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The Biological and Pathological Effects of Blinking (Ref: SF20/APP/MCDERMOTT1)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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Prof A McDermott Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Blinking is essential to spread the tear film over the surface of the eye and so keeps the eye moist and lubricated to ensure a smooth surface for refraction of light and provision of essential nutrients and protective antimicrobial molecules. With each blink the eyelids exert force on the corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells that line the ocular surface. It is widely recognised that cells actively respond to mechanical perturbation resulting in changes in intracellular signalling pathways for example. Contact lens wear and an altered tear film such as in dry eye may influence the normal response of the cells to the mechanical perturbation of blinking and so contribute to the discomfort often experienced by contact lens wearers and those with dry eye disease. Previously we developed an in vitro cell culture based mechanical model to begin studying the cellular effects of blinking (Qin G et al. 2018, Ocul Surf 16, 226-234).
The purpose of this project is to utilize the model to study the effects of blinking under conditions mimicking the adverse ocular environment of dry eye to determine if an enhanced pro-inflammatory response resulting from blinking exacerbates this common and sometimes debilitating ocular surface disease. The project involves utilizing mammalian cell culture, and cellular and molecular assays such as RT-PCR and enzyme immunoassays. Technologies such as CAD and3D printing as well as use of Matlab will also be used to develop and improve the mechanical model.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed and the reasons you consider yourself suited to the project. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Prof Alison McDermott ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs.


Qin G, Baidouri H, Glasser A, Raghunathan V, Morris C, Maltseva I, McDermott AM. (2018) Development of an in vitro model to study the biological effects of blinking. Ocul Surf 16, 226-234.

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