Current departmental funding opportunities are listed above. We also welcome PhD applications throughout the year from students with independent scholarship funding. We cannot, however, normally accept applicants wishing to support themselves with personal funds; such applications may be considered, on a case by case basis and will require additional Departmental approval.

Please visit the PhD Bioengineering webpage for more on the programme and application process.


Biomechanics of tumour cell extrusion leading to metastasis using organ-on-chip devices

Fully-funded PhD studentship exploring biomechanical regulation of cell extrusion and migration during metastasis using microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices.

Project description:

The Braga Group (National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London) and Au Laboratory (Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London) are seeking a PhD candidate to explore the interaction of tissue biomechanics and cellular signaling in migration during cancer metastasis. The successful candidate will be co-supervised at Imperial College London and will have the unique opportunity to advance the state of the art at the intersection of microdevice development and cancer metastasis.

90% of cancer associated deaths are a result of metastasis. Most adult tumours are comprised of tightly bound epithelial cells organized into continuous sheets. The extrusion of cancer cells from these sheets is an important initial step in metastasis, yet we still do not understand many of the fundamental mechanisms that drive this process. This project will expand upon recent work by the Braga Group demonstrating that confinement of doublets into geometric shapes (2D micropatterned substrates) dramatically influences intercellular boundaries, cortical tension and cell motility. This project will explore how cell-cell and cell-ECM adhesions, intrinsic forces (cortical tension) and extrinsic biomechanical forces (extracellular environment) contribute to the cell extrusion and migration in three dimensions. To accomplish this, the successful candidate will develop state-of-the-art force-responsive microfluidic epithelia-on-a-chip and tumour cell migration-on-chip platforms.

Microfluidic platforms will be developed and fabricated in the Au Laboratory at Imperial College London South Kensington, which has expertise developing microfluidics as tools for investigating cancer. These platforms are designed to mimic the unique microenvironment present in the human body and have precisely tuned mechanical/fluidic environments that make them ideal tools for studying microscale biomechanics.   Molecular biology and exploration of oncogenic signaling will be conducted in the Braga Group at Imperial College London South Kensington, which has expertise in investigating the biological cues that drive cell migration and adhesion.

Upon completion of the PhD, the successful candidate will be uniquely equipped for high-demand careers within academia or industry with desirable skills in a) Bioengineering including organ-on-chip device development, cleanroom microfabrication, computer-assisted design, computational modeling and b) Cancer Cell Biology including cell-line engineering (CRISPR/cas9), quantitative live-cell imaging, genomic and proteomic analyses, drug screening and statistical analysis.

To find out more about our laboratories please visit and

To apply please visit:

Eligibility and funding


This PhD student position is fully funded (tuition + stipend) by Cancer Research UK for UK and EU candidates for 4 years with a stipend of £21,000 per annum. The anticipated start date of this position is October 2020.

Imperial College London is fully committed to the continued success of students from the EU. Candidates who start in 2020 are guaranteed UK-level fees for the entire duration of their course and this position is funded by UK-funds through CRUK. To read more about Imperial’s commitment to EU students, please read: 

Eligible candidates should be independently motivated, have good oral/written communication abilities, work well in teams and have obtained a master’s (merit or distinction) or bachelor’s (2.1 or first class) degree in engineering, life sciences, physical sciences or other relevant field. Laboratory experience and proficiency in microfluidics/MEMS, cancer biology and molecular techniques are highly desired but not required. Training for all relevant skills will be provided.

**Motivated oversea students (non-UK/EU) are encouraged to discuss alternative funding routes with Dr Au and Dr Braga directly.  

Centre for Blast Injury Studies

The Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College is a collaboration between military and civilian clinicians, scientists and engineers. With core funding from the Royal British Legion, CBIS is an Imperial College/Royal British Legion/Ministry of Defence partnership. 
Please check the Centre opportunities page for further details.

College-wide scholarships

PhD applicants to Bioengineering may also be nominated for some of the available College scholarships. Please visit the Imperial College Scholarships page for full details of all PhD scholarships available and application processes.

