Postgraduate research opportunities

Multiscale neural imaging - from synapse to whole organism

Advances in microscopy allow imaging on scales ranging from single molecules to whole organism. This project involves developing a microscope that will allow images of whole invertebrates (likely C. Elegans nematode worms) be correlated with nanoscopic (super-reolution) images of sub-cellular regions within them.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


12 February 2018



BSc (Hons) 2:1 or equivalent degree in physics/chemistry…..


Scholarships (fees and stipend) available on a competitive basis for UK/EU students, please contact supervisor for details.

Project Details

By allowing us to look inside tissues and see the processes at work in individual cells, microscopy has long proved to be a powerful tool for biological research. The last decade has also seen the development of super-resolution techniques that enable imaging objects at the nanoscale. However, when imaging in biological systems, the sample itself will introduce aberrations that reduce the effectiveness of the microscope. Our group develops microscopes and microscopy methods that combine super-resolution imaging with adaptive optics and novel fluorophores (light emitting substances) to overcome these difficulties.

This project aims to link an effective widefield imaging technique, known as selective plane imaging microscopy (SPIM) with measurements performed on a custom-designed Stimulated-Emission Depletion (STED) microscope currently being constructed in our group. By correlating measurements on performed on the SPIM system as it images a whole organism, with those performed in the STED, we want to explore how it is possible to link observations of the whole organism with processed occurring at a sub-cellular level. This will also entail imaging nanoscopic particles of diamond (nanodiamond, ND) as these have been shown to be exceptionally stable and to remain in place in organisms without causing physiological damage.

There are multiple aspects to this studentship:

  1. Design and construction of a high resolution, optically sectioning, imaging system with a wide field of view
  2. Using this as a platform for development of adaptive optics technologies to enable sensitive detection of ND fluorescence in living, active organisms
  3. The ability to extend the system to provide dynamic illumination control, such that structured-illumination super-resolution imaging is also possible from the SPIM system

In order to enable these capabilities as part of a challenging, but realistic, studentship, the microscope will be based on the OpenSPIM platform.

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