Dual-award between The University of Manchester and The University of Melbourne

The University of Manchester has existing, highly productive links with the University of Melbourne and now wish to extend this relationship to our Global Doctoral Research Network (GOLDEN) by establishing collaborative postgraduate research projects.

Up to ten fully-funded studentships are now available for applications to a defined list of projects. 

What is a dual-award programme?

This dual-award programme offers candidates the opportunity to apply for a project with a strong supervisory team both in Manchester and Melbourne. A dual award is a PhD programme which leads to a jointly awarded PhD recognised with a testamur from each University. PhD candidates will be enrolled at both Manchester and Melbourne and must complete all of the requirements of the PhD programme in both the home and partner university.

PhD candidates in this call will begin their PhD in Manchester and will then spend at least 12 months in Melbourne. The amount of time spent at Manchester and Melbourne will be dependent upon the project and candidates will work with their supervisory team in the first year to set out the structure of the project.

PhD candidates on a dual-award programme can experience research at two quality institutions and applying for a dual-award programme will support you to develop a global perspective and open the door to new job opportunities. Boost your intercultural skills and experience the opportunities studying in Melbourne and Manchester by applying to one of our available projects.  

Funding

The University of Manchester has ten studentships available and is now offering candidates the opportunity to apply to one of the following projects to start in September 2020. 

You will spend at least 12 months at each institution and will receive a dual PhD at the end of the 3.5 year programme.

Funding for the programme will include tuition fees at both institutions, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around £15,000 for 2019/20), a research training grant and student travel to Melbourne.

How to apply for a Melbourne studentship

Apply now. 

Projects available

Biology, Medicine and Health

Human body temperature as a driver of fungal pathogenicity in the lung

Fungal lung diseases are an often fatal consequence of spore inhalation which occur with high prevalence across the globe in settings of immune dysfunction and genetic risk.

The often-fatal fungal lung disease invasive aspergillosis (IA) has claimed more than eight million human lives since its emergence 40 years ago. IA-related mortality is unacceptably high (50- 90%) and usually results from respiratory failure due to haemorrhage occurring at sites of fungal invasion. The mechanistic basis of tissue invasion by A. fumigatus remains unknown, however our recent work on fungal gene expression during lung infection has shown that adaptation to stresses encountered within the human lung dominate the tissue colonisation transcriptome.

Talaromyces marneffei infection is an important emerging public health problem, especially among patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus in southeast Asia, India, and China where T. marneffei infection is regarded as an AIDS-defining illness. Common manifestations of disseminated P. marneffei infection in AIDS patients are fever, anemia, weight loss, lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, respiratory signs, and skin lesions. Patients who do not receive the appropriate antifungal treatment have a poor prognosis; however, primary treatment with amphotericin B and secondary prophylaxis with itraconazole are effective, however, growing concerns around increases in clinical azole antifungal resistance are cause for concern around the globe.

Fungal lung pathogens typically exist as several distinct morphological forms, the interconversion between which might, by species, be an obligatory component of the fungal life cycle or conditionally dependent upon extracellular stimuli. In Aspergillus species, a morphological switch from fungal spore to hyphal form is undergone within the first few hours of spore inhalation into the mammalian lung. The prominence of Aspergillus fumigatus as a human pathogen is governed by the ability of the organism to undertake the spore to hyphal transition under elevated temperatures, a trait not observed in lesser pathogenic species of the genus. In thermally dimorphic fungal pathogens, such as Talaromyces marneffei the conversion to yeast within healthy and immunocompromised mammalian hosts is essential for virulence. In the yeast phase, the thermally dimorphic fungi upregulate genes involved with subverting host immune defences, however, the mechanistic basis of phase transition is poorly defined.

This project will build upon our recent findings and state-of-the-art tools in genetic manipulation of fungal pathogens to identify the regulatory common ground between fungal pathogens which have become adapted to life inside the human host via evolution of thermotolerant growth cycles and acquire the mechanistic insight to target such mechanisms with novel antifungal agents.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Elaine Bignall
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Alex Andrianopoulos

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Immunology

For more details, email elaine.bignell@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Investigating virus-host interactions in the killer yeast system

Fungi, like all living organisms, may be infected by viruses, obligate intracellular parasites that hijack the host cell machinery in order to replicate. Fungal viruses, or mycoviruses, are usually double-stranded or single-stranded RNA viruses, which may or may not have protein capsids. The majority of known mycoviruses do not have an extracellular phase in their replication cycle and are transmitted both horizontally, from one fungus to another, and vertically, from parent to offspring. Mycovirus infections are persistent and often cryptic, although in some cases mycoviruses produce toxins and modulate the virulence of their hosts and therefore can be utilised in biological control applications.

The extensively studied killer yeast system represents a rare case of symbiosis in fungi, since the mycoviral infection actually confers a distinct phenotype to the host. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae virus L-A (family Totiviridae, genus Totivirus), which is a helper virus, and its satellite RNA M, which encodes a toxin, do not cause cell lysis or growth inhibition to their host but offer a functional advantage, especially in highly populated and nutrient-restrictive environments, where the killer yeast strains eliminate their sensitive neighbours, securing access to the nutrients. Four distinct satellite M viruses have been described so far: M1, M2, M28 and Mlus, which encode K1, K2, K28 and Klus toxins, respectively, and have distinct ways of killing sensitive yeast strains. There are practical applications to understanding this system to optimise the growth and activity of yeasts which are used in food and beverage production and for biotechnological applications.

The aim of the project is to develop a computational model of viral infection in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a tractable model organism with significant biotechnological applications in baking, brewing and winemaking. To this end, all S. cerevisiae genes and gene products reported to be associated with the L-A and M viruses or the viral toxins will be identified. This will be achieved by analysing transcriptome data of infected yeast cells and identifying differentially expressed genes at different time steps. These genes will be mapped to yeast functional data and protein interaction networks in order to identify cellular functions targeted by the virus. Transcription factors regulating altered genes will be analysed to identify potential regulatory mechanisms, and network control theory will be applied to discover crucial control proteins.

The project will be completed by an experimental component carried out at the University of Melbourne. This will involve screening an extensive collection of yeast strains of biotechnological interest for viruses, carrying out gene deletions to validate the crucial regulators identified by modelling, and carrying out transcriptomics analysis to be exploited for further modelling refinements in Manchester. This project offers the student an excellent opportunity to work in a truly interdisciplinary environment and acquiring skills on a wide range of cell culture, microbiology, bioinformatics, systems biology, data analysis and biotechnology methods.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Jean-Marc Schwartz
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Kate Howell

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Bioinformatics

For more details, email jean-marc.schwartz@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Exploration and treatment of sFlt-mediated cardiac dysfunction in animal model of preeclampsia

Our project provides an exciting opportunity for a student interested in maternal and fetal health to learn and develop new techniques in two world leading centres that are focused on translating laboratory experiments into improvements in clinical care. Preeclampsia is a worldwide health problem that affects 3-5% of all pregnant women and is a leading cause of maternal and perinatal mortality. Women who have suffered preeclampsia undergo potentially detrimental changes in cardiac function which are potentially linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.

