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PhD scholarship: Optimization of engineered scaffolds for improved scaffold integration, tissue growth, repair and functional regeneration

Apply now Job No:512031
Area:Faculty Of Engineering, Architecture & Info Tech
Salary (FTE):UQ Scholarship (RTP Rate)NON-BANDED ($28,092.00 - $28,092.00)
Work type:Full Time - Scholarship
Location: St Lucia

Research Environment

UQ ranks in the top 50 as measured by the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities. The University also ranks 46 in the QS World University Rankings, 42 in the US News Best Global Universities Rankings, 66 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 54 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The award

Supervisors – Professor Justin Cooper-WhiteProfessor Lisbeth Grondahl

Rotator cuff tears (RCTs) are the most prevalent source of musculoskeletal shoulder injuries and one of the leading cases of musculoskeletal injuries throughout the body, second to only lower back pain. Current treatments rely purely on clinical and surgical approaches, which display unrelenting challenges in delivering long-term improvements and restoration of normal tendon function and structure. Primary causes for reinjury originate from improper restoration of the transitional nature of native tissue at the tendon-to-bone interface and poor healing. Current tissue engineering approaches aim to address these limitations by integrating scaffolds, stem cells, bioactive molecules or a combination of these techniques in clinical procedures to deliver long-term outcomes. Although ECM-based patches or grafts to improve healing capacity have already been clinically implemented, they serve to reduce failure rate, and do not completely address the root cause of tissue degeneration. Current regenerative tissue engineering approaches have not yet been able to entirely mimic and restore the structural and functional biomechanical and biochemical complexity of the rotator cuff muscle-to-tendon-to-cartilage-to-bone interface.

Three independent but inter-related PhD projects are available to support a program of research funded under an Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation and Training Centre focussed on Joint Biomechanics (ARC ITTC – JB), a collaboration between UQ, QUT and UNSW, along with multiple industry partners and practicing clinicians. This Centre is focussed on developing the advances required to transform personalised surgical treatment of joints through integrated technologies of computer tools for pre-surgical planning and decision making, computer simulation systems for surgical training and medical device design, development and assessment, and post-surgical assessment tools. These PhD projects will be joining a newly established UQ-node of the Centre, more specifically, under Program 3 - Scaffold simulator: Optimization of engineered scaffolds for improved scaffold integration, tissue growth, repair and functional regeneration.

The three PhD projects under this program will be enrolled across two Schools (School of Chemical Engineering—x2 and School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences—x1) and the students will be co-supervised by academics in both Schools (Professors Justin Cooper-White—Chemical Engineering, and Lisbeth Grondahl—Chemistry).

In each of these PhD projects, candidates will engage in the development and validation of tailored computational models that inform the in-silico design and optimisation of biomaterial and scaffold composition and structure to ensure the programmed provision of requisite cellular through to tissue-level biomechanical and biochemical cues. It is expected that final optimised biomaterials and scaffolds will be assessed for their ability to support the formation of neo-rotator cuff tissue within bespoke bioreactors under imposed mechanical loading, mimicking those seen within the shoulder joint during rehabilitation through to normal physiological loading.

A working knowledge of one or more of the following: polymer synthesis and characterisation, cell biology, tissue physiology and anatomy, biomaterials, cell and tissue engineering, biomechanics, computational modelling, particularly finite element modelling, and imaging; would be of benefit to applicants interested in these projects.

School of Chemical Engineering - 2 opportunities

The PhD projects available within the School of Chemical Engineering will focus on:

Project 1 - The development of novel biomaterials that manipulate mechanotransduction signalling pathways of mesenchymal tissue progenitor cells, either endogenous to tissues in the vicinity of the rotator cuff or exogenously provided during surgery, to drive them to form each of the tissues that comprise the rotator cuff ‘organ’ – bone, cartilage, tendon and muscle, and the transition tissues between them (enrolled in School of Chemical Engineering)

Project 2 - The development of multicomponent, multimodal scaffolds that, by informed biomechanical design and materials selection, are able to support the generation of the transition tissues that make up the rotator cuff. These scaffolds will not only facilitate the growth and differentiation of seeded and endogenously-derived cells through appropriate mechanical and architectural cues, but also provide immediate mechanical support to damaged, remnant rotator cuff tissue in the shoulder upon implantation (enrolled in School of Chemical Engineering).

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences - 1 opportunity

The PhD project available within the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences will focus on:

Project 3 - The development of stimuli-responsive scaffold components that by design enable temporal, controlled release of biochemical signals (e.g. growth factors, small molecules) when and where required by endogenous or seeded cells to promote their differentiation into each of the tissues types of the rotator cuff (enrolled through School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences).

Selection criteria

To be eligible to apply, you must also meet the entry requirements for Higher Degrees by Research at UQ. Applications will be judged on a competitive basis taking into account the applicant’s previous academic record, publication record, honours and awards, and employment history.

Applications are open to Australian Citizens, permanent residents and temporary visa holders currently in Australia.

School of Chemical Engineering - Projects 1 & 2

A working knowledge of polymer synthesis and characterisation, cell biology, tissue physiology and anatomy, biomaterials, cell and tissue engineering, biomechanics, computational modelling, particularly finite element modelling and imaging would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering, or a related discipline and the potential for scholastic success.

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences - Project 3

A working knowledge of polymer synthesis, functionalisation and characterisation, biomaterials, tissue engineering, imaging would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field/s of chemistry, or a related discipline and the potential for scholastic success.

Scholarship

The living allowance stipend rate for this scholarship is AUD$32,788 per annum (indexed annually), which is tax-free for three years with two possible extensions of up to 6 months each in approved circumstances (conditions apply).

Enquiries

For further information, please contact Professor Justin Cooper-White at j.cooperwhite@uq.edu.au +61 7 3365 1291

How to apply

To apply for admission and scholarship, follow this link. There is no separate application for scholarship because you will have the opportunity to request scholarship consideration on the application for admission.

Before submitting an application you should:

When submitting your application, please indicate which project (e.g. Project 1, Project 2 or Project 3) you are applying for. Please note that on your application, under 'UQ school or institute' you will choose either the School of Chemical Engineering or the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. When you apply, please ensure that under the scholarships and collaborative study section you:

  1. Select ‘My higher degree is not collaborative’
  2. Select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'.
  3. Select ‘Other’, then ‘Research Project Scholarship’ and type in ‘SCAFFOLDS’ in the 'Name of scholarship' field.

See an example of what you have to do

Learn more about applying for a higher degree by research at UQ

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