Postgraduate research opportunities Super-resolution imaging of biological organisms: seeing below the classical limits


Key facts

  • Opens: Wednesday 1 March 2017
  • Number of places: 1


This PhD project aims to develop a comprehensive suite of tools and techniques that will enable superresolution imaging of nanodiamonds in living tissue, with a particular emphasis on imaging neurons.
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BSc (Hons) 2:1 or equivalent degree in physics.


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

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

One of the key scientific challenges of the 21st century is to better understand the principles that allow a collection of neural cells to work as a fully functioning brain. The complexity of neurobiology, along with the range of possible parameters to be investigated means that new techniques are embraced and quickly incorporated.

A key aspect of the group’s research involves imaging small particles of diamond known as nanodiamond (ND). This material offers many advantages as a fluorescent label for biological applications. Its biocompatibility, potential sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields, lack of photobleaching and the possibility of targeting specific neural structures are all of particular interest to researchers in neurophysiology. By utilising Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscopy, in conjunction with adaptive optics, it will be possible to image ND tens of microns into tissue with a resolution of 50nm. Achieving this resolution will allow imaging of synaptic sites, the anatomical features where signals are passed from one neuron to another, thereby allowing a better understanding of the propagation of information through the brain.

Successful candidates will gain a wide range of experience in skills such as:

  • Optical hardware design and alignment
  • Developing software for hardware control and data processing
  • Labelling samples for imaging
  • Collaboration with colleagues in the biological sciences to ensure our research also enables new biological science


Solid Immersion Facilitates Fluorescence Microscopy with Nanometer Resolution and Sub-Ångström Emitter Localization, Dominik Wildanger, Brian R. Patton, Heiko Schill, Luca Marseglia, J. P. Hadden, Sebastian Knauer, Andreas Schönle, John G. Rarity, Jeremy L. O’Brien, Stefan W. Hell, and Jason M. Smith, Advanced Materials 24, OP309-OP313 (2012)

Adaptive optics correction of specimen-induced aberrations in single-molecule switching microscopy, D Burke, B Patton, F Huang, J Bewersdorf, MJ Booth, Optica 2 (2), 177-185, (2015)

Is phase-mask alignment aberrating your STED microscope?, BR Patton, D Burke, R Vrees, MJ Booth, Methods and Applications in Fluorescence 3 (2), 024002 (2015)

Aberrations and adaptive optics in super-resolution microscopy, M Booth, D Andrade, D Burke, M Patton, Brian and Zurauskas Mantas, Microscopy 64 (5), (2015)

Three-dimensional STED microscopy of aberrating tissue using dual adaptive optics, Brian R. Patton, Daniel Burke, David Owald, Travis J. Gould, Joerg Bewersdorf, and Martin J. Booth, Optics Express 24 (8), 8862-8876 (2016)

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Dr Patton

Dr Brian Patton

Senior Lecturer

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Number of places: 1

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