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Spatially patterned vascular cell co-cultures for combined electrical-optical monitoring of cell-cell communication

A studentship for a 36-month, full-time, fully-funded PhD, supported by the University of Strathclyde is available. It will focus on the development of a new approach to dynamically monitoring vascular cell-cell communication by creating a novel electroanalytical microdevice with spatial cell patterning capability.

Number of places





8 March 2018


27 April 2018


36 months


The candidate must have or be about to receive a first or an upper second (2.1) class UK BEng/BSc Hons or MEng/MSc degree in a relevant engineering/physical sciences or biology subject. If the student is from a biological background they must also demonstrate an interest and ability to work on a technology-oriented project. The student should be highly motivated, independent, with strong problem solving abilities and the ability to work as part of a team. Previous experience in either microengineering systems or cell culture methods would be advantageous.

Eligibility for RCUK studentships

  • Research Council (RC) fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK and EU students and not to EEA or International students.
  • EU students are only eligible for RC stipend if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting their PhD.
  • If an EU student cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for a fees only studentship.
  • International students cannot be funded from RC funds unless they are ‘settled’ in the UK. ‘Settled’ means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of stay in the UK. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode or Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen they have the Right of Abode.
  • Students with full Refugee status are eligible for fees and stipend.

Project Details

Cardiovascular disease results from a complex remodelling of the blood vessel wall. Two key aspects of this process are initial endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction and subsequent phenotypic change and accumulation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs), with inherent disruption in local cell-cell communication. EC damage and SMC proliferation also underlie restenosis, which remains the Achilles heel of stent treatments. Novel systems that mimic cardiovascular remodelling are required both to tease apart the complex signalling mechanisms involved and for drug screening models.

Building upon previous expertise, this project will employ a combination of microfabrication and surface functionalisation techniques to create an electroanalytical microdevice with spatially controlled vascular cell populations. It will enable simultaneous electrical-optical cell monitoring and will be used to characterise communication between cell populations, with modes of cellular communication teased apart by systematically controlling cell-cell interactions. This will provide novel mechanistic insights into cardiovascular disease and a well-characterised in vitro model of vascular cell-cell communication suitable for upscaling into an array format for multiplexed, label-free drug screening.

The student will be joining a vibrant research group with strong clinical and industry links. The project will provide the opportunity to develop expertise in a wide range of both engineering and cell biology techniques, including microfabrication and lab-on-a-chip techniques, electrochemical sensors, vascular cell isolation and culture, and live-cell imaging.

Further Information

This studentship will commence on 1st October 2017.

Contact us

For further information on this studentship, please contact Dr Mairi Sandison ( or Dr Chris McCormick (

How to apply

Candidates interested in applying should email Dr Sandison their CV, with contact details for at least two academic referees, and a covering letter outlining their suitability for the project.

Eligibility summary

  • Country GroupUK, RUK, EU, UK and Islands, International
  • SubjectBiomedical engineering, Pharmacy and biomedical sciences
  • Level of StudyPostgraduate Research
  • Mode of Study

How to apply

Candidates interested in applying should email Dr Sandison their CV, with contact details for at least two academic referees, and a covering letter outlining their suitability for the project.