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Dr Joanna Collingwood

1. A microfluidics and systems engineering approach to investigate the role of trace metals in neurodegeneration.

This project will examine interactions between trace metals and proteins (such as the beta amyloid and alpha synuclein peptides) that misfold in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease . This highly multidisciplinary project draws upon materials science, microfluidics design, systems engineering, inorganic biochemistry, and neurobiology.

It is not necessary for applicants to have experience in all of these areas, but proven numeracy, competence in experimental work, and willingness to learn systems modelling skills are all highly desirable. This exciting opportunity is based in the new Trace Metals in Medicine Laboratory in the School of Engineering, and there is scope for collaboration with other departments at Warwick, and with other academic institutions. The experimental component of the PhD includes microfluidics system design and use, initially with isolated peptides and trace metals, and there is scope to extend the work into cell culture using the laboratory's new facilities, also to examine tissues, and to develop systems models of the processes under examination, with a view to then modifying them with chelating drugs.

This project includes a unique range of training opportunities, including scope to work with high field Magnetic Resonance Imaging instrumentation managed by the group, and to take part in synchrotron X-ray analysis of trace metals in proteins, cells, and tissues. Please see: for further information on the work in this research group.

    2. Imaging trace metals in neurodegenerative disorders.

    This project area focuses on imaging and quantifying trace metals in the human brain, with particular application to identifying change in neurodegenerative disorders. In particular, regional disease-dependent change is identified to explore the potential to use these changes as early-stage biomarkers for detection and diagnosis, for example by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

    Several projects are available in this highly-multidisciplinary research area; particular areas of interest at present include iron, copper, and zinc, in the context of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple System Atrophy, and Motor Neuron Disease; however, this list is not exclusive. These projects include a unique range of training opportunities, as we use a variety of analytical techniques, including high resolution MRI, synchrotron X-ray microfocus spectroscopy, and magnetometry to characterize the distribution and form of trace metals in tissues and disease-related protein aggregates. The Trace Metals in Medicine Laboratory in the School of Engineering has a unique combination of facilities for this research, including a 9.4 Tesla Bruker Microimaging probe for microscopy-resolution MRI studies, and in-house resources for protein, cell, and tissue handling and analysis. On Warwick campus there is outstanding access to supporting analytical techniques, ranging from electron microscopy to mass spectroscopy and magnetic measurement techniques. Off-site experimental resources in the local vicinity include two 3T clinical MRI scanners where we have obtained pilot data, and the Diamond Light Source synchrotron in Oxfordshire where we regularly perform X-ray analysis of trace metals in brain tissues. Please see: for further information on the work in this research group.

    Note: Should your application for admission be accepted you should be aware that this does not constitute an offer of financial support. Please refer to the scholarships & funding pages.