This project will initially focus on learning the processes and methods required to develop the lentiviral sFlt1 overexpression model of preeclampsia which has recently been created in Melbourne. Having achieved this the student will transfer the model to Manchester. In Manchester they will use state of the art small animal imaging facilities and in vitro measures of vessel function to examine the effects of a potential therapy for preeclampsia induced cardiac dysfunction, enalapril. If successful this will allow the development of further studies that will potentially prevent long term cardiovascular disease in may millions of women worldwide.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Jenny Myers
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Natalie Hannan

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Reproductive Sciences

For more details, email jenny.myers@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Resolving the spatiotemporal events controlling effector T cell responses during malaria

Malaria remains one of the most important diseases in the world, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and significant morbidity and suffering in many millions of people, each year. CD4+ T cells are essential for control of malaria, through helping macrophages kill parasites and promoting antibody production. However, it is well known that CD4+ T cell effector responses become suppressed during blood-stage malaria (a phenomenon called T cell exhaustion) and this directly impairs parasite control, contributes to chronicity of infection, and promotes susceptibility to reinfection. At present the pathways that promote T cell exhaustion during malaria are poorly understood.

In this PhD project, the successful student will dissect the processes that provoke T cell exhaustion during malaria. In the labs of Dr Kevin Couper and Prof. Andrew MacDonald at the University of Manchester, the student will reveal, using cutting-edge imaging mass cytometry (which allows the multiplex and concurrent detection of 40 molecules in a tissue section), the complex spatiotemporal cellular choreography that occurs within the spleen during the course of malaria. This will define, for the first time, the T cellular phenotypic, positional and interactional events that combine to regulate T cell function during malaria. Utilising complementary two-photon imaging approaches (a modality that allows us to look deep within intact tissues in live animals), the student will also assess the changing dynamic behaviour of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells, and their interactions with dendritic cells and tissue components, during the course of malaria, associated with alterations in T cell function. In the lab of Prof. Bill Heath at the Peter Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne, the student will employ in vivo murine models of malaria and use novel approaches to perturb the activity of specific dendritic cell populations and immune and tissue factors (such as stromal cells), identified during experiments in Manchester. The student will examine how these targeted manipulations influence CD4+ T cell effector function and establishment of cellular exhaustion during malaria. Combined, the results from this collaborative project will transform our understanding of the pathways and cellular events that promote T cell exhaustion within a physiological tissue environment during malaria. This will directly lead to new strategies to therapeutically reinvigorate CD4+ T cells during malaria, and other human diseases characterised by T cell exhaustion, such as cancer.

The successful candidate will spend the first 15-18 months of the project at the University of Manchester followed by a 12-18 months placement at the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne. The student will then return to the University Manchester to complete their PhD and submit their thesis. The successful candidate will receive training in various cutting-edge immunological techniques including imaging mass cytometry, two-photon microscopy and multi-parameter flow cytometry, combined with in vivo training in host-pathogen infection models, utisiling a number of novel transgenic murine strains. Thus, the successful candidate will obtain essential interdisciplinary and quantitative in vivo skills to support their future career.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Kevin Couper
Principal investigator at Melbourne: William Heath

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Infectious Diseases

For more details, email kevin.couper@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Investigating phenotypic, proteomic and functional changes in microglia in a preclinical model

Investigating phenotypic, proteomic and functional changes in microglia in a preclinical model for sporadic Alzheimer’s disease research.

Current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are symptomatic and do little to slow down the progression of the disease. This has led to an array of research investigating hallmark pathologies in the search for novel therapeutic strategies. One such process is neuroinflammation – a chronic form of which is seen in AD.

Microglia, the resident brain immune cell, fulfil a number of key roles in the brain including maintaining homeostasis, phagocytosis, synaptic pruning and they are key players in the immune response. Recent insights into the characterisation of microglia have revealed an extensive array of distinct, though overlapping phenotypes with corresponding functions. Recent morphological, functional, transcriptomic and GWAS studies have all highlighted the potential role of microglia in disease progression in AD and as such point towards this cell population as a potentially interesting target for treatment.

Transgenic rodent models for AD have undoubtedly advanced our understanding of the disease but come with the caveat that in humans these models correspond to Familial / Early Onset AD that account for 3-5% of the cases seen. The majority of cases (~95%) are sporadic or Late Onset with little known about the exact cause. Since its first iteration (Hardy & Higgins 1992) the “amyloid cascade hypothesis” has evolved and it is now widely accepted that amyloid beta accumulation is a central event in AD pathology. We have developed an optimized method for the production of stable alginate microbeads containing amyloid beta -producing cells to enable the modelling of important aspects of sporadic AD in vivo (Almari et al. 2019).

Evidence is emerging demonstrating that microglia can play both beneficial and detrimental roles in relation to disease progression (See Review by Moore et al., 2019). We will utilise a novel model for sporadic AD to investigate phenotypic, proteomic and functional markers of microglia and determine how these change in relation to cognitive dysfunction and disease progression.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Michael Harte
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Peter Crack

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Immunology

For more details, email michael.harte@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Adherence, cognition and attitudes to treatment in at-risk mental states and schizophrenia

Poor adherence to antipsychotic medication multiplies the risk of relapse and suicide, yet at any time 40% of service users are poorly adherent. Negative attitudes to treatment may also discourage people from seeking help and delay first treatment. Reasons for negative attitudes to medication and poor adherence in psychosis have been much studied but no coherent, overall model has been constructed and tested before. This is a problem because the drivers of poor adherence affect each other: they form a complex system, so studying them together is important to understanding how to intervene. They include forgetting to take medication, particularly in those with cognitive problems caused by the psychosis, distrusting medications, distrusting the prescriber of the medication, and deciding there is little risk of a relapse or one was never ill in order to preserve a sense of self-worth and avoid accepting the stigma of mental illness.

In this PhD the student will survey reasons for poor adherence and negative attitudes in those taking antipsychotics and using mental health services, using well established measures, and model them statistically to test hypotheses about how they interact. They will do this in Manchester and again in Melbourne, to compare results in different groups and make use of the expertise in early intervention in Melbourne. This will enable them to test how far the same is true of those in services for psychosis and those who have not yet developed it but are seeking help for “at-risk” mental states.

In either city they will also examine how those who score positively or negatively in attitudes to medication score on measures of cognition, to test the hypothesis that prospective memory (remembering what you intended to do) predicts adherence rather than other aspects of cognition, and only in those with positive attitudes.

They will also survey staff attitudes to non-adherence and intervening to improve it, in order to develop an intervention in Manchester, based on the survey results, to support staff in intervening to improve adherence or guide help-seekers to more suitable cognitive therapy. They will examine the feasibility and acceptability of such an intervention, and examine whether it shifts staff attitudes and improves their knowledge. In Manchester they will have access to expertise in staff development and training interventions and health psychology expertise to support this.

