. They will perform mathematical simulations to determine the concentrations of serotonin and histamine we aim to achieve, that promote an increase in wellbeing. In tandem, co-supervision will be provided by Dr Hashemi, a Chemist and Bioengineer by training whose lab develops biosensing technologies to monitor metabolites in the brain. Within the Hashemi research group the student will learn how to manufacture microelectrodes and conduct analytical measurements of neurotransmitter release. They will use computational models to evaluate voltammograms and determine concentrations of neurotransmitters released from cells in vitro. Eventually, the student will correlate these two programmes of work, and determine the stimulation method needed to promote an optimal amount of neurotransmitter release.
The student will be part of a diverse research environment where they will learn to generate and test hypotheses in an elegant and methodical manner. Through the Higgins and Hashemi research groups and the Imperial Graduate School, they will acquire professional skills such as academic writing and presentation. As part of the PhD programme, the student will also spend a minimum of 3 months at the P&G consumer testing laboratories in Reading gaining insight into an industrial research environment. The student will be able to run consumer testing and correlate lab findings at Imperial with consumer responses in vivo.
Please apply for this PhD position by emailing your CV and cover letter to Dr Claire Higgins ([Email Address Removed]) using the email subject line ‘EPSRC P&G PhD application’. Closing date: Friday 18th Feb.