Investigating the effects of non-thermal plasma and non-thermal millimetre wave energy for healthcare applications

An industry-co-funded PhD studentship opportunity, located in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences at UWE Bristol, is available with a living stipend and tuition fees at Home/EU rates.

The closing date for applications is 10 May 2019.

About the studentship

This is an inter-disciplinary PhD that involves the development of a healthcare technology that cuts across Biological, Biomedical Sciences and Medical Engineering. This project will involve an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Centre for Research in Biosciences at UWE Bristol and Creo Medical Ltd, a manufacturer and provider of healthcare technologies. The successful candidate will develop expertise in cell biology, biofilm research, antimicrobials and medical physics and engineering. This PhD opportunity will provide full costs of tuition fees, research consumables and stipend for three and half years. The successful candidate will be primarily based at the Centre for Research in Biosciences at UWE Bristol, but will also spend time with Creo Medical Ltd located at Bath and Chepstow, accessing medical engineering facilities and expertise.

Creo Medical are experienced in designing and developing electromagnetic irradiating instrumentation, including radio frequency (RF) and microwave energy sources, and antenna structures for efficiently coupling this energy into biological tissue. This research will focus on the investigation of radio wave (KHz), microwave (MHz) and millimetre wave (GHz) technology within the field of Biomedical Sciences and Health Technology, to inform the generation of new health technologies for the treatment of disease in the medium term. Non-thermal plasma (NTP) can be generated using a combinatorial RF and microwave approach with potential wide-ranging applications for disinfection/sterilisation within biological and medical fields. NTPs are partially ionised gases containing highly reactive particles which has multiple advantages for decontamination/sterilisation as it is non-wetting, contains no harmful biocides, and leaves no chemical residue. Recent technological breakthroughs have resulted in the ability to produce low temperature plasmas under atmospheric conditions.

Previous proof-of-concept research undertaken by Creo Medical and UWE Bristol has demonstrated that NTP exhibits basic in vitro antimicrobial efficacy. However, the effect of NTP on microbial biofilms is largely unknown. Microbial biofilms are aggregations of microbes enclosed in a protective matrix, and play a key role in a diversity of medical conditions, particularly chronic disease states (eg chronic wound infection). The ability to produce an antimicrobial NTP that targets microbial biofilms, without causing thermal damage to biological tissue structures (and other materials), would provide a step change in management of clinically relevant biofilms. This has implications for wound healing/tissue regeneration, endodontic/dentistry applications, decontamination of human skin, disinfection of material surfaces, and sterilization of materials used in medical devices (endoscopes).

This PhD will also investigate the effect of exposing biological cells to non-thermal millimetre waves (30-300 GHz), which is known to result in quantifiable biological responses. Such effects include the alteration of the rate and/or direction of intracellular biochemical reactions. Observed in vitro changes to growth rate within both microbial (yeast) and mammalian cells have been reported in the literature, albeit in a limited way. This collaborative proposal looks to explore this phenomenon with a view to regulating cell growth (using millimetre-wave technology) to inform the long-term development of health technologies for application in regenerative medicine and cancer biology settings.

Funding details

The studentship will start on 1 October 2019, and consists of an annual tax-free stipend of £15,009, subject to satisfactory progress, for three and a half years. In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for the length of the funding period.

The studentship will only fully fund applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees. Applicants who are normally required to cover international fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates.

Eligibility criteria

Essential criteria:

  • A 1st or 2:1 honours degree in Biological or Biomedical Sciences, including but not limited to Microbiology, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology.
  • A recognised English language qualification is required. 

Desirable criteria:

  • A Master’s degree within a related discipline (eg Microbiology, Cell Biology, Medical Engineering, Heath Technology).
  • Experience of industrial research.

How to apply

Download and complete the Graduate School studentship application form and send it directly to the UWE Bristol Graduate School. Please ensure you include the title of the research project you propose to undertake, and detail why you are interested in undertaking this PhD project and what relevant knowledge, experience and qualifications you would bring to the research. Please see the Graduate School studentship application guidance notes for further information about how to complete the application form.

Please also complete the Equal Opportunities monitoring form and complete the first section of the Graduate School application reference sheet before sending to your nominated referees.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Professor Darren Reynolds at

Closing date

The closing date for applications is Friday 10 May 2019.

Further information

The interview or this opportunity is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 22 May 2019. If you have not heard from us by this date, we thank you for your application, but do not wish to pursue it on this occasion.

The start date of this PhD studentship is Tuesday 1 October 2019.

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