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mm-wave imaging for cancer detection. (CDT in Metamaterials, PhD in Physics)

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The University of Exeter’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials, with industry partners QinetiQ, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship.  The studentship can commence in early 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.

Project Description:

Radiation in the mm-wave band is intrinsically safe, non-ionising and non-destructive. These frequencies also correspond to a “sweet spot” in the electromagnetic spectrum, where radiation can pass unimpeded through fatty tissues that normally scatter or absorb infrared and visible radiation, while giving rise to useful contrast in protein rich tissues for cancer imaging. This contrast arises primarily from the differing water content in tissues, allowing one to effectively image the water rich tumour tissue through the normally opaque, surrounding fatty tissue. The problem with standard implementations of RF and mm-wave imaging is depth determination – how does one determine the depth of healthy tissue across the entire surface of a tumour?

In this project we will develop a new strategy to this well-known problem using frequencies in the range 10 to 50 GHz. Combining this with Exeter developed techniques for near field modulation [1-3] and super-resolution imaging [4], we will be able to image water contrast at differing depths within tissues. We will first optimise the technique, tuning the imaging depth of view to match current guidelines for breast cancer margins, before testing our imaging approach by measuring excised breast samples in the operating theatre unit at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, using histopathology and deep Raman measurements for comparison at known locations. Once fully designed and optimised, we believe that this approach could reduce the occurrence of second surgeries, cancer reoccurrence and metastasis.

Applicants must have a working knowledge of optics, and have taken modules in optics and/or electromagnetism during their undergraduate degree. Proficiency in programming using Python, Matlab or Labview would also be helpful. 

[1] R.I.Stantchev et al, Science Adv. 2, 1600190 (2016)

[2] S.M. Hornett et al, Nano Lett. 16, 7019 (2017)

[3] R.I.Stantchev et al, Optica 4,989 (2018)

[4] L.E. Barr et al, Optica 8, 88 (2021) ]

Cohort-based training in the CDT in Metamaterials:

You will be part of the Centre for Metamaterials Research and Innovation and join its doctoral training programme, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2).

Since 2014, XM2 was and is home to more than 100 PhD students (~55 active, ~50 graduates) and their individual research projects, embedded in strong academic groups and supervisor teams.

The PhD students learn together in targeted courses, self-driven activity groups, and events with exposure to industry to gain scientific background knowledge beyond their areas of expertise, and to equip themselves with transferable professional skills such as creative thinking, project management, and leadership.

To date, our graduates went on to careers in academia and industry, and started to act as role models for the next generation of researchers.

We believe in the benefits of a cohort model that fosters knowledge exchange and peer support to prevent isolation.

Contact the student advisory group if you’d like to learn more about the CDT from your potential new peers!

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