Schmidt-MB-PhD-005- Engineering cellular microrobots to improve ovarian cancer care

Closing date: 03/02/2023

MB-PhD Project: Engineering cellular microrobots to improve ovarian cancer care

Lead Supervisor: Dr Christine Schmidt
Email: christine.schmidt@manchester.ac.uk
Co-Supervisors:
Prof Richard Edmondson, Prof Daniel Brison

Initial Intercalation Deadline: 12 December 2022
Interviews: Tuesday 7 March 2023
Final Deadline for Permission to Intercalate (UoM Programmes): 26 May 2023

MB-PhD Start Date: September 2023
Project Keywords: Cellular microrobots, ovarian cancer, serous tubal intraepithelial
carcinoma (STIC) lesions
Research Opportunity: Intercalated PhD, leading to the award of PhD and MBChB

Hear from Dr Christine Schmidt

Hear from Dr Christine Schmidt talk about her MB-PhD project (3.52 mins)

Christine Schmidt

Applications for this project are now open. Candidates must contact prospective supervisor/s ahead of submitting an application. See the MB-PhD programme page for details of how to apply. 

 

Project Outline

Ovarian cancer develops deep inside the body, making it difficult to access for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. As a result, most ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage, leading to low survival rates. Moreover, besides surgery, most treatments rely on untargeted chemotherapies, which cause severe side effects, including fatigue, nausea, vomiting and numbness. Surprisingly, early precursors of the most common and aggressive ovarian cancer arise not from the ovary itself, but as serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma (STIC) lesions inside the fallopian tube before spreading to the ovaries and beyond. Fallopian tubes are challenging to access and thus, attempts to detect and eliminate ovarian cancers at a pre-invasive, still curable stage are lacking.

New approaches are urgently required. To address this challenge we will integrate innovative, cutting-edge cell biology engineering tools that will pioneer an unprecedented sperm-based micromotor system, with the aim of detecting and eradicating STIC lesions inside the oviducts of living mice. Sperm are perfectly suited for this purpose: they naturally travel up the fallopian tube, and we have recently demonstrated that they can be equipped with drug-carrying and delivery capabilities to target cancer cells. As such, the technology has potential to overcome the issue of late detection that is continuing to limit improvements in ovarian cancer care, with the vision that engineered sperm could in the longer term lead to a change in practice, in which routine sperm treatments could significantly reduce ovarian cancer occurrence in women at high risk.

 

About the Schmidt Lab

Me as a PhD lead supervisor
I am passionate about science and aim to confer this to my students. By helping them develop into capable, independent researchers my goal is to perform transformative science with the potential to benefit cancer patients in the future, while inspiring the next generation of scientists to work on the biggest challenges.

Lab environment and culture
I cherish having a mix of researchers at different career stages and from diverse backgrounds in the group, working on independent but complementary projects – as individuals or as a team – using related techniques to create a synergistic and dynamic research environment.

Research and lab meetings
After an initial training period, PhD students are expected to increasingly drive their research project forward independently, while supported by the group. They are expected to become experts in their area and have the freedom of contributing their own ideas to the project towards writing up high-quality, peer-reviewed manuscripts. I expect students to meet regularly with me in person or on ZOOM and attend, and present during, regularly scheduled lab meetings.

Independence and career development
Students can pursue diverse career paths that are all valid. By discussing their career plans with me, I can fulfil my role of pointing them in the right direction to identify and obtain the most appropriate experiences and to take advantage of relevant opportunities.

Mentorship
I do my best to pass on my experience, knowledge and connections to guide the professional development of my students.

Work-life balance
Mental health is key to enjoying life and achieving the best possible outcomes in science. A personal life outside the lab combined with effective time management are crucial for work productivity and creativity, and I work with my students towards achieving that goal.

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