PhD Research Studentships

Nanotechnology Strategies for Cardiovascular Investigations

Supervisor: Thomas ISKRATSCH
Apply by:31 May 2023
Start in:September (Semester 1)


Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of mortality worldwide, yet there is still a lack of effective treatments. Recent research increasingly emphasised that changes to mechanical sensing and signalling critically influences the disease onset and progression1,2,3. Especially, there are changes to the organisation of the extracellular matrix (ECM), surrounding the cardiovascular cells that lead to changes, both in stiffness and arrangement of the cell binding sites. Together, these factors adversely affect the cells function and disease progression. To identify new therapeutic approaches, novel tools are needed that enable the study the different factors (stiffness, geometry, topology) in combination.

Building on previous collaborative work4,5,6, this project between the Thomas Iskratsch and Matteo Palma groups at Queen Mary University of London and Heidelberg Nano AG will harness bioengineering strategies for the fabrication of novel biomimetic nanoarrays (here: bionanoarrays) to study the combined effect of stiffness, geometry and topology on cell behaviour. The bionanoarrays will be then employed for the study of vascular smooth muscle cell mechanosensing in arterial disease7.

The successful candidate will have experience in either bioengineering, chemistry and/or cardiovascular biology. Benefits include training in state-of-the-art techniques from nanofabrication to super-resolution microscopy and image data analysis. Candidates will further benefit from a close collaboration with an industry partner, leading to future career opportunities both in the academic and industry sector.

Group: The Iskratsch group focuses on understanding how mechanical forces regulate cell behaviour especially in the cardiovascular system and the development of cardiovascular disease. We develop novel technologies to study the interaction of cells with their environment at different scales from single molecule resolution to tissue-level, in order to investigate fundamental biological signalling mechanisms and identify novel drug targets, or diagnostic biomarkers.

The project will project will be co-supervised by Prof Matteo Palma at the School for Physical and Chemical Sciences.

The project will include a close collaboration and visit(s) to Heidelberg Instruments Nano AG.

Our research groups prioritize a healthy research culture, collaboration, and flexible work hours as needed. We will provide a personalised mentorship, including working towards different career choices following the PhD. Previous group members continued to (independent) careers in academia and industry. We are also happy to discuss potential applications informally (see contact details below).


1. Iskratsch et al., Nat Rev Cell Mol Biol (2013).

2. Iskratsch et al., Dev Cell (2014).

3. Pandey et al., Dev Cell (2018).

4. Hawkes et al., Faraday Discuss (2019).

5. Huang, et al., ACS Nano (2019).

6. Hawkes et al., Phil Trans R Soc B (2022).

7. P. Swiatlowska et al., Science Advances (2022).


Funded by: Queen Mary Research
UK students only.


  • The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
  • For 2024-5, the UKRI and Queen Mary stipend rate is £21,237;
  • If English is not your first language, you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6.0 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).
  • Candidates are expected to start in September (Semester 1).


For informal enquiries about this opportunity, please contact Thomas ISKRATSCH.


Start an application for this studentship and for entry onto the PhD Medical Engineering full-time programme (Semester 1 / September start):

Apply Now »

Please be sure to quote the reference "SEMS-PHD-520" to associate your application with this studentship opportunity.

Related website:
Keywords:Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Nanotechnology, Materials Science - Other, Medical Physics