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PhD project in ultrahigh resolution optical imaging technologies for the investigation of anti-viral vaccines

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The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sensor Technologies and Applications, in collaboration with MedImmune, is inviting applications for a fully funded 1+3 years MRes + PhD studentship, commencing in October 2017.  The studentship will be hosted in the Laser Analytics Group in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. 

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, occurs every winter in the UK, other European states and North America.  Influenza outbreaks put a severe burden on national health systems and patients and large scale immunisation programmes are therefore implemented for children and vulnerable adults in many countries.

MedImmune, and its parent company AstraZeneca, are major suppliers of flu vaccines in the UK and the US. The reliable manufacturing of these vaccines is a complex bioprocessing problem. Changes in process conditions lead to a variability in the viability and efficacy of produced vaccines.  Currently, there are no high throughput diagnostic methods to investigate viral batches from the production process.  Electron microscopy has been used, but is far too slow and requires elaborate sample preparation protocols.  Optical methods have a throughput advantage, but their spatial resolution is too limited to resolve viral particles with sufficient fidelity. 

The aim of this project is to develop and apply state of the art optical microscopy methods and to correlate the effect of individual bioprocess steps on efficacy of MedImmune’s quadrivalent flu vaccines. The project is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on elements of biology, physics and computer science. We will build on pioneering developments made in the Laser Analytics group to resolve small scale virus structure [1, 2].  We now want to combine such methods with hardware automation for high throughput imaging and automated image analysis based on machine learning algorithms.   The idea is to identify distinct virus morphologies automatically using modern superresolution imaging techniques such as structured illumination and single molecule localization microscopy. We will then correlate morphology information with vaccine function in cell cultures. An important aspect of the project will be to investigate the presence and effect of host proteins on virus morphology.

The project can be driven in several directions and will appeal to students with either a strong background in biophysics, optical engineering, computational methods, and hardware control.  The studentship is fully-funded for 4-years and will be hosted at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology within the Laser Analytics Group. The student will be enrolled in the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sensor Technologies and Applications (http://cdt.sensors.cam.ac.uk). The first year involves a highly interdisciplinary programme consisting of lectures, practicals, and research projects covering a wide range of technologies and applications in sensing and imaging. Successful completion of the first year will lead to a Master of Research qualification (MRes) and optimal preparation for the PhD project in years 2-4. The project will be carried out in collaboration with MedImmune and internships at MedImmune are a possibility for those interested. 

We are seeking a highly motivated PhD student with a strong academic background, as demonstrated with a 1st or upper 2nd class degree, or equivalent, in a relevant discipline. The candidate will have a demonstrable interest in biophysical methods, including high resolution imaging and machine learning. 

For informal enquiries please contact Prof Clemens Kaminski (cfk23@cam.ac.uk).

To apply for this position please visit http://cdt.sensors.cam.ac.uk/how-to-apply

The deadline for applications is 31st of May 2017.

Note that full funding (fees and stipends) is available for EU / EEA / Swiss citizens or applicants who have been resident in the UK for the last 3 years. For eligibility enquiries, please contact Dr. Oliver Hadeler, oh209@cam.ac.uk

References:

[1] Laine R F. Albecka A, van de Linde S, Rees EJ, Crump CM, Kaminski CF, "Structural analysis of herpes simplex virus by optical super-resolution imaging"Nature Comms. (2015), 6:5980.

[2] Ströhl F, Kaminski CF, "Frontiers in structured illumination microscopy"Optica (2016), 3(6), 667-677.

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