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PhD Opportunities

Engineering human tissues in vitro: development, characterisation, and application

Supervisor: Prof. Stefan Przyborski (

Deadline: Applications accepted all year round

Funding: Self-funded students only

Project Description:

Tissues in the human body have a defined structure in that their growth and differentiation have developed in specific ways to create a cellular architecture that supports their function.  Following this fundamental principle that ‘from structure comes function’ we can develop in vitro models that resemble elements of the anatomy and physiology of real human tissues.  This can be achieved through our understanding of tissue development and morphology, and the application of innovative technologies to build mature, functional tissue equivalents.  Such innovation often occurs at the interface between disciplines such as biological, chemistry, and engineering.

In my laboratory, we specialise in the development of novel approaches to culturing cells in vitro, to enhance cell viability, growth, and differentiation, to enable the creation of human tissue mimetics that can subsequently be used for basic research, drug screening, and the assessment of chemicals.  In this project, we will focus on the construction of human epithelial tissues and their functional properties.  There are many examples of different epithelia in the body (for example, skin, oral mucosa, intestine, etc.).  They share certain structural features that are common to each that we will attempt to recreate in vitro.  Cells from primary sources, cell lines, and stem cell derivatives, will be used to construct in vitro co-culture models of epithelia and their underlying stromal tissues.  The anatomy and physiology of these constructs will be assessed alongside real tissues using a variety of modern cellular and molecular methods.  As part of the project, we are also interested in developing new cell technologies to further improve the culture and differentiation of human tissues in vitro.  We therefore also invite applicants who are interested in working at the interface between biology and the physical sciences.  For further information about our research please visit my research staff profile

Successful applicants will join a busy and productive research group.  The project will  provide excellent training in the development of non-animal in vitro technologies, cell biology, tissue specific anatomy/physiology, engineering human tissues, stem cell science and cell differentiation, and advanced cell technologies.  The student will master a range of cutting edge techniques to advance their research programme, including advanced 3D cell culture, cell and molecular biology, tissue analysis, histology, cell-based assays, and imaging (advanced light and electron microscopy).  The student will train to become a research scientist, develop ownership of their project, and become expert in their field of interest.  The Department of Biosciences at Durham University has excellent research facilities and training support programme to prepare the student for a successful career in scientific research.

Fully Funded 4 Year PhD Studentship in Molecular Sciences for Medicine Centre for Doctoral Training Available to Commence in October 2021

Our Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecular Sciences for Medicine (MoSMed) is an EPSRC funded joint venture between Newcastle and Durham Universities delivering a comprehensive research and training programme focused on Science at the interface of molecular and medical sciences, business skills, innovation and entrepreneurship.

We have one further fully funded project available to apply for at Durham University for 2021/22 entry. For full details of this project please refer to the MoSMed webpage: Please note that due to pre-existing funding commitments associated with this project application is open to UK students only.

The deadline for application is Monday 29th March 2021. For any queries regarding the application process please contact the CDT Manager (Durham) Emma Worden at

Please find below an outline of the project available at Durham University. If you are interested in this project please do contact the relevant Academic Lead listed for enquiries:

Project 21_14 - Multiscale Simulations of Droplet-Membrane Mutual Remodelling

The aim of this interdisciplinary PhD project is to develop the much-needed understanding of droplet-membrane interactions, and their mutual remodelling. Here, we will use a multiscale modelling approach. At the molecular level, we will employ molecular dynamics simulations to study the formation of the droplets via a liquid-liquid phase separation mechanism and the affinity between the droplet and membrane. These results will inform a continuum modelling approach based on elasticity theory for studying the droplet and membrane shapes. The theoretical/computational work will also provide an important framework to rationalise and guide ongoing in vitro and in vivo experiments. Our long-term goal is to provide new insights into processes inside cells exploiting this novel physical mechanism based on droplet-membrane interactions.

For further details regarding this project please contact: Prof Halim Kusumaatmaja -