The student will be able to publish relatively high impact papers based on this work, given the unique expertise behind it and the public health importance of poor adherence and its impact on sufferers, families, services and the economy. This work will support postgraduate development of interventions to help staff improve adherence, something also of direct, substantial public health benefit.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Richard Drake
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Alison Yung

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Mental Health

For more details, email richard.drake@mancheste.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Regulation of appetite during inflammation and its functional implication for disease outcomes

Inflammation requires energy to fight infection and sustain immune responses, yet during inflammation there is a dramatic loss of appetite. This loss of appetite (anorexia) is considered adaptive, however how inflammation impact on brain circuits controlling appetite and how anorexia impacts on disease progression and outcomes remain largely unknown.

The advent of new genetic technologies now provides a powerful means by which to unravel the contribution of discrete neurone populations to behaviour and physiology with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. Using these technologies, the host laboratories have identified brain hubs where inflammatory activity and appetite regulation intersect and have started to characterise the brain circuits involved.

The overarching aim of this project is to resolve these circuits and characterise them at the genetic, structural and functional level. To this end, the student will receive training in using the latest genetic technologies available that will allow him/her to genetically tag distinct neurones after they have responded to nutritional and/or inflammatory signals. When combined with preclinical models of inflammatory disease, these genetic technologies will then allow the student to identify the neurones and their connections, record their activity and selectively activate/inhibit them to interrogate their significance to normal physiology and inflammation.

These studies have important medical implications: they have the potential to improve our understanding of appetite regulation during inflammation and to identify novel strategies to ameliorate the effects of inflammatory diseases.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Simon Luckman
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Garron Dodd

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Genetics

For more details, email simon.luckman@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Understanding lineage switching in haematopoietic malignancies as a mechanism of resistance

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is the most common cause of cancer related mortality in children and young adults. Although outcomes have improved significantly a substantial number of patients are either refractory to initial therapy or relapse after achieving a clinical remission. Long term survival in these patients is very poor and, in this context, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy directed against CD19 has emerged as a major avenue to cure these children and young adults. Unfortunately, however, resistance to CAR-T therapy can also emerge through a remarkable process of lineage switching from a lymphoid to a myeloid malignancy that no longer expresses CD19. The goal of this PhD project is to develop sophisticated models that would allow us to investigate lineage switching and CD19 epitope loss both in vitro and in vivo. Ultimately the ambition of the project is to identify novel therapeutic strategies that prevent this form of therapeutic escape from CAR-T therapy.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Tim Somervaille
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Mark Dawson

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Cancer Sciences

For more details, email tim.somervaille@cruk.manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Evolution of resistance to RNA polymerase-targeting antibiotics

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve in response to the use of these medicines, which decreases the effectiveness of the antibiotics to control infections. Resistance leads to prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality rates. The UK government and other important health organizations, such as WHO, understand and support the need to change the way antibiotics are used and prescribed globally. Without this urgent action, we are heading toward “a post-antibiotic era”, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.

Tackling this problem requires drastically improving our ability to predict antibiotic resistance evolution. One of the major parameters required to predict evolution is being able to predict the effects of new mutations on organismal fitness – a goal that has largely eluded evolutionary biologists. Gaining the ability to do so requires understanding how the structures of molecules targeted by antibiotics change when they acquire resistance mutations, and how those changes, in turn, affect the propensity to evolve resistance to further antibiotics. This is particularly important when considering bacteria that carry resistance to multiple antibiotics as a consequence of having been exposed to several drugs sequentially.

This project will focus on one of the largest families of antibiotics – those that target RNA polymerase, the complex molecule responsible for transcribing DNA into RNA. Resistance to these drugs often occurs through mutations in the RNA polymerase genes rpoB and rpoC. These mutations prevent the drug from binding, but also alter the structure and function of the molecule. What remains poorly understood is how one resistance mutation alters the evolution of resistance to other antibiotics? In other words, one mutation changes the structure of RNA polymerase, and that change in structure can alter the propensity of the molecule to acquire other resistance mutations. This PhD project will understand that interaction between structure and the propensity to evolve resistance at a mechanistic level, improving our ability to predict antibiotic resistance evolution.

In order to ensure that the predictive understanding of rpoB and rpoC evolution is actually observed in clinical settings, a major part of the project will focus on population health: analysis of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains isolated from patients. The student will determine the mechanisms of resistance observed in these strains, and further evolve them in the lab in order to test the accuracy of our predictions of evolution.

The project is highly interdisciplinary, combining molecular, structural and evolutionary biology with modelling and population health. It provides a unique opportunity to work in three different groups with diverse set of expertise, on a problem of great societal relevance.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Mato Lagator
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Benjamin Howden

Relevant PhD programme: PhD/MPhil Immunology

For more details, email mato.lagator@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor) 

Humanities

Creative economy start-up success: Use/misuse of market research by creative economy entrepreneurs

The creative economy encompasses advertising, architecture, the arts and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software, music, performing arts, publishing, software, television, and radio. The creative economy presupposes entrepreneurial success, and it has become common-place to talk about ‘market validation’, ‘customer development’, and ‘pivots’ among creative economy entrepreneurs – suggesting that a market orientation focus yields superior outcomes (such as start-up success, which is this study’s focus) compared with earlier (more internally, entrepreneur-focused) approaches to entrepreneurship.

Yet, despite the widespread acceptance of the virtues of a ‘market orientation’, especially in the broader circles of entrepreneurship, failure rates for new ventures in the creative economy remain very high. How can this be explained; are there unique circumstances in the creative economy stifling the application of customer–oriented market research by entrepreneurs; can it be that ‘creativity’ and ‘research’ do not go together well? This research aims at a multi-disciplinary, multi-method understanding of how creative-economy entrepreneurs and corporate innovators use (and omit) market research in the creative economy.

Research questions include:

  1. How do entrepreneurs use (or omit) market research, and are there unique market research circumstances characteristic of the creative economy?
  2. How does variation in the use of market research predict creative economy start-up success?
  3. What kind of interventions can improve the effect of market research on creative economy start-up success.

The research program proposes the use of qualitative and quantitative modelling methods to answer these questions. Supervisors will offer access to industry networks, theoretical and methodological expertise, a proven research record in the highest ranked marketing and management journals, and high-quality PhD mentorship based on over 20 years of PhD supervision. Importantly also, both Manchester and Melbourne are world-renowned centres of the creative economy, providing an ideal research setting. Expected outcomes include top tier publications in marketing and management journals.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Bryan Lukas
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Greg Nyilasy

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Business and Management

For more details, email bryan.lukas@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Family History, memory, and commemoration in urban migrant communities

This project explores practices of family history research beyond the predominantly Anglo-Celtic communities that dominate existing research in the field. At present scholarship on family memory is dominated by Anglophone models. The project will provide much-needed new research about how non-European migrant communities in the cities of Manchester, England and Melbourne, Australia relate to their ancestry and the inheritance of family culture and knowledge. The project will involve qualitative research with communities in both Manchester and Melbourne, including work within the Chinese and Indian communities. Drawing from the cross-disciplinary expertise of the supervisors, the project will contribute to both public history and the sociology of the family. The work will contribute to our understanding of urban migrant communities and the ways in which they commemorate and memorialise.

