PhD Position in Biological Engineering
University of Nottingham
United Kingdom


Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Saturday 01 June 2024
Reference:  ENG1727

About the project

Aim: Develop an ultra-thin, bio-compatible, fibre optic ultrasound instrument and a model to predict the mechanical properties of soft matter. This novel device, based on the interaction between acoustic interface waves with the sample will provide mechanical property information across a range of length scales allowing measurements on cells through to tissue. The devices will be compatible with fibre optic delivery and proof of concept experiments in vitro on micro-tumours will be demonstrated, paving the way for development of currently unmet clinical applications.

What we offer:

  • A world-class multidisciplinary research environment, spanning optics, ultrasonics, cell imaging, manufacturing and AI
  • A supportive culture for researchers as signatories of the Researcher Development Concordat (
  • A chance to learn new skills: optics, ultrasonics, bio-imaging, instrumentation, coding, AI
  • The opportunity to produce high-quality publications
  • Travel to visit international partners and attend conferences
  • 3.5 years funding including fees and stipend (home fee status only i.e. UK, Ireland and some UK-resident EU) 

Vision: Ultrasound provides a wealth of information on the mechanical state of the material that is hard to access via any other means (e.g., optical sensors). Ultrasound sensors have a key role in tackling global challenges across wide-ranging scientific fields, for example, in the development of new materials for safety critical parts in aerospace and transport sectors and the imaging of properties of biological cells and tissue. 

Motivation: Cancer claims the lives of over 450 UK citizens every single day. The best outcomes in patients are seen when early detection of cancerous material is achieved to enable swift delivery of appropriate treatment modalities. To achieve this, additional approaches to enable the assessment of cellular properties that can differentiate tumour cell from normal healthy cells would be of significant value to cancer detection at earlier stages than those currently detectable today.

In particular, the elasticity of cancer cells and healthy cells differ, though the extent of the differences between cell types is not well understood. The recent recognition of the importance of mechanical properties as an indicator of disease state, coupled with the capability of fibre optics and advanced thin film manufacturing techniques means that a compact ultrasound probe is now within reach, paving the way for future in-vivo biopsy.

What you should have:

  • 1st or 2.1 honours undergraduate or master's degree in Engineering, Physics, or similar (or about to graduate)
  • Enthusiasm for hands-on experiments
  • Coding abilities in any language (e.g. Python or MATLAB or C/C++)
  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to work collaboratively in a team across disciplines

Please contact Dr Richard Smith if you are interested in applying at 

Note that the fully funded PhD associated with this role is awarded subject to the student meeting the quality standards set by the Faculty of Engineering.

Our university is a supportive, inclusive and caring community and we encourage applications from a diverse range of backgrounds. The Faculty of Engineering was the first in the UK to be awarded an Athena SWAN Gold Award, in recognition of our commitment to supporting and advancing women’s careers in Engineering.


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