In recent years it has been recognized that mechanical (viscoelastic) properties can be used as a marker to obtain important information on the state of a biological systems (single cells, cell layers, tissues), either physiological or pathological (for example to diagnose emerging conditions from blood tests or as a prognostic tool in cancer). Despite the rising relevance of this label-free approach, there is still a technological gap in the market to address the need of a growing community of biomedical users.
The existing devices used to measure the mechanics of biological materials (in particular atomic force microscopy) offer great sensitivity and resolution, but very limited usability and throughput, so hindering their wider diffusion in actual application scenarios. Together with a leading nanotechnology company, we identified a solution based on a novel patented technology that we plan to integrate in our proprietary platform, to design the next generation nanoindentation platform for soft materials.
The plan of this industrial PhD is to implement the nanoindentation platform, demonstrate its suitability for measuring the mechanical properties of soft biological materials on reference samples (gel phantoms), and address relevant test cases (living cells after drug treatment, cancer tissues). The preferred candidate should have an interest in device development and skills in either mechanical design, digital electronics or software development.
The core of the new device is an innovative miniaturized force sensor (patented technology) and the activity of the candidate will be to (i) interface the probe to digital electronics, (ii) drive the XYZ nanopositioning system required to map the sample, (iii) develop a firmware component to implement a simple control loop between the sensor and the actuation, (iv) develop a user interface to drive the system, (v) perform experiments with different test and real samples in our labs.
This project is an industrial PhD, co-funded by a leading nanotechnology company. Funding is provided for UK/Home candidates to cover tuition fees at home level, as well as a stipend at the UKRI rate (£18,622 for session 2023/24). Applications from international students with a First class equivalent degree could also be evaluated.
The preferred candidate should have an interest in device development and skills in either mechanical design, digital electronics or software development.
Please refer to the following website for details on how to apply:
This activity will be in collaboration with other members of the group with different expertise and I interaction with the partner company. There will be the opportunity to deal with all the aspects of device development, and develop a round knowledge in the field. Please contact the supervisor for additional details.