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Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Biological Microfluidics:

2-Year EPSRC Funded Position

Deadline: 4th September


We seek a post-doctoral research associate (PDRA) with expertise in microfluidic device design and fabrication for biological separation to join the School of Physical Sciences at the University of Kent. The position is part of a major cross-disciplinary project led by Dr. Rob Barker at Kent, bringing together expertise from five other institutions.


The project, entitled “Optimising Me Manufacturing Systems” (OMMS) is funded through a prestigious 30-month research grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). OMMS aims to develop a healthcare micro-factory that provides on-the-body manufacturing of therapeutics, continuously and in response to the body’s needs. The initial proof-of-concept focuses on the development of a manufacturing system for T-cell immunotherapies. 


T-cell delivery was chosen specifically because of its demonstrable therapeutic capability. In September 2017, they became the first gene therapy to have been approved by the US FDA. From the clinical data presented thus far it appears these genetically modified T-cells present a cure for some of the most aggressive forms of cancer. However, the current manufacture of T-cells is undertaken in a laboratory and can take up to 21 days. The long, complex and expensive process poses the risk of contamination and further complications due to patient variations. The development, therefore, of a continuous manufacturing capability will address some of these shortcomings and would allow the continuous manufacture and delivery of the therapy to the patient. Moving therapeutic manufacturing away from the current one-size-fits-all approach could enable advances which deliver patient-specific therapies of sufficient precision and quality for personalised medicine.


Within the OMMS project, this 2-year PDRA position, will concentrate on the design, manufacture and testing of microfluidic approaches for the separation of T-cells from whole blood. This falls under two clear goals:

  • Working in close collaboration with researchers in Dr. Qasim Rafiq’s group at UCL, who have expertise in T-cell manufacture, the PDRA will work to physically and chemically characterise the T-cells in order to design possible microfluidic approaches to separate them from whole blood.

  • Working with fluid simulation expertise of Dr. Robert Hewson at Imperial College London, the PDRA will then manufacture and test the prototype microfluidic devices in order to identify potential candidates for further testing.


The deliverables from this project will directly feed in to the work of other project partners who are developing the bio-sensors and electronic components of the manufacturing system.


The key responsibilities of the position will be to:

  • Undertake research at an internationally competitive level.

  • Contribute to the development of the research project, specifically:

    • The design of microfluidic devices for blood separation and shear poration.

    • To seek innovative ways for rapid prototyping of devices, including 3D printing.

    • Physical and chemical characterisation of biological material.

    • Testing of microfluidics platform.

  • Disseminate research results to the project team, as well as through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. 


Lead by Dr. Rob Barker at the University of Kent, there are 5 project partners. These are the Universities of Cambridge, Bath & the University of the West of England, Imperial College London (ICL) and University College London (UCL).


Previous experience in the design, manufacture and testing of microfluidic devices is essential. Previous experience of some physical characterisation techniques, including AFM, Neutron & X-ray Scattering, ATR-IR, QCM-D and mass spectrometry is essential, although expertise exist within the group and the School for training on these techniques where necessary.


A PhD in Engineering, Chemistry, Physics/Bio-physics or related subjects as well as a high degree of organisation and ability to plan complex experimental studies are essential. Given the broad cross-disciplinary nature of the project, it’s expected that the PDRA would spend time embedded at ICL & UCL and working closely with the researchers at these institutes. Therefore, excellent communication skills and the ability to work with other disciplines are also essential. If you would like to discuss the position informally, please send us an email and we'd be excited to discuss the project further with you.


Grade 7: £34,189 - £39,609 per annum.

Significant additional funding is available for travel expenses.


By the End of September 2018.

Candidates in the final stages of completing their PhDs are encouraged to apply, if they can provide a reference attesting that their PhD viva will be held by the end of November 2018, or shortly thereafter.


Apply through the University of Kent website. Here.

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