Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

23 February 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded 3-year PhD to commence in October 2020. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Science and Health and will be supervised by Dr Marta Roldo, Prof Gordon Blunn and Dr Gianluca Tozzi.

This PhD studentship is one of six PhD studentships funded by the University of Portsmouth in the area of biomaterials and bioengineering.  These studentships  will support the University’s strategic plan engaging with clinicians working in Portsmouth Hospital Trust to solve real-life medical problems. The successful applicants would be part of a cross-faculty research cluster in medical technologies.

This programme of research involves several Schools based in the Faculty of Science and Health and the Faculty of Technology.  The vision of the cluster is to train a cohort of PhD students who contribute to the academic environment, some of whom would be expected to develop academic careers in this expanding area whilst others would be employed in the growing international medical technologies industry. 

Training would be enhanced by extended visits to other institutions involved in similar research and by visits to hospitals to meet with clinicians involved in the research project.

The scholarship covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant of £15,009 (UKRI 2019/20 rate) for three years.  Scholarship recipients will also receive up to £3,000 for research project costs/consumables during the duration of the programme.

The work on this project could involve:

  • interdisciplinary work including chemistry, biology and bioimaging
  • training on state of art facilities at the Zeiss Global Centre 
  • collaboration with scientist at the Diamond Light Source

Percutaneous implants success is often undermined by bacterial infection. When a seal between the implant and the skin is not formed, pathogens can reach the interphase between biomaterial and tissue and form a biofilm that destabilises their interaction with a consequent loosening of the implant. There is therefore the need to better understand how to promote biointegration between skin and the biomaterials employed in percutaneous implants.

This project will aim at understanding the role played by titanium surface morphology in the adhesion of keratinocytes. Titanium discs will be treated by anodization or laser etching to produce titanium oxide coatings with controllable micromorphology that will provide improved mechanical properties, higher biocompatibility and enhanced corrosion resistance.

Human fibroblasts and keratinocytes will be grown on the different surfaces and their morphology, extent and force of adhesion and proliferation will be studied as single culture and co-culture. Bacterial adhesion will also be investigated.

Further work will look at the effect of hydrogel coating on the titanium surface; hydrogels will be loaded with different proteins such as fibronectin and e-cadherin that have been shown to have a major role to play in enhancing biointegration. We expect that this project will provide new knowledge required for the development of percutaneous implants that better integrate with the host tissue.

The student will be trained in techniques such as cell culture, microbiology, immunofluorescence, scanning electron microscopy, confocal microscopy and other physicochemical analytical techniques. Furthermore, he/she will have the opportunity to work with state of the art x-ray microscopy at Diamond Light Source working with our collaborator Dr Maria Harkiolaki who is the leading scientist at beamline B24. The student will be supervised by experts in the field of tissue engineering, biomaterials and biological imaging. 

Entry requirements

You will need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

You will need a degree in subjects such as Biomaterials, Biology, Bioengineering, Chemistry, or other related subjects. Experience in cell culture, molecular biology techniques and microscopy are desirable.

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Marta Roldo at to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. 

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PHBM4851020 when applying.

Apply now