EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials: Cell sorting using surface acoustic waves and phononic crystals Ref: 2451

About the award

 

The studentship is part of the UK’s Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) based in the Departments of Physics and Engineering on the Streatham Campus in Exeter.  Its aim is to undertake world-leading research, while training scientists and engineers with the relevant research skills and knowledge, and professional attributes for industry and academia.

Please see our website for more details www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials

Joint supervisors: Prof. Geoff NashDr. Peter Petrov

Statement of Research

Measurement of the mechanical properties of a living cell can be used to provide important information about disease. For example, malaria in humans causes red blood cells to stiffen by up to a factor of 10 within 48 hours of infection. However, current techniques used to measure the mechanical properties of cells, such as atomic force microscopy, tend to damage the cells of interest, limiting the usefulness of the information obtained.

In this project we will explore a new approach where instead of trying to measure the properties of cells, we will use surface acoustic waves (SAWs) to sort cells according to their properties, without damaging them. Over the last decade or so SAWs have been increasingly exploited for lab-on-a-chip applications [1] and it has been recently shown that, when coupled to a phononic crystal to focus and guide the SAWs [2], they can be used to effectively sort small particles by size [2]. As part of an existing CDT project, we have developed a novel approach for the realisation of phononic crystals [3] and the aim of this new project is to extend this work to explore whether SAWs can be used to sort cells according to their elasticity.  Ultimately, this could lead to new techniques and technology for diagnosis, with potential far-reaching impact.  Although the project is bio-physics focussed, the student will draw heavily upon, and benefit from, the expertise within the CDT.

[1] X. Y. Ding, P. Li, S. C. S. Lin et al, “Surface acoustic wave microfluidics”, Lab Chip 13, 3626 (2013).

[2] D. J. Collins, Z. Ma, and Ye Ai, “Highly Localized Acoustic Streaming and Size-Selective Submicrometer Particle Concentration Using High Frequency Microscale Focused Acoustic Field “, Anal. Chem. 88, 5513 (2016).

[3] B. J. Ash, S. R. Worsfold, P. Vukusic, G. R. Nash, “Robust and highly tunable phononic crystal for surface acoustic waves”, in preparation.

About XM2

Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures having properties beyond those found in nature. They are emerging as an important new class of materials with applications in many technology areas, from energy harvesting, through perfect imaging, to the much-hyped ‘cloaking’. Having recruited over 50 new PhD researchers in its first three years, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (XM2) hosted by the University of Exeter (www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials) will admit its fourth cohort of 14-18 PhD students in September 2017.

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record of relevant research, spanning a unique mix of interests. We will run projects in the following fields (see our list of themes for full details)

  • Optical, Infra-red and THz Photonics and Plasmonics
  • Microwave Metamaterials
  • Magnonics, Spintronics and Magnetic Metamaterials
  • Acoustic and Fluid-dynamical Metamaterials
  • Wave Theory and Spatial Transformations
  • Graphene and other 2D Materials, and related Devices
  • Nanomaterials and Nanocomposites
  • Biological and Bio-inspired Metamaterials
  • Quantum Metamaterials

The first year of the studentship includes an assessed, stand alone project, and a substantial programme of training. Students will choose from a wide range of taught modules, and participate in academic and personal development skills-based workshops, together with creativity events and conference-style meetings. The cohort will also be expected to disseminate their results to the international community via high-impact publications and international conferences. They will spend time working with our academic and industrial partners.  Full details of the programme are available here, or email us for a copy of our prospectus.

The University of Exeter is a top 10 UK university, in the top 1% of universities globally, and a member of the elite Russell Group of institutions. The University has committed itself to a substantial expansion in its science base and within Physics and Engineering, over £10m has been spent on infrastructure since 2008 and around 30 new academic staff have been appointed across the Centre's themes.

Summary

Application deadline:31st July 2017
Number of awards:1
Value:4-year studentship: UK/EU students, includes tuition fees and an annual stipend equivalent to current Research Council rates (14,553 for 2017-18)
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Prof. Alastair Hibbins (Admissions Tutor)metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

Application criteria

During the application process you will need to upload the documents listed below. Please prepare these before starting the application process.

  • A statement describing why you would like to study for a PhD in Physics or Engineering,
  • A statement describing why you are considering a PhD programme that offers a cohort-based doctoral training model,
  • An academic CV,
  • A document outlining your research interests and any relevant expertise,
  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken.

In addition, we advise that you upload a cover letter or provide further information about your your preferred area(s) of study within the XM2 themes and/or your interest in a particular project, and also whether you've been in contact with a particular supervisor. You will be asked to provide the contact details of two academic referees.

Please note that of the 25 projects advertised we expect, as a Centre, to fill 14-18 posts only.

 

Application procedure

Applications should be made via the Apply Online system.  Please email metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk if you have any queries about this process. 

You will need to specify that you are making a Research application, with a keyword search of Metamaterials, specifying the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, and Full Time.  Please then select the course, Physics / Engineering (CDT) - Metamaterials - Doctor of Philosophy - (Full Time) with the start date September 2017.

Shortlisting and interviews

Applications will be reviewed by members of the XM2 management board and candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the the elements above may result in rejection. Criteria will include:

ESSENTIAL

  • Excellence in a lower degree in a relevant discipline;
  • Excellence in written and oral skills in English;
  • Evidence of knowledge of XM2 ethos, research themes and/or supervisors.

DESIRABLE

  • Specialist knowledge about one or more XM2 topics;
  • Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or has undertaken training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  • Ability to work collaboratively

Short-listed candidates will be interviewed by a panel of two academic members of staff drawn from the management board. If successful, a second interview will be undertaken by the potential academic supervisors for the student concerned. Offers are normally made shortly after a successful second interview