The University of Nottingham has a long-standing reputation for world-class research. The School of Pharmacy is ranked 5th in the world (2021 QS World Rankings) for pharmacy and pharmacology and was recently awarded an Athena Swan Silver award. The School was also ranked joint 1st in the UK rankings on quality of research for Pharmacy Schools in the most recent Research and Excellence Framework (REF) and has a strong collegial ethos.
The extracellular matrix (ECM) in native mammalian tissues provides a structural and functional framework to support tissue resident cells and promote cellular function. ECM derived hydrogels have considerable utility as vehicles for cell delivery in regenerative medicine and as 3D substrates for in vitro cell culture, but the full potential has yet to be reached. To date, characterisation of ECM hydrogel structure has been limited to freeze-drying, removing water from the hydrogels, which is not representative of the native state. There is a need for new imaging modalities to inform both understanding of the ultrastructure of ECM hydrogels and interactions of cells seeded within these materials.
This 3.5-year PhD project, based in the School of Pharmacy will utilize excellent cell culture facilities and state-of-the-art microscopy instrumentation available within the University’s nanoscale and microscale research centre (nmRC). Cryogenic Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy (Cryo-FIB-SEM) instrumentation will be employed to interrogate the nanoscale structures of gels and investigate the interactions of cells in the matrix as employed in a tissue culture setting.
This multi-disciplinary project combines practical skills in gel production, working in a cell culture setting and analytical science of gel materials. The project will combine these areas to better understand how the gel properties and cell types affect the cell-gel interaction within the 3D scaffolds for cell culture. The result will be an improved understanding of how these factors can be tuned for their desired application. This project seeks to make the most of the world leading capabilities and facilities available at the University of Nottingham particularly in biomaterials design and native state three-dimensional analysis.
The successful candidate will:
· Receive the training needed for a professional career as a multidisciplinary analytical scientist
· Receive a full studentship tax free (fees and stipend at UK/EU rates) for 3.5 years
· Work directly with leading academics
· Receive a travel and consumable allowance