Title: SCH32: Engineering biological soft microrobots for the treatment of cancer
Funding: A full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (£5,103 in 2020-21) (further fee details - international students will need to pay the balance of their fees) plus a doctoral stipend equivalent to the RCUK Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,285 in 2020-21).
Application deadline: Tuesday 31 March 2020
Start date: October 2020
Duration: 3 years (full time)
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering (in collaboration with School of Life Sciences)
We will integrate microrobotics (CSEE) with stem cell and cancer biology (Life Sciences) to develop a novel microrobotics platform for efficient and effective delivery of therapeutic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).
These MSCs will be genetically modified to express an anti-cancer protein known as TRAIL that induces cancer cell death, leaving normal tissues unaffected. While delivery of TRAIL with MSCs is functional and leads to tumour regression and remission, as we have already shown in several tumour models, increasing the delivery to tumour tissues holds the potential to further enhance the therapeutic benefits.
We will address this objective by transforming the therapeutic MSCs into soft microrobots. This will be achieved by loading TRAIL-expressing MSCs with magnetic nanoparticles allowing guidance with an external magnetic field. This electromagnetic steering system, we have previously developed and published, can increase the concentration of microrobots in locations of interests.
The dynamic magnetic actuation will be used for steering the microrobots. The discrete element method (DEM)-based computational platform we previously introduced, will be modified to include diverse motion modes for feedforward steering.
Furthermore, to show proof of concepts in feedback swarm control of microrobots, we will be using an optical camera integrated with actuation system.
The award consists of a full Home/EU fee waiver or equivalent fee discount for overseas students (further fee details), a doctoral stipend equivalent to the Research Councils UK National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (£15,285 in 2020-21), plus £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel.
Lead supervisorSchool of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex
Since 2009, Dr Hoshiar has been working on medical robotics (publishing 40+ papers). He developed the world’s first soft continuum microrobot. His publication in the leading soft robotics journal is in 5th place of most read articles. In Sep. 2019, he joined the University of Essex as a Lecturer in Mechatronics and has active collaborations with the STORM Lab University of Leeds and the world’s pioneer microrobotics research centre DGIST (S. Korea)-ETH (Switzerland).
Co-supervisorSchool of Life Sciences, University of Essex
Dr Mohr has more than ten years of experience in stem cell-based therapies. She has published 16 papers aligned to this project. She has an H index of 20. Dr Mohr is a core-member of the team who engineered a soluble, more potent version of TRAIL, sTRAIL. This form of TRAIL will be used to generate the therapeutic soft robots. She started her Lecturer position at the University of Essex in October 2019.
We are looking for applicants with an MSc or BSc in Mechatronics, Medical Robotics, Biomedical Engineering or related subject areas.
You can apply for this postgraduate research opportunity online.
Please include your CV, covering letter, personal statement, and transcripts of UG and Masters degrees in your application.
The University has moved to requiring only one reference for PhD applications and these can be received after a conditional offer has been made so the absence of these will not hold up the recruitment process.
When you apply online you will be prompted to fill out several boxes in the form:
If you have any informal queries about this opportunity please email the lead supervisor, Dr Ali Kafash Hoshiar (email@example.com)
You can find the terms and conditions of this studentship here (PDF).