There is a need to correct the model of the family in research that is predicated upon Western, normative assumptions of kinship. The cities of Manchester and Melbourne are similar in many ways as locations for urban migrant experience, although evidently substantially different. Undertaking field-work in both cities will highlight the ways in which migrant experience in urban settings develops and evolves strongly held beliefs about family, commemoration, and memory.

The project will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team and enable a candidate to work in a variety of disciplinary contexts as well as contribute new and compelling work on memory studies, family history, and commemorative practice.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Jerome Degroot
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Ashley Barnwell

Relevant PhD programme: PhD English and American Studies

For more details, email jerome.degroot@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Fire and flood: mapping the dynamics of innovation in building climate resilience for cities

As ‘climate emergencies’ emerge in different parts of the world, the implications for cities and regions are highly problematic. Climate change adaptation is now accepted for the basic form of ‘defensive resilience’. Beyond that lies a more challenging ‘transformative resilience’, where whole cities may need to relocate, or whole regions to rethink their landscape. Here the agenda is wide open, for new types of governance and institutions, finance and markets, infrastructure and urban technology, and social / cultural change. Several approaches have emerged to explore, analyse, and mobilize knowledge into action. Ecological complexity thinking explores the fundamentals of resilience (Waltner-Toews et al 2009): transition theory looks at the processes of structural change (Turnheim et al 2015). Behind this is the evolutionary strand of innovation studies and its regional dimension, exploring connections between innovation and transition processes. (Schot & Steinmueller 2017): and a co-evolutionary perspective on ‘path-inter-dependencies’ and ‘transversalities’ (Cooke 2015). Meanwhile urban innovation is emerging as a practice-theory of ‘living labs’, urban experimentation, and multi-level deliberative governance (Voytenko et al 2015). Such thinking can now be conceptualized as an emergence of ‘collective intelligence’ in urban and regional systems, i.e. the capacity for collaborative learning and thinking, with practical application to foresight and strategic planning (Ravetz & Miles 2016).

This research aims to bring these theoretical insights into an analysis of practice in a small number of case studies on opposite sides of the world. It asks critical questions on the policy responses to ‘climate emergencies’, both in formal international networks such as ‘100 Resilient Cities’, and other more grass-roots initiatives. It enquires into the fundamental dynamics of urban-regional innovation for policy, markets, finance, infrastructure and public services: and in particular the policy mechanisms of foresight and strategic planning, valuation and evaluation. It will use both analytic and creative-deliberative methods to explore the forward pathways, towards a ‘collective resilience intelligence’ in key sectors for the urban-regional resilience agenda.

The project will draw on a multi-national perspective. It will examine closely the 100 RC initiatives (now in their final phase) in Manchester and Melbourne, alongside other urban initiatives in Europe and the Asia-Pacific (likely to include Naples and Bangkok). It will benefit from existing clusters, ongoing research and research-policy communities in both cities. The result will bring topical insights for scholarship, and offer practical ways forward for policy and governance.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Joe Ravetz
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Kathryn Davidson

For more details, email joe.ravetz@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Making up the global city: the financing and governing of urban infrastructural futures

Many cities around the world are struggling with how to finance and to govern their transport infrastructure. Faced with a range of economic, environmental, political and social challenges, a growing numbers of learning from each other, experimenting with a range of models. For cities in the most industrialized countries this involves both existing and new infrastructure. Moreover, the value of infrastructure is increasingly understood not just in terms of the successful movement of a city’s population. Rather, there is a sense for a city to be understood as global it must have a certain set of transport infrastructures. That is, transport infrastructure is used by those who govern cities to project them into the world economy and to position them to capture and retain global capital flows. At the same time, cities have also sought to use transport infrastructure to address issues of inequalities and social exclusion, aspiring to produce a more inclusive and just city.

This project compares how Manchester and Melbourne are approaching the financing and governing of their transport infrastructures to balance the competing demands that are being placed on them.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Kevin Ward
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Michele Acuto

For more details, email kevin.ward@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Integrating Urban Sustainability and Digital Platforms?

Comparing strategic urban responses and implications in Greater Manchester and Greater Melbourne.

Applications are sought for a 3.5 year PhD studentship that critically addresses the question: Are digital platforms a threat or a complement to urban sustainability strategies?

Leading to a joint award of the Universities of Manchester and Melbourne, the successful applicant will undertake research at the interface of urban studies and innovation studies that synthesises two debates: first, debates around visions of future sustainable cities and how these are incorporated in to urban strategies and policy; and second, the emergence of digital platforms as a new business model and their intervention into systems of provision at urban scale.

The PhD will develop rich contextual understanding of how digital platforms contribute to rethinking what is meant by urban sustainability. It will undertake comparative research on this issue across two urban contexts (Greater Manchester and Greater Melbourne). This will be done via in-depth case studies, reliant on qualitative data, including that drawn from documentary analysis and key informant interviews.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Mike Hodson and Professor Andrew McMeekin at the University of Manchester and Professor Brendan Gleeson at the University of Melbourne, will be based in the Sustainable Consumption Institute, and will also be a member of the IMP Division of the Alliance Manchester Business School. They will spend a minimum of 12 months in Melbourne at the Institute for Sustainable Societies.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Michael Hodson
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Brendan Gleeson

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Business and Management

For more details, email michael.hodson@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Assess city-wide socio-spatial and environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles

Developing an integrated modelling framework to assess city-wide socio-spatial and environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars are increasingly becoming part of the portfolio of advanced technologies that will shape transport and mobility and transform urban built environments. Like transport innovations in the past, this new form of transportation will not only change the way we travel and interact in cities, but it will also re-shape existing built environments and the supporting infrastructure, and dictate how we design and build new towns and cities. Autonomous vehicles will also have implications for transport-related energy consumption, land use (e.g. road networks and parking), pollution, climate change, air quality and overall public health outcomes in cities of tomorrow. It is therefore critical to examine these socio-spatial and environmental impacts of autonomous vehicles. In doing so, an approach that transcends siloed thinking by embracing an integrated and complex systems perspective is particularly relevant.

The objective of this PhD research, is to develop and apply an integrated visioning and decision support framework to understand the city-wide socio-spatial and environmental impacts of the diffusions of autonomous vehicles. The successful PhD candidate will be expected to integrate insights from systems dynamics theory and urban transport governance to address the following research questions: 

  1. What scenarios of adoption, diffusion and modes of employment of autonomous vehicles are possible and under what conditions?
  2. What will the socio-spatial and environmental impacts be of the adoption and diffusion scenarios of autonomous vehicles for the Manchester and Melbourne city-regions?
  3. What are the implications of the scenarios of impact for urban transport and mobility governance? 

Manchester and Melbourne city-regions will be used as case study areas for this research. Relevant empirical work and model development and applications will be undertaken with these contexts under a joint supervision arrangement involving academics at The University of Manchester and the University of Melbourne.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Richard Kingston
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Crystal Legacy

For more details, email richard.kingston@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Transportation and housing market interactions in cities

Transportation and housing market interactions in cities: infrastructure changes and urban form, housing needs and policy implications.

