Fast-focusing 3D optical microscopy for imaging excitable tissues - PHY- PhD (Funded) Ref: 2712

About the award

Project description:

A PhD studentship is available within a new biophotonics laboratory within the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Exeter. This is a fully funded studentship with tuition fees paid for UK, EU and International students. The studentship also comes with a stipend of £14,553/year for 3.5 years and £500/year to attend conferences and events. The successful candidate will develop a new fast-scanning microscope to capture dynamic events in living heart tissue.

Advanced optical microscopy has provided a new window into biological processes. Temporal resolution is being extended further than ever before to capture fast biological events in excitable tissue. New methods that allow spatial and temporal resolution to be traded dynamically, together with improvements in commercial detector capabilities have heralded a new era in live tissue imaging. The overall goal of this project is to develop a new advanced optical microscope from the ground up for the imaging of cardiac dynamics. The system will incorporate a ‘fast focusing’ component which has the ability to rapidly acquire images from a user-defined plane within a 3D volume. This provides unprecedented flexibility to the way in which volumetric information can be acquired and is expected to shed new light on how changes in cellular physiology can generate timing irregularities across the whole heart.

You will join a team of around 40 researchers within the Biomedical Physics group. This group investigates all aspects of tissue biophysics using a diverse range of techniques from super-resolution microscopy and non-linear optics to vibrational spectroscopy and tissue biomechanics (see: The group is physically located in both within the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Living Systems Institute (LSI). The LSI opened in 2017 and provides a multidisciplinary research centre combining the talents of physicists, biologists, engineers and mathematicians to progress our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning disease.

Specific technical skills required to complete the project include:

- Experience of practical optics to aid the design and construction of the fast-focusing microscope.

- Computational modelling of the optical microscope (MATLAB and ZEMAX) and experience with Fourier optics, image
   formation and image processing to interpret the three-dimensional image data.

- Experience in electrical engineering to coordinate signal I/O between camera, beam scanners and fast focus actuator.

- Desire to learn tissue handling and sample preparation techniques.

- Ability to communicate outcomes of research through journal papers and conference presentations.

You will be supported in achieving these goals through a wide variety of training and postgraduate courses available across the university. The successful applicant will ideally have a background in physics / engineering, be strongly self-motivated with good problem-solving skills. Strong programming skills, with an understanding of lasers and optics would be a distinct advantage.


1. E. J. Botcherby, R. Juskaitis, M. J. Booth, and T. Wilson, "Aberration-free optical refocusing in high numerical aperture microscopy," Opt. Lett. 32, 2007–2009 (2007).
2. E. J. Botcherby, A. Corbett, R. A. B. Burton, C. W. Smith, C. Bollensdorff, M. J. Booth, P. Kohl, T. Wilson, and G. Bub, "Fast Measurement of Sarcomere Length and Cell Orientation in Langendorff-Perfused Hearts Using Remote Focusing Microscopy," Circ. Res. 113, 863–870 (2013).
3.  A. D. Corbett, R. A. B. Burton, G. Bub, P. S. Salter, S. Tuohy, M. J. Booth, and T. Wilson, "Quantifying distortions in two-photon remote focussing microscope images using a volumetric calibration specimen," Front. Physiol. 5, (2014).
4.  B. Li, A. D. Corbett, E. Chong, E. Mann, T. Wilson, M. J. Booth, and G. Bub, "Toward multi-focal spot remote focusing two-photon microscopy for high speed imaging," in (2017), Vol. 10070, pp. 1007005–1007005–5.

Academic entry requirements:

You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in a physics or engineering discipline. Experience in optics and programming is desirable.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Dr Alex Corbett.


Application deadline:10th September 2017
Number of awards:1
Value:£ 14,553 for 3.5 years
Duration of award:per year
Contact: 01392

How to apply

To apply, complete the online form. You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter and details of two academic referees. Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project. 

You may also be asked to upload verified transcripts of your most academic qualification.

Suitable applicants will be invited to interview at Streatham Campus week commencing 18 September 2017.  If no successful applicants are found by the advertised deadline, the position will be re-advertised.

Please quote reference 2712 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.