If applying for funding, you should contact your chosen supervisor well before the deadlines listed above to ensure that they have sufficient time to review your application and - if appropriate - arrange an interview. Candidates who do not meet the relevant deadlines can be considered for the PhD programme but may not be considered for departmental funding. Please consult our research pages for further details.

Forms and functions of Arabidopsis shoot architecture

Project Description

Even a redwood tree soaring 100 meter above ground was once a tiny seedling of only few centimeters tall, and during the growth the tree would have become a billion times heavier. Despite such staggering changes in size and weight, the body of the living organisms needs to remain intact throughout their life. How do they ensure the physical integrity?

The emerging picture is that cells react to the physical distress and adjust the composition and construction of their own body accordingly [1-3]. In plants, their structural tissues – wood – form where more support is needed (e.g. the stem base), and weight increase can enhance wood formation [4]. Interestingly, the same hormone regulates wood formation and the outgrowth of branches, another important architectural feature that affects the structural stability of plant shoots [5]. Because structural stability is such a strong driving force for organismal growth and development, it is likely to restrict their architectural features.

This project aspires to capture how weight affects plant shoot architecture and how this physical feedback to the organismal development restricts the possible forms that the shoots assume. A student is invited to explore why the plants have the architecture they have – the natural and wider ranges of possible forms – using state-of-art synthetic biology technology (e.g. [6, 7]) to modulate the shoot architecture and test their functional performance. Depending on the background and interests of the student, the project may be biology-focused or involve mechanical modelling and/or fluid dynamics-based functional assessment.

Falling shoots (called ‘lodging’ in agriculture) causes extensive yield loss (e.g. 25-50% for oilseed rape in the UK [8]), and it is worsening as storms become wilder in the changing climate. Besides the fundamental importance to understanding why and how biological organisms have the body plan and architecture they have, this project is likely to provide novel insights into how to prevent structural failure of crops.

The group (Biological Form + Function Lab) studies key design features of living organisms and their functional significance. We have a unique investigative framework to integrate cell and developmental biology and evolution and ecology (i.e. eco-evo-devo) with synthetic biology and biomechanics (e.g. [9, 10]). The group is committed to training of next-generation scientists in diverse contexts who can turn their insights into exciting new projects based on holistic consideration of the challenges at stake, and we will develop projects incorporating trainees’ scientific interests and career plans.

We are part of the UK’s leading bioengineering department (, where pioneering research and innovation in synthetic biology, biomechanics, and developmental mechanics takes place. The student will join the vibrant interdisciplinary community of students and researchers, in which engineering methods are applied to understand and innovate with/for living organisms, including the centre for synthetic biology (

If you are interested in applying, please contact Dr Nakayama with your CV (including contact information for 2-3 references) and personal statement explaining why you wish to gain PhD training and what about this project captivates you.

Funding Notes

Enhanced four-year postgraduate studentships starting in October 2020, will once again be awarded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The nominated supervisor will select a candidate who will then compete at interview, with Sainsbury Undergraduate students, for one of up to four Sainsbury PhD Studentships. Interviews will be held in London on 6th March 2020. It would be expected that the studentship holder spend six months during their 3rd or 4th year at another university/institute to gain additional experience. Please note that students cannot apply to their home institution.


1. Hamant et al. Science. 322:1650 (2008)
2. Nakayama et al. Current Biol. 22:1468 (2012)
3. Kierzkowski, Nakayama et al. Science. 335:1096 (2012)
4. Sanchez et al. Trends Plant Sci. 17:113 (2012)
5. Mueller and Leyser. Annals Bot. 107:1203 (2011)
6. Kendall et al. Field Crops Res. 211:106 (2017)
7. Khakhar et al. eLife. 7:e34702 (2018)
8. Andreou and Nakayama. PLoS One. 13:e0189892 (2018)
9. Cummins et al. Nature. 562:414 (2018)
10. Seale et al. bioRxiv. (2018)