Novel deep Raman sensing for breast cancer diagnostics. Physics PhD (Funded) Ref: 3187

About the award

Location: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Exeter EX4 4QJ

Lead Supervisor: Prof Nick Stone, Head of Physics and Astronomy, University of Exeter
Secondary Supervisor: Prof Pavel Matousek, STFC Rutherford Appleton Labs.

We seek a talented scientist to join our team exploring the use of novel optical spectroscopy top probe disease specific molecular changes in breast tissue to enable real-time, non-invasive detection and analysis of breast cancers.

Raman spectroscopy measures the inelastic scattering of laser light from molecules found in cells and tissues. The measured light provides a molecular fingerprint of the composition of the measured cells. 

Our early studies, in pioneering the field of deep Raman spectroscopy for biomedical applications, have established the basic feasibility of recovering Raman signals (both native and exogenous) from depths of several centimetres beneath the surface of animal tissue. This is by around two orders of magnitude deeper than achievable with conventional approaches such as confocal Raman microscopy. The initial work has involved the study of signals from substances such as those found in calcified tissues, whereby the signal is distinct from that found in soft tissues.

We will expand on our initial work by developing the concept further to permit the analysis of breast calcifications in situ for in vivo identification of associated pathology; soft tissue composition to enable in vivo tumour identification and monitoring, tumour margin analysis to guide surgeons and identification of metastatic lymph nodes in the operating theatre.

There is huge potential for medical application of these techniques, which so far has not been realised to its potential, which we propose to unlock by combining the world-leading expertise in subsurface general Raman analysis with that in subsurface biomedical Raman spectroscopy.

Research will involve developing novel spectroscopy approaches and devices for clinical diagnosis, human tissue measurements, early in vivo studies, advanced data analysis and developing a detailed understanding of biomedical Raman spectroscopy.

The PhD project will be based at the University of Exeter, with experimental work being undertaken at both the Streatham Campus and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Supervision will be provided by Prof Nick Stone, Prof of Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Exeter and Consultant Clinical Scientist, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Prof Pavel Matousek, Senior Research Fellow, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
1) Build and develop prototype deep Raman systems able to measure required signatures in human tissues, to include sample volume and anatomical access requirements.
2) Utilise device to provide signals from ex vivo tissue specimens.
3) Build and test diagnostic models using these signals and compare results to gold standard histopathology.
4) Evaluate probe performance in a clinical point of care setting.
5) Develop advanced methods for analysis of molecular data from the biomedical Raman spectra obtained.

The PhD student will benefit from working in a multidisciplinary environment between Biomedical Physics and our partner hospitals. This research would suit a candidate with a Physics, Natural Sciences, Chemistry, or Bioengineering degree, ideally 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. The studentship will cover tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. 

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Prof Nick Stone (

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 725150.

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 and biomedical applications is desirable.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.


How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”.
• 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)
• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 20 July 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus date TBC.


Application deadline:20th July 2018
Value:£14,777 (2018/2019) for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: +44(0)1392 725150