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PhD project: Morphology & virulence

How does the shape of bacteria influence their capability to infect?
It is known that the shape of some bacteria influence their ability to infect the host and to evade the immune system. Using novel microfluidics technology, bacteria will be fractionated into subpopulations characterized by their shape and studied phenotypically using advanced microscopy and lab on a chip technologies as they interact with host cells and with immune cells.

Microfluidic device sorting red and green particles. Photo: Bao Dang Ho

Introduction

The research at the division of Solid State Physics focuses around different aspects of semiconductor physics, ranging from materials science to quantum physics, to different applications. The division also leads NanoLund, the major interdisciplinary research environment within nanoscience and nanotechnology at Lund University. Lund Nano Lab is a central key facility for fabrication of material and devices on the nanoscale. The division is also heavily involved in the undergraduate education, especially within the “Engineering Nanoscience” program.

During the past ten years we have significantly expanded our microfluidics capabilities at the division. Specifically, we have developed label-free sorting schemes based on novel parameters such as shape, deformability and electrical properties with precision that exceeds what is currently achievable using conventional technologies. Our goal is to develop novel devices and methods for sample preparation, diagnosis and biophysics for applications in biomedicine and biology.

The lab is well equipped with several setups for microfludics and fluorescence microscopy, cell culture labs, soft lithography lab, facilities for 3D printing. In addition, we have facilities for STED microscopy, capable of superresolution fluorescence imaging with resolution down to 30nm and with fluorescence lifetime and polarization capabilities.

Currently our focus is on sorting of bioparticles of different types and different length scales. Within the project evFOUNDRY, we purify extracellular vesicles, bioparticles on the nanoscale with great importance for how cancer spreads and how the immune system works. In a project financed by the Swedish Research Council we study how mechanical properties of tissue, cells and molecules influences the spread of cancer. We use a wide spectrum of technologies within for example microfluidics, advanced microscopy and cell biology. In a project financed by The Swedish-Norwegian Foundation for Equine Research, we develop tools for easy diagnosis of parasite disease among horses using advanced microfluidic sorting mechanisms and simple mobile-phone based microscopy. Finally, in a project financed by the Swedish Research Council, we try to elucidate how the shape of bacteria influence their ability to infect using advanced microfluidics, cell biology and microscopy.

Information about the Division of Solid State Physics

Information about NanoLund

Jonas Tegenfeldt's personal page and contact information

Work duties

The aim of the project is to elucidate the role of the shape of bacteria in terms of their capability to infect and to evade the immune system. It is known that certain bacteria can form structures such as pairs of bacteria or longer chains. However, it has been difficult to study these structures in detail due to a lack of sorting schemes. We have recently developed a device capable of sorting bacteria into different fractions based on their shape. In this way can study each
morphological subpopulation in detail in terms of how it develops over time, how it interacts with host cells, how it interacts with the immune system of the host.

The PhD student will work in an interdisciplinary project with responsibility for the development of simple and user-friendly microfluidic sorting mechanisms for bacterial cells based on morphology as well as microfluidic devices for trapping and monitoring of bacteria as they grow and interact with other bacteria or with host and immune cells. The work is primarily of experimental nature with focus on microfabrication, design of sorting devices, and application of the results on biomedically and clinically relevant questions. However, it may also include modeling using fluidics simulation tools and advanced superresolution microscopy using for example STED microscopy. Furthermore, the PhD student will be responsible for maintaining the model systems used, i.e. relevant cell lines. The PhD student will work in close collaboration with collaborators in fluidics and bacteriology.

The main duties of doctoral students are to devote themselves to their research studies which includes participating in research projects and third cycle courses. The work duties can also include teaching and other departmental duties (no more than 20%).

We have a large network of international cooperation partners and the PhD studies and an internship in a company or at a research institution abroad can also be part of the expectations.               

The doctoral student is expected to work independently, as well as in close collaboration with researchers carrying out other tasks within the project.

Desirable skills

We expect that your undergraduate studies include courses in physics, statistics, biophysics and microfluidics. The research is to a large extent interdisciplinary, and a broad competence profile and experience from relevant areas of physics, biology and micro/nanoscience is of high value. The laboratory work skills are essential, specifically experience in clean-room work, microfluidics and culturing of cells and micro-organisms, as well as experience in working with optical microscopy. Important personal qualities are, beside creativity and a curious mind, the ability to work both independently and in a group and experience in the scientific interaction with researchers from other disciplines and in other countries.

Enrolment: Physics

Subject curriculum for physics at the Faculty of Engineering TEFAFF00 (pdf, 265kB, new window)

Supervisor

Jonas Tegenfeldt, Professor at Solid State Physics

Jonas Tegenfeldt's personal page and contact information

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