Funded (UK/EU/International students)

Project code




School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

Start dates

Closing date

23 February 2020

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

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Technology and will be supervised by Dr Petko Petkov and Dr Marta Roldo.

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 projects.

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:

  • Develop and print complex structures of biocompatible polymers of tailored properties (stiffness and porosity). Study biodegradability rates and design materials.
  • Evaluation of mechanical properties and developing testing techniques to allow better understanding factors affecting cells.
  • Study how material, architectural and mechanical properties of the scaffold guide cells differentiation into the two types of cells desired.

Osteochondral lesions span both bone and cartilage tissues and are characterised by a change in tissue architecture as well as secretion of inflammatory mediators. They are painful, and predispose to osteoarthritis (OA), which is unquestionably one of the most important chronic health issues in humans, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people in the UK only.

The direct costs for OA in the UK, including both surgical and pharmacological interventions, was estimated to be over £934 million whilst, indirect costs associated with the loss of economic production was over £3 billion and over £253 million was spent on community and social services. Due to the absence of vascularisation in cartilage, its regenerative capacity is limited, and treatment is required for repair.

Severe limitations of current treatments, such as micro-fracture and auto-grafts, have inspired research into more effective tissue engineering strategies, involving the implantation of stem cells able to repair the tissue. The implanted stem cells must be able to differentiate both into cartilage and bone cells. The differentiation of the cells can be controlled by changes in the modulus of the implant; however, there are no current scaffold materials that allow this concurrent double differentiation.

Based on preliminary data obtained by a cross-disciplinary team utilizing a 3D bio printer (Cellink) – which is able to co-print multiple materials and cells – the project will develop multi-layered constructs that will be used for osteochondral defects.

This study will lead to a deeper understanding of the relationship between scaffold materials, architecture and cell fate allowing us to design novel scaffolds able to induce the regeneration of physiologically functional tissues at the cartilage/bone interface.

Entry requirements

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 should be qualified to degree level in mechanical engineering, bioengineering or biomaterial related area. Experience in imaging technology or tissue culture is desirable but not necessary however you should be keen to learn new techniques and analytical methods.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Petko Petkov 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 the project code SMDE5050120 when applying.

Apply now