Design and implement smart and functional nano–bio interfaces between nanoscale materials and mammalian cells

This is a project at the interface of multiple disciplines, in close interaction with a diverse team of multidisciplinary researchers of material scientists, bioengineers and molecular biologists. The combined team will deliver new paradigms for nano–bio interface design and function.

Vertically aligned silicon nanowire (VA-SiNW) arrays allow access to the internal structures of a cell without inducing toxicity, and can transport genes or other “bioactives molecules” (DNAs, genes, editing tools, proteins, and small molecules) into it (Scheme). The VA-SiNW array format is an untapped means of using nanobiotechnology to increase the efficiency of cellular processes and to manipulate cell function. Given the staggering complexity and variety of cellular processes, the aim of the research at the NW–cell interface is to understand how subtly varying the physical geometry of VA-SiNW – their density, diameter, height, shape, and more complex and hierarchical architectural designs – can permit specific and controlled changes to key cell functions, behaviours, and fate conversions. Success would enable the design and fabrication of smart nano–bio interfaces with closely controlled geometry and architecture, to orchestrate specific cellular processes such as cellular adhesion, morphology, migration, proliferation, and differentiation with unprecedented efficiency and predictability. Addressing these primary challenges for bioactive transport will take us closer to the ultimate goal of mapping out and understanding all levels of the NW–cell interface; in particular, it will have ramifications for several biological applications: iPSC reprogramming, CAR-T production, and genome editing.

There are three PhD opportunities available within this topic, each with a fully-paid scholarship for three years, with the possibility of applying for a 6-month extension.

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