The nexus between transport infrastructure demand and housing needs is fraught with significant challenges. As increasing land development is made possible by infrastructure improvements, the dynamics for residential developments change with both short and longer terms implications. The first aim of the proposed PhD is to identify the indirect value of transportation infrastructure reflected in property market appreciation. This can be achieved by integrating the recent innovations in house price modelling and further developing the methodological framework. The second aim of PhD research is to gain insights on the policy implications of transport improvement by analysing their long term effects and explicitly addressing the aspects of affordability, population dynamics, and inflection points of capacity constraints. This can be achieved by employing machine learning, simulations, and/or small area city wide panel models.

The candidate will have a solid background in urban analytics, urban/regional/ transport /behavioural economics, applied econometrics, planning, or real estate. Excellent skills in statistical/econometric analysis is a requirement.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Sotirios Thanos
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Gideon Aschwanden

For more details, email sotirios.thanos@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Statistical models for social influence and contagion in dynamic, large-scale urban networks

Social influence and contagion occur in large-scale populations and have a crucial impact on a multitude of individual and societal outcomes, from political opinion to mental and physical health and from integration to inequality. The interpersonal networks connecting people in society affect how influence and contagion unfold, but the networks are subject to change over time. Understanding the joint evolution of networks and individual outcomes is one of the most exciting current challenges in social science research. To date, statistical models for network dynamics are sparse and only applicable to small groups, up to a few hundred actors. This limits researchers in their ability to analyse and explain large-scale societal processes, such as political polarisation or the spread of depression in and across communities.

This project aims to develop and apply a novel extension to existing statistical models for dynamic networks, which are capable of separating and estimating the effects of social influence and contagion on individual and societal outcomes in large-scale social networks. In doing so, the methodology will account for the evolving network structure. To achieve this goal, the project builds on recent advances in dynamic network modelling (namely on Stochastic Actor-oriented Models), sampling in networks, and Bayesian approaches to network models.

Novel statistical approaches will be explored in the context of large empirical network datasets, such as:

  • needle sharing and physical health among IV drug users in a major city;
  • social support and mental health in town communities affected by a natural disaster;
  • online interactions and engagement in food-sharing in smaller and larger cities.

Due to their scale, these datasets have so far been infeasible to analyse by available statistical models for dynamic networks. The project promises new insights into how social influence and contagion affect individuals’ attitudes, physical, and mental health, and into how these processes shape the studied communities. The approach and the results will, however, be transferable to other contexts, and may contribute to our understanding of key processes in society such as political polarization, social segregation or the reproduction of inequalities in health and wellbeing.

The project will be carried out jointly at the Mitchell Centre for Social Network Analysis at The University of Manchester, UK and the MelNet group at University of Melbourne, Australia. The main base of the project will be in Manchester. Both institutions have a track record of word-class research and teaching in social network analysis and they offer a vibrant and supportive international scientific environment for the PhD student who will carry out the project.

The ideal candidate PhD student will have a strong background in one or more of the following areas: computational social science, computational behavioural science, statistics. The candidate will preferably have some prior training in social network analysis.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Termeh Shafie
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Johan Koskinen

For more details, email termeh.shafie@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Science and Engineering

Advanced materials for head phantoms enabling large scale testing of novel flexible electronics

Next generation wearable sensor nodes will be based upon flexible and stretchable electronics. Often taking the form of “temporary tattoos” they connect directly to the skin and so give very good quality signals. We are currently running a number of projects with on-skin sensors: increasing their functionality in terms of the range of sensing possible; improving the accuracy of the sensors; and working with a high value manufacturing catapult to ensure that novel devices can be manufactured at scale.

The aim of this PhD is to create a phantom based test platform where the ‘participants’ are physical dummies, collecting and transmitting representative data. It requires significant innovation in physical human body phantoms as these now need to be representative at both DC frequencies (for physiological signal capture) and multi-GHz frequencies (for RF transmission from skin). If successful, the new phantoms will let us carry out long term, multi-user, representative testing of complete systems in a way which has never previously been possible. We will be able to test multiple ‘people’ streaming data simultaneously, across a wide range of RF environments, evaluating performance and possible sources of interference.

Our previous work has used conductive ballistic grade gelatine as a phantom material where moulds are 3D printed from head scans to give realistic shapes, and saline added to the solution to control the conductivity. The aim of this PhD will be to explore other materials and to create multi-layer phantoms, repeating the process in 2-3 steps to build up a multi-layer phantom with different properties in each layer, with exploratory work required to determine how to combine a DC inner core, with and RF skin layer with coupling layers between the two.

The prospective student will gain experience across different disciplines including engineering, advanced materials, and physiological testing. The project involves designing and conducting experimental research as well as data analysis and system creation.

If you are interested in research on bioelectronics and their test platforms, and are unsure about whether you have the right background, please get in touch. The project can be adapted based on the student’s interest and experiences.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Alex Casson
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Amanda Ellis

For more details, email alex.casson@manhcester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Fur and Feathers: colour, structure and flow control.

The objective in this exciting cross-disciplinary project is to investigate the potential of a bio-inspired coating of flexible devices to passively modify energetic modes of an unsteady crossflow and to assess, for the first time, the role of colour in determining mechanical properties. We seek an exceptional candidate with a strong first degree in physics, maths, engineering or bioengineering. The candidate should be keen to travel, spending at least 12 months in Melbourne, must have some prior programming experience and should be able to evidence the ability to work across disciplines.

This project will build on recent interest in the bioengineering field focused on understanding the underlying potential of bio-inspired surfaces for future engineering applications. The role of filamentous structures such as feathers or fur is of particular interest since they exist as both branched and unbranched forms, they are actively controlled by muscles, and their effects on flow are complex and understudied. Colour is known to have a direct impact on the mechanical properties of hairs and feathers, due to the structural role of melanin in the keratin strands that form them. In this way, colour is thought to directly affect structural endurance of the material, via UV resistance, but it has not been proven. Furthermore, ‘structural colour’ results from microscopic features which interfere with visible light, enabling them to reflect a far greater, sometimes iridescent, range of colours than would be possible from pigmentation alone. From a biological perspective this is interesting – which came first and why?

The coordinated response of arrays of fur/feathers to a flow instability is little understood, generally restricted either to the most simplified of scenarios or bulk analysis of more complex cases. The premise of this work is that a large group of flexible fibres to can be configured as a filter, with pre-determinable bulk properties. The hypothesis is the passive response of an array of fur/feathers can be made to either damp or amplify energy at selected frequencies. Furthermore, a smart inhomogeneous arrangement of such structures may be able to redistribute energy across multiple frequencies. The resulting surface would have important consequences for engineering applications where drag and noise reduction is paramount, or for energy harvesting devices designed to extract ambient energy. The parameter space of such a system is vast, and we navigate these dimensions by considering cases arising in nature, where conditions are clearly defined for given species. We will make use of existing data to categorise the structure of a range of filamentous structures for bird and mammal skin that are candidates for flow modification: (e.g. penguin/cormorant feathers; seal/beaver fur). We link engineering fluid dynamics with world-leading natural science research at both institutions, to explore animal locomotion and the link between the colour, form and structure of natural coatings, to find out whether there is a link between performance and colour.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Alistair Revell
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Richard Sandberg

For more details, email alistair.revell@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Searching for quantum-mechanical interference effects to explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry

Searching for quantum-mechanical interference effects that would explain the origin of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe.

