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Label-free intraoperative histological imaging:
Two funded PhD studentship opportunities

In the UK a new cancer diagnosis is made every two minutes, with surgery as the most common form of treatment. Intra-operative analysis of frozen sections provides essential feedback to the surgeon, however in up to 22% of cases with negative interoperative margins a formal histopathological report reveals close or positive margins, suggesting sampling error. Immunohistochemical biomarkers are used to further guide chemotherapy decisions but these require a time-consuming laboratory process.

This project focuses on the development of a new histological imaging technique to minimise sampling errors and provide a faster, more accurate intraoperative assessment of the tumour margin. Computational microscopy and image reconstruction strategies will be employed to enable high-information content, label-free histological imaging using the Mesolens, a giant objective lens developed at the University of Strathclyde. Combining the capacity of an LED array for programmable multimodal illumination with physics- and deep learning-based strategies for image reconstruction and analysis, the goal of the project is to enable high-quality diagnostic imaging of multi-mm scale tissue biopsies in under 5 minutes.

To achieve the project aims we are recruiting two PhD students. We anticipate that one student will be primarily focused on hardware development with the other working on the implementation of deep learning algorithms, although we expect that there will be synergy between the students and engagement with all members of the team. The project will be supervised by Professor Gail McConnell (University of Strathclyde), Dr Michael Shaw (National Physical Laboratory), and Dr Catriona Douglas (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde). Both students will be funded for 48 months via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and The National Physical Laboratory.

The successful applicants will receive training in tissue culture and cell biology, optical engineering, biomedical imaging and computational data analysis including deep learning methods, helping to address key skill gaps identified by the UK government in biological science and biochemistry, engineering and computer programming and software development. In addition, the students will conduct part of their studies at the National Physical Laboratory where they will receive training in metrology and measurement science, key skills required by the next generation of researchers to improve reproducibility in biomedical research.


Enquiries should be sent by email to Professor Gail McConnell ( or Dr Michael Shaw (


Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in Physics, Biophysics, Engineering, Computer Science or a similar subject, and should be motivated to explore new research questions and directions as part of a multi-disciplinary team comprising academics, clinicians and the UK’s national metrology institute (NPL). The applicant should have enthusiasm for biomedical imaging with a view to understanding basic disease and informing improved patient treatments and outcomes. Some previous experience in imaging or image formation, microscopy, optical instrumentation, deep learning, or image data processing is desirable, but not required.

Please note that the studentship covers UK fees only. While non-UK applicants can apply, they need to specify in their documentation how they will fund the difference between the home UK and international fee rates.

Applicants should send a covering letter explaining why they would be suited to this PhD project, a full Curriculum Vitae and the names and contact details (including email addresses) of at least two academic referees by email to Professor Gail McConnell ( by Friday 30th January 2023. Please note, your application may be shared with the funders of these PhD Studentships, EPSRC.

Interviews are expected to take place approximately 3 weeks after the closing date for applications. Interview will be held at the University of Strathclyde, or via teleconference if a visit to Strathclyde is not practically feasible. 

Both studentships will have a start date of 1 October 2023 at the very latest.



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