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Structure-property relationship in solid tumours – An integrated experimental and computational approach towards more effective early cancer diagnosis

School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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Dr Yuhang Chen , Prof RL Reuben Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Biological tissue often has unique three-dimensional hierarchical microstructures and morphologies, constantly evolving through their development and patho-physiological stages. For solid tumour, e.g. in forms of prostate, breast, skin and colorectal cancers, understanding the evolutions of their tissue microstructures [1] is key to their clinical diagnosis. In addition, since the mechanical behaviours, in terms of both solid and fluid [2] ones such as stiffness and permeability, highly depend on the tissue microstructures, it becomes possible to utilize the mechanical properties of the cancerous tissue for diagnosis purposes, through quantitative understanding of its structure-property relationship.

This PhD project will employ various mechanical and materials engineering techniques, including medical imaging and processing, 3D model reconstruction, finite element modelling and other advanced mathematical and numerical methods, such as homogenisation method (in its asymptotic or numerical forms [3]), in order to quantify the structure-property relationship in various types of solid tumours [4], prostate cancer being the main exemplar. The PhD student will work closely with the project partner, the clinicians from the department of urology at Western General Hospital, to make experimental characterisation of whole prostates and/or tissue samples, to conduct structural and microstructural analysis based on high resolution imaging (MRI/DW-MRI), tissue microarrays (TMA) for 3D histological model reconstruction and whole prostate histological slices, and to establish the computational framework for structure-property relationship for prostate cancer.

All applicants must have or expect to have an undergraduate degree in relevant disciplines by Autumn 2020. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). Some of our scholarships are only open to UK/EU applicants who meet residency requirements set out by EPSRC. Some scholarships are available for exceptional overseas candidates.

Closing Date
All applications will be reviewed upon receipt, until the position is filled. Candidate should usually expect to start in September/October 2020.

How to Apply
Please get in touch with the PI first, with a copy of your CV attached. [y.chen AT]

Funding Notes

Standard EPSRC stipend rate will apply. The annual stipend will be approx. £15k and full fees will be covered during the funded period.


1. Paszek and Weaver (2004). The tension mounts: mechanics meets morphogenesis and malignancy. Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia, 9(4):325.
2. Heldin et al. (2004). High interstitial fluid pressure - an obstacle in cancer therapy. Nature Reviews Cancer.
3. Palacio-Torralba et al. (2017). Histology-based homogenization analysis of soft tissue: application to prostate cancer. J.R.Soc. Interface 14:20170088.
4. Hammer et al. (2017). Quantitative mechanical assessment of the whole prostate gland ex vivo using dynamic instrumented palpation. Proc. Ins. Mech Eng, Part H: J Eng. Med. 231,12,1081-1100.

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