We know from astrophysical observations that there is a matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe, with everything that we see being made up almost entirely of matter. However, if Big-Bang cosmology is correct, then matter and antimatter would have initially been produced in equal amounts. So where has all the antimatter gone? The dominance of matter over antimatter can only be explained if there is there is a violation of both charge-conjugation (C) and parity (P) in the laws of physics. CP-violation does indeed occur in the known fundamental particle interactions, but the level of CP-violation is not large enough to explain the observed matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe. This means that new particles or new types of particle interactions must exist in order to explain this astrophysical phenomenon.

In this project, we will search for new sources of CP violation using data recorded by the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). In particular, we plan to study weak-boson scattering processes, which have only recently been observed at the LHC experiments. As part of this project the student will gain experience in the analysis of large datasets from particle physics experiments, will develop new observables to search for CP-violation, and will develop new techniques for identifying the hadronic decays of the weak bosons using machine-learning algorithms.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Andrew Pilkington
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Matthew Dolan

For more details, email andrew.pilkington@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Smart bioelectronic sensing materials design for networked detection

Smart bioelectronic sensing materials design for networked detection of agricultural and human pathogens. 

This research area addresses the design of multilayer biomaterials which mimic the specific and subtle triggers to promote the invasion of those materials by fungal, bacterial or entomological pathogens and pests. These artificial biomaterials then form the basis for both an IoT (internet of things) wireless sensor network, for early detection and management of crop, human and livestock diseases, as well as a tool for biologists to better understand host-pathogen interactions. PhD research may be undertaken in this area on the design and manufacture of the biomaterial’s micro-surface patterning and formulation of volatiles release systems, the pathogen exudase detection chemistries, the process scale-up of the material’s production, the design of the wireless network modules & topology and / or the machine learning interpretation of both the local and distributed data sources.
Multiple PhD research projects may be undertaken on aspects of the above technology.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Bruce Grieve
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Ranjith R Unnithan

For more details, email bruce.grieve@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Targeting molecular data storage at liquid nitrogen temperature

A jointly awarded PhD studentship from The University of Melbourne and The University of Manchester is available for an outstanding and ambitious chemist to undertake research in the field of lanthanide single-molecule magnets. As part of a multidisciplinary international team, the successful candidate will spend time performing research in the laboratories of Dr David Mills in the Department of Chemistry at Manchester and Assoc Prof Colette Boskovic in the School of Chemistry at Melbourne. The aim of this project is to synthesise and investigate a series of highly axial dimetallic lanthanide complexes that are predicted to exhibit single-molecule magnet behaviour at technologically useful temperatures. The physical properties of these complexes will be analysed using a variety of complementary physical techniques. The project will allow the student to gain expertise in synthetic organometallic chemistry, single-crystal X-ray diffraction, SQUID magnetometry, EPR spectroscopy, electrochemistry and inelastic neutron scattering. Ab initio calculations will be carried out in collaboration with the group of Dr Nicholas Chilton at Manchester.

For recent publications relevant to the project see: Nature, 2017, 548, 439; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 18714 and Dalton Trans., 2019, 48, 15635.

Candidates must meet the entry requirements of both Universities and must have a suitable degree specialising in chemistry. Students should have an interest in physical inorganic chemistry and electronic structure of metal complexes. Experience of practical synthetic chemistry, especially air-sensitive chemistry (Schlenk lines and glove boxes) would be advantageous, although training will be provided. You should be capable of working under your own initiative and working with research teams in Melbourne and Manchester, so excellent interpersonal, communication and organisational skills are also required.

Principal investigator at Manchester: David Mills
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Colette Boskovic

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Chemistry

For more details, email david.mills@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Magnetic design of prototype FFA Gantry for rapid delivery of proton therapy

Proton therapy is the most rapidly-expanding method of radiotherapy, with a number of new proton treatment centres being established around world that are primarily based on high-intensity isochronous cyclotrons; an example of this is the recently-installed 250 MeV Varian cyclotron at which a research beamline has been installed where Dr. Owen and Dr. Appleby are carrying out research into rapid beam delivery.

Although proton therapy is now well-established clinically with over 100 treatment rooms presently in operation, their beam delivery systems are limited in terms of the speed they can vary the treatment depth in the patient. Future rapid treatments will need a full range of depths to be achieved ideally in less than a second, faster than conventional magnet systems can vary. New magnetic focusing schemes pioneered by Drs. Sheehy, Owen and Appleby have shown the potential of so-called FFA (Fixed-Field Accelerator); a carefully-tailored magnet array can avoid the need to vary the magnetic field during treatment delivery whilst maintaining a large depth range that can be delivered at the patient. Coupled to new, more intense particle sources this technology is needed to deliver the next generation of fast proton treatments; moreover, there are recent indications that these rapid (so-called FLASH) treatments may also deliver groundbreaking treatment advantages for the patient.

Our design will be informed by the significant experience of the supervisors, who have all worked extensively on FFA systems that include the PAMELA medical FFA project. Our current work with the CBETA FFA project gives us hands-on experience with an operating FFA system, and we are working with several commercial partners to develop their technologies in other areas too.

Travel funds will be used to facilitate visits to the UK to gain experience at existing proton therapy centres, and to augment the student’s experience through working with other researchers in the Cockcroft Institute and our collaborating partners, who carry out a large programme of related projects in medical accelerators.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Hywel Owen
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Suzie Sheehy

For more details, email hywel.owen@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Active optoelectronic devices based on 2D materials integrated into silicon photonics

The objective of the project is to create an infrared detection technology based on 2D materials than can be integrated into a silicon photonics platform for mass production. These devices could form the basis of the next generation of optical communications systems. Silicon photonics ultimately aims to converge electronics and photonics to increase the performance of computers, maintain Moors law and increase internet bandwidth.

However, energy consumption by the internet is becoming increasingly limiting (eg 10% of energy generation in Japan is used to service it), if the bandwidth of the internet is to continue to grow exponentially then the energy used per bit transmitted must decrease, within the constrictions of quantum mechanics, the only way to do this is to move optical communications wavelengths into the mid-infrared, reducing the energy of the photons used. This is not possible with conventional silicon foundry materials thus alternatives must be sought. Conventional III-V devices are one possibility, but starting from scratch 2D materials are just as an attractive solution and this project has the objective of demonstrating this. Such a device would clearly be based on new quantum technologies and so meets the criteria of this priority field.

The student will spend the first year in Manchester learning the basics of silicon photonic device design, fabrication and measurement. The second year will be based in Melbourne designing and integrating Black phosphorus Molybdenum disulphide or other 2D materials integrated into waveguides in the Silicon devices designed in Manchester. The third year will split between the two sites optimising device structures. The final 6 months will be at Manchester, evaluating the final devices and writing up results.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Matthew Halsall
Principal investigator at Melbourne: James Bullock

For more details, email matthew.halsall@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Nanoscale molecular memory on diamond

A jointly awarded PhD studentship from The University of Manchester and The University of Melbourne is available for an outstanding and ambitious chemist or physicist to undertake research in the field of nanoscale magnetism and spectroscopy. As part of a multidisciplinary team, the successful candidate will spend time performing research in the laboratory of Dr Nicholas Chilton in Chemistry at Manchester and Dr David Simpson in Physics at Melbourne. The student will learn about spectroscopy on the nanoscale using nitrogen-vacancy defects in diamond, molecular magnetism and quantum chemistry methods, and perform experiments to determine the surface conformation and magnetic properties of single-molecule magnets.

