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PhD project: Biomechanics & cancer

Multiscale biomechanics from molecules to cells in cancer

The mechanical properties of cancer cells and their surrounding affects their capability to metastasize. Fundamental physical mechanisms will be studied at different relevant length scales on the single-molecule and single-cell level. For example the molecules responsible for motion and mechanical properties of the cells will be studied in detail as well as the interaction between the cells and the extracellular matrix. Microfluidics will be used to sort cells in relevant subpopulations and for trapping or confining cells for long-term observation. Superresolution and automated microscopy will be used to monitor the cells as they migrate and respond to various physical cues.

Microfluidics device. SEM-Photo: Kevin Keim, EPFL


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 try to elucidate how the shape of bacteria influence their ability to infect using advanced microfluidics, cell biology and microscopy. 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 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.

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 study how mechanical factors influence the spread of cancer. An important tool in the work is the microfluidic sorting of cells with respect to mechanical properties. Furthermore, we will study how the mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) influence relevant cells and, conversely, how cells influence their surrounding ECM. Cell migration will be studied using advanced microscopy on the cellular level down to the molecular level. Animal tests will be conducted to elucidate the metastatic potential of the different cell subpopulations that are identified in the course of the project.

The PhD student will work in an interdisciplinary project with responsibility for the development of simple and user-friendly microfluidic sorting mechanisms for cells based on size, morphology and deformability as well as microfluidic devices for trapping and monitoring of 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, cell biology and oncology.

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, 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)


Jonas Tegenfeldt, Professor at Solid State Physics

Jonas Tegenfeldt's personal page and contact information