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The use of light scattering to distinguish cells in the immune system

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  • Full or part time
    Dr SJ Powis
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

PhD Studentship Award

This project is one of 15 four-year PhD Studentships funded by Medical Research Scotland (http://www.medicalresearchscotland.org.uk) to be delivered jointly by the named University and Company. The Studentships will provide the first-class academic and commercial training needed to equip the successful candidate for a science career in an increasingly competitive market.

"Label-free Raman Microspectroscopic Characterisation of Cells of the Immune System" to be delivered by the University of St Andrews [Supervisors: Dr Simon Powis (School of Medicine) and Professor Kishan Dholakia (School of Physics and Astronomy)] and M Squared Lasers Ltd (http://www.m2lasers.com) [Company supervisor: Dr Nils Hempler].

The immune system provides protection against pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. In disease, the numbers and types of immune cells change. It is important to identify and distinguish these subsets in blood to facilitate both diagnosis and treatment.

Optical methods in biomedicine hold immense promise due to their inherent simplicity, non-invasive and non-harmful characteristics. Raman spectroscopy is a sensitive chemical fingerprinting technique that can provide information regarding chemical composition of a sample, leaving the integrity and function of the cells intact. Wavelength Modulated Raman Spectroscopy (WMRS) allows the extraction of the Raman information devoid of any autofluorescent contamination. We have characterised key immune cells including T cells , NK cells and dendritic cells using this technique. This new project will use WMRS to extend this data and characterise all the various immune cell populations in human blood. WMRS opens the potential of moving towards direct clinical use in the future, by combining optical fibre based WMRS with automation and micro-fluidics, with the further potential to incorporate holographic imaging techniques.

The project is in collaboration with the Glasgow-based laser company M Squared Lasers Limited, where a proportion of the studentship will be based.

Enquiries may be sent by email to:
Dr Simon Powis
[Email Address Removed]

Candidates must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK BSc Honours degree in Physics, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK.

Applicants should send a CV, the contact details of 2 references (including email addresses) and a covering letter, explaining why the applicant wishes to carry out this project, by email to:
Dr Simon Powis
[Email Address Removed]

Interviews are expected to take place 3-4 weeks after the closing date for applications.

It is anticipated that the PhD Studentship will start in October 2016.

Funding Notes

PhD Studentship provides: an annual tax-free stipend of £16,500, increasing to £17,000 over the four years; tuition fees at UK/EU rates only; consumables; and contribution to travel expenses.

International fees are not covered. International students applying for the Studentship must provide evidence, by the date of interview, that they are able to finance the fee top-up required to the international fee level.


Chen, M., McReynolds, N., Campbell, E.C., Mazilu, M., Barbosa, J., Dholakia, K. and Powis, S.J. (2015) The use of WRMS in label-free identification of T lymphocytes subsets, Natural Killer cells, and Dendritic cells. PLOS One, 2015 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0125158

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Physics?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 36.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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