For recent publications relevant to the project see: Goodwin et al., Nature, 2017, 548, 439; Simpson et al., Nature Commun., 2017, 8, 1; Goodwin et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139, 18714.

Candidates should have or expect to obtain a first class or upper-second class degree, specialising in chemistry or physics. Experience of EPR spectroscopy or quantum chemistry would be advantageous, although training will be provided. You should be capable of working under your own initiative and working with a number of research teams in Manchester and Melbourne, so excellent communication and organisational skills are also required.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Nicholas Chilton
Principal investigator at Melbourne: David Simpson

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Chemistry

For more details, email nicholas.chilton@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Standardising carbon neutrality in delivery of complex projects

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5°C report of 2018 assesses the impact of global warming, necessitating immediate action for countries to decarbonize. While research has focused on sustainable strategies in the design and construction of environmentally responsive buildings and quantifying the extent of carbon emissions from construction materials, there is a knowledge gap in the extent to which complex projects contribute to these emissions from conception to operational phase. Complex projects are large in scale and are characterised by intricate supply chains, numerous uncertainties and may require specialist expertise. This research will seek to model the carbon footprint throughout the project’s lifecycle, supply chains, material consumption and resource utilization in order to address the question: does standardising zero carbon emissions in the delivery of complex projects significantly contribute to lowering the global temperature rise?

Noting that both the city of Manchester and Melbourne declared climate emergencies in 2019 and are committed to achieving zero carbon targets by 2050, the study proposes to utilize case studies in the two cities to model the carbon footprint of complex projects from the concept phase to design, construction, testing, commissioning, handover and operations stage. Through interviews with climate change experts, zero carbon emission strategies will be identified and simulated using system dynamics modelling software to arrive at optimal emission reduction strategies for complex projects at minimal cost.

The outcomes of this research will provide policymakers with essential information and tools for quantifying and monitoring carbon emissions within complex projects. Consequently, this will inform coherent national development policies and encourage sustainable development in the management of projects; directly contributing to sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11) and the accomplishment of a carbon-free future globally.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Obuks Ejohwomu
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Sebastian Thomas

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Management of Projects

For more details, email obuks.ejohwomu@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Nanostructured membranes for selective toxic gas separation

The global chemical industry needs new technologies for dealing with polluting emissions and thus minimising environmental impact. This PhD programme is focused on finding solutions to the problems of industry, through technology development. The programme will create novel membrane technology that is specifically designed to actively sieve out toxic gases from industrial emissions. This technology has a lower energy cost compared to competitive approaches, arising from the straightforward approach of using a barrier material in which some chemical gases pass through unrestricted, due to their favourable affinity with the membrane. The membrane technology will be based on polymers of intrinsic microporosity, a new class of polymers that have high free volume characteristics that provide them with unique opportunities to sieve gases selectively.

This programme will be focused on the preparation and characterisation of novel polymers and polymer nanocomposites, specifically tailoring the functionality for toxic gases such as carbon monoxide; then fabricating these materials into membranes and testing the resulting technology under industrial conditions.

The outcome will be the implementation of membrane technology in chemical industries to reduce their pollution problem. This PhD programme will be ideally suited to a chemistry/chemical engineering student who is interested in polymer and materials science and their application to separation technologies, and will ideally place the PhD candidate for industrial employment at the completion of their PhD.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Peter Budd
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Dr. Colin A. Scholes

Relevant PhD programme: PhD Chemistry

For more details, email peter.budd@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Chemical and enzymatic tools for pathogen glycobiology

In a world where resistance to antibiotics is commonplace, there is an urgent need to develop new ways to prevent or treat infectious diseases. The goal of this project is to develop and exploit a suite of enzyme tools and carbohydrate probes with which to ask questions about carbohydrate metabolism in important human pathogens, such as parasitic Leishmania and Mycobacterial species. Depending on the expertise and interests of the student, the project will provide opportunities to explore aspects of carbohydrate synthetic chemistry, enzymes in synthesis, the development and assessment of substrates and inhibitors of enzymatic processes central to pathogen metabolism and survival.

This project is a joint venture between the groups of Rob Field and Sabine Flitsch (Manchester, UK) and Malcolm McConville and Spencer Williams (Melbourne, Australia).

The student will initially be based in Manchester and will have the opportunity to spend 12-18 months with the Melbourne team over the course of their 3.5 years study. The team have substantial experience in carbohydrate chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology and currently host over 40 students and postdocs between them. Hence the student will be integrated into vibrant, well-resourced teams with substantial momentum in the subject area of the PhD.

The project would suit a student with a strong Masters level training in chemistry or biochemistry who is keen to embrace multidisciplinary research that spans the chemistry biology interface. Previous relevant laboratory experience would be a distinct advantage, although experience with carbohydrates is not essential as full training will be provided.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Robert Field
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Malcolm McConville

For more details, email robert.field@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

A novel future ion therapy accelerator

Proton therapy is the most rapidly-expanding method of radiotherapy, with a number of new proton treatment centres being established around world that are primarily based on high-intensity isochronous cyclotrons; an example of this is the recently-installed 250 MeV Varian cyclotron at which a research beamline has been installed where Dr. Appleby and Dr. Owen are carrying out research into rapid beam delivery.

Although proton therapy is now well-established clinically with over 100 treatment rooms presently in operation, there are comparatively few facilities that offer radiotherapy with other ions. There are several European and Japanese facilities that concentrate on carbon therapy and which utilise synchrotrons, but there is a need to establish a future design of facility that can offer more rapid treatment and also offer variable ion type. There is as yet no consensus as to the correct technology, but it is likely that either synchrotrons or FFAs (Fixed-Field, Alternating-Gradient) accelerators will offer the best performance. We propose to conduct a study of a compact accelerator that offers rapid variation of p, He and C ions in a single accelerator; the likely best option for this is an FFA based on the previous PAMELA proposal, but where we will simplify the design to allow it to be more cost-effective.

The design will be informed by the significant experience of the supervisors, who have all worked extensively on FFA systems that include the PAMELA medical FFA project. We also maintain collaboration with the CBETA project that has recently demonstrated wide energy acceptance in a comparable system designed for a separate application. We will also engage with CERN and its HITRI/NIMMS project, and the PhD student will join the SEE collaboration toward a future facility for South-East Europe. Both the UK and Australian clinical communities have held discussions about the potential of ion therapy facilities in each country, and we hope that the work will assist in informing decisions about a future UK and Australian facilities.

The outcome of the PhD project will be an optics design and performance estimation of a candidate ring for multi-ion delivery.

