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Living Lasers: Lasing within single biological cells

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  • Full or part time
    Prof M Gather
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Laser light is widely used in biology, from imaging tiny structures within live cells to investigating or even altering the function and formation of organs in model animals. Yet, lasers have so far remained on the outside of the cells and animals we study with them. In the future, lasers and other photonic devices will become increasingly bio-implantable[1] and may indeed be based on natural or genetically engineered optical function[2].
The lab of Prof Gather at the University of St Andrews pioneers the development of biological lasers – tiny photonic devices that are based on or implanted into single living cells[3]. These laser are biocompatible and offer unique functionality not shared by existing devices, e.g. they can be used to tag and track cells non-invasively – almost as if one was able to stick barcodes on them.
In this project you will develop a better understanding of lasing and stimulated emission in biological materials and develop biolasers with new functionality, e.g. for sensing local conditions in live cells and tissue.
The project is inter-disciplinary, involving photonics, laser physics, genetic engineering, proteomics, and material science and adequate training in these fields will be provided within the school and through external collaborators.

Further reading
[1] S Nizamoglu, MC Gather, …, Seok Hyun Yun “Bioabsorbable Polymer Optical Waveguides For Deep-Tissue Photomedicine” Nature Communications (in press)
[2] MC Gather, SH Yun, “Single-cell biological lasers”, Nature Photonics 5, 406-410 (2011)
[3] M Schubert, … , MC Gather, “Lasing within Live Cells Containing Intracellular Optical Microresonators for Barcode-Type Cell Tagging and Tracking”, Nano Letters 15, 5647 (2015)

Related Subjects

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)

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