Detecting the Pathology Specific Chemo-Mechanics of Epithelial Tissue in Dysplastic Barrett’s Oesophagus Using Light Scattering - Physics - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2888

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Dr. Francesca Palombo
Professor Nick Stone
Dr Stefano Pagliara

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description
Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and the second leading cause of death globally. Oesophageal cancer (OC) is the eighth most common cancer in males in the UK and one with dismal prognosis – only 12% of patients survive OC for more than 10 years.

Vibrational spectroscopy techniques based on infrared or visible light are nondestructive, label-free and chemically specific, providing information on the structure and molecular make-up of matter. Raman spectroscopy through an endoscope has shown high sensitivity and specificity for detecting Barrett’s oesophagus (BO)-associated high-grade dysplasia (HGD) and adenocarcinoma, as well as the ability to grade dysplasia in ex vivo tissue. Early detection and endoscopic resection of BO-associated HGD can prevent progression to invasive OC.

Brillouin spectroscopy is an emerging technique in biomedicine – it provides information on the micromechanics of biological samples through a non-destructive contactless approach at high frequencies (GHz). Preliminary data demonstrated the existence of correlations between elasticity and composition (epithelial cells vs extracellular matrix) in BO. Through this multidisciplinary collaboration, we propose to develop a new approach to investigate the chemo-mechanical phenotype of non-primary epithelial cell lines of oesophageal and other various epithelial cancers using a combination of light scattering techniques and microfluidics devices. This will pave the way to further developments towards early detection of cancer and potentially lead to novel treatment routes.

This PhD studentship will conduct microspectroscopic analysis to extract the chemical and mechanical properties of epithelial cell lines within microchannels. The PhD student will benefit from working in this multidisciplinary environment as well as within the Living Systems Institute. This research would suit a candidate with a Physics, Biosciences or Biotechnology, Chemistry degree, with previous experience using analytical tools such as microscopy and spectroscopy techniques. This fully funded PhD studentship is available from the 2018/19 academic year for 3.5 years.

Entry Requirements
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Physics or related subjects. Experience in optics, spectroscopy, microscopy, cell cultures and other biomedical applications is desirable.

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.