Travel funds will be used to facilitate visits to the UK to gain experience at existing proton therapy centres, and to augment the student’s experience through working with other researchers in the Cockcroft Institute who carry out a large programme of related projects in medical accelerators.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Robert Appleby
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Suzie Sheehy

For more details, email robert.appleby@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

FLASH VHEE radiotherapy: a potential new paradigm in cancer treatment

FLASH-RT entails delivering a high dose over a sub-second timescale and exploratory experiments indicate cancerous regions suffer lethal damage whereas healthy tissues show little impairment. There has also been a recent publication on the first patient receiving such treatment with a dose rate of 15 Gy per 90 ms. FLASH-RT was shown to reproducibly spare normal tissues, while preserving the anti-tumor activity. This marked increase of the differential effect between normal tissues and tumors prompted its clinical translation. To achieve these dose rates conventional machines have been modified –and of course the delivery is far from optimal. We plan to investigate an optimised overall system design to achieve high dose rate within a large area.

Focusing, scanning and delivery of high dose rates with electrons will be the focus of this project. We have already shown electrons to be readily focused, steered, and to be insensitive to inhomogeneities and hence they are ideal for FLASH-RT. This research, will entail assessing the prospects for a robust machine design –entailing a moderate (with a view to a conservative reliable operation) gradient linac, RF source, magnets, and overall controls. This will necessitate a close collaboration with collaeagues at ASTeC –as several aspects of expertise in this area will be sought to facilitate the design of a new machine.

The research in this area is limited but is clearly a very active and rapidly developing area. In addition to the relative insensitivity to inhomogeneities there may indeed be advantages of this technique over extant methods –such as more precise and rapid delivery to tumors with reduced fractionation (less patient visits needed with a more conformal high dose delivered). Indeed recent results in the area of ultra-high dose “FLASH” radiotherapy indicate considerable sparing of healthy tissue whilst in the presence of a high dose delivered very rapidly (sub-second).

Initially, the student will work with members of Prof. Jones’ VHEE group, and the potentially with the company Elekta, to become familiar with the control system and fundamental characteristics of a beamline. We also anticipate a strong collaboration with CERN colleagues –and with the CLIC group in particular who are fabricating compact high gradient linear accelerators which with suitable modification may serve as a prototype for a VHEE medical machine capable of delivering FLASH radiotherapy.

A major goal will be to investigate the dose profiles and beam penetration on simple specimens and later on more advanced biological samples. The groundwork for this experimental work will be laid down in the initial stages of the project through extensive simulations with advanced particle tracking codes –Topas/Geant4 in particular as we have in-house expertise on the use of this code. In addition to dose penetration studies the student will also investigate beam scanning and focusing both with extensive simulations and by designing and performing experiments at DL and at CERN’s CLEAR facility.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Roger Jones
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Suzie Sheehy

For more details, email roger.jones@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

Peptide surfactants for bacterial biofilms

This Manchester/Melbourne scheme involves a paired collaboration of academics in both Manchester Physics and Microbiology with their equivalents at the University of Melbourne Chemistry and Microbiology. Bacterial biofilms are a huge issue in medicine, where they are an important virulence factor in lethal infections e.g. they cause morbidity during regenerative medicine treatments and wound healing. De novo peptides kill bacteria by disrupting their membranes, but find it hard to permeate into biofilm. Magnetic nanobots provide a new technique to target biofilms at the nanoscale. Using magnetic tweezers, magnetic nanobots can be steered around biofilm infections in three dimensions. The magnetic forces can be used to disrupt the biofilms mechanically, but also high frequency magnetic fields (through Curie heating) can be used to destroy the bacteria.

The methodology is scalable (it could be used to disrupt biofilm blockage in pipelines during biofouling), can be made relatively cheap and using antibodies it can be made extremely specific (a novel targeted antibiotic). Furthermore, three dimensional printing of ceramic/magnetic composites will be investigated to optimise the performance of the magnetic nanobots e.g. the forces applied and their abrasive properties. Solid state NMR will also be used to optimise the interaction of the peptides with the bacterial membranes.

The PhD project needs someone with a physics or bioengineering undergraduate degree to explore the performance of magnetic nanobot peptide delivery in vivo within bacterial biofilms that are relevant to human health. The student will be trained to have the necessary microbiological and biophysical skills.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Thomas Waigh
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Dick Strugnell

For more details, email t.a.waigh@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)

 

Search for Doubly Charged Higgs Bosons Decaying to Like-Sign Pairs of Tau Leptons

Search for Doubly Charged Higgs Bosons Decaying to Like-Sign Pairs of Tau Leptons with the ATLAS Experiment at the CERN LHC.

The discovery of the Higgs boson by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the CERN LHC in 2012 represents the culmination of a 50-year theoretical and experimental endeavour to complete the “Standard Model” of particle physics. However, the Standard Model does not provide the particle physics basis to explain all of our current observations of the universe. For example, it does not explain the existence of “Dark Matter”, the observed preponderance of matter over antimatter in the universe, or that neutrinos have mass.

Candidate theories of physics “beyond the Standard Model” (BSM) predict the existence of new, as yet undiscovered, fundamental particles, such as Higgs bosons. As well as additional neutral Higgs bosons, it is possible that BSM Higgs bosons carrying electric charge, H±, might exist. A particularly intriguing possibility is that a Higgs boson carrying a double electric charge, H±±, might also exist. This would be unique amongst the elementary particles. This PhD involves the search with the ATLAS experiment at the CERN LHC for, H±± bosons. Higgs bosons decay predominantly to the highest mass elementary particles. The tau is the highest mass lepton, which means that it is much more likely to be produced in Higgs boson decays than are the lighter leptons (muons and electrons). We shall be searching, therefore, for pairs of tau leptons that have the same sign electric charge.

Searching at the LHC for “weakly interacting” particles, such as Higgs bosons, is difficult because the very rare events containing such particles are in danger of being buried beneath the large strong interaction backgrounds. One possible “trick” to improve the chances to find BSM Higgs bosons at the LHC is to exploit a very special kind of interaction in which the two colliding protons both emit a W boson. The two W bosons “fuse” to produce the searched for final particle(s). The special characteristics of such “Vector Boson Fusion” (VBF) events allows better discrimination between the weakly interacting particles of interest and the strong interaction backgrounds.

In summary, the successful candidate will search for events produced in the fusion of two vector bosons at the LHC that contain same-sign pairs of tau leptons that are clustered in mass. This is a very challenging project, but it will proceed in stages, starting with the observation and measurement of the much more frequent, but still challenging, production of opposite-sign tau pairs in VBF. The project will be underpinned by technical work in identifying tau leptons and in identifying VBF events, and will be supported by, and build upon, the considerable expertise we have built up in Manchester and Melbourne in these areas. In addition to the experimental measurements, interpretation of the results in terms of BSM physics models will involve collaboration with relevant theoretical particle physicists.

The successful candidate will divide their time between CERN, Manchester and Melbourne. The student plus supervisory/supporting teams in CERN/Manchester/Melbourne will have frequent video meetings, and occasional face-to-face meetings (likely at CERN).

Principal investigator at Manchester: Terry Watt
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Elisabetta Barberio

For more details, email terry.watt@manchester.ac.uk (Lead supervisor)