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FACULTY OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

PhD Opportunities


ABOUT PhDS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WOLVERHAMPTON At the University of Wolverhampton, the aim of our research programmes is to give each student the most solid base possible to launch further research and career development. We endeavour to provide you with relevant and appropriate research skills development and methods training, as well as support your development of research related skills including IT, presentation and career planning. You can undertake a research degree in prescribed fields of study and disciplines in which the University has appropriate and relevant research expertise and resources to support high-quality research degree programmes. To receive your degree, you must satisfy a team of specially-appointed examiners that both your thesis and oral defence have achieved the learning outcomes appropriate to the award sought.


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ENTRY REQUIREMENTS Applicants for a research degree will normally hold: • a first or upper second class honours degree, or • a Master’s degree, or • evidence of prior practice or learning that is accepted by the Dean of Research Applicants whose entry award was not delivered in English, or non-native speakers of English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in English to the level of an overall IELTS score of 7.0

FACULTY OVERVIEW As a university and as a faculty, we are pivotally positioned in the rebuilding of the technological and scientific capacity vital for the regeneration of engineering and related expertise in our country. We support the regeneration of the Black Country, and to meet national and global demand, we are committed to growing our base in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This is of paramount importance for the rebuilding of the economy. The Black Country is the home of much of the manufacturing base and it needs a strong vocational university to support it. We have built on our rich and long history of technology, teaching and local skills provision to become a significant

player in the high-tech reskilling that is of national importance. Leading companies such as Morgan, Jaguar Land Rover, Moog and UTC Aerospace Systems work closely with us because we provide the skilled individuals needed by their industry, both now, and for the future. SAMPLE PHD RESEARCH PROJECTS The rest of this booklet contains a list of sample PhD research projects that are available now for applicants in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. These are sample projects for guidance, for applicants who wish to research in these particular areas. We are happy to receive new proposals, specific to the research interests of applicants.

HOW TO APPLY If you wish to be considered for PhD research in any of these areas, please indicate this as part of your initial application to us. You can make your application online. Visit: wlv.ac.uk/study-here/how-toapply/3---making-your-application/ research-applications/. Please complete an Expression of Interest, and note which project you wish to engage. Alternatively the Expression of Interest can also be used for any proposed area for MPhil or PhD research.


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SAMPLE AVAILABLE PROJECTS FACULTY OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING: Semantically enhanced translation memories

p6

Phytoremediation of soils as a clean-up mechanism for pollution events

p6

Corpus-Based Translation Studies (CBTS)

p7

PhD in Scientometrics

p7

Joint Nanomedicine Programme

p8

Joint Pharmaceutical Materials Programme

p9

Joint Pharmaceutical Analysis Programme

p10

The creation of species-rich hay meadows using green hay strewing

p10

Process Modelling of Assembly/Disassembly of Heterogeneous Electronic System Environments

p11

Virtual paste materials laboratory for Electronics Manufacturing and Assembly

p12

Monte Carlo study of the percolation and cluster structure of amorphous conductive insulating granular composites

p12

Bio-extraction of rare earth element

p13

Molecular medicine in Cardiovascular Disease

p13

Block co-polymer mimics of naturally occurring hydrocoloids

p14

Monitoring coalescence in emulsions during homogenisation

p14

Novel non-meat/high protein foods for with low fat, salt and sugar contents

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Zeolite PhD project

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Plant species colonisation in relation to Brownfield land contamination and soil properties

p16

Olfactory communication and reproduction in olive baboons

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Olfactory communication, reproduction and health in humans

p17

Optimization of DNA analysis from source material containing trace amounts of highly degraded DNA

p18

Reconstruction of body height and sex from dimensions of isolated body parts

p18

Non-invasive detection of endangered species in aquatic and terrestrial environments p19 Evolution, ecology and conservation of reptiles and amphibians

p19

Development of new metabolic therapies for glioblastoma in adults

p20

Development of arginine depletion therapy in paediatric malignant brain tumours

p21


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Molecular mechanisms implicated in resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy in glioblastoma tumors

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Investigating cilia-related Wnt signalling pathways in paediatric brain tumours

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Photoactive supramolecular polymers with photo-switchable hydrogen-bonding motifs: towards ocular drug delivery and self-healing materials

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Recyclable macromolecular catalysts – towards sustainability and enzyme-like selectivity

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New functional monomers from renewable chemical feedstocks for ‘green’ polymer synthesis

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Biointerfacing polymeric materials with tailored physicochemical and thermomechanical properties via ring opening metathesis polymerization

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Novel polymeric antimicrobial architectures for treatment of Ancanthamoeba Keratitis through precision polymer synthesis

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An investigation of algal cell wall biology

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An immunocytochemical and physiochemical analysis of seedlings of Acacia senegal p27 and gum exudates (gum Arabic) secreted by mature plants of this species. Ionisation and Fragmentation Studies by Electron Impact of Biomass Molecules

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Electron Momentum Spectroscopy from Biomass-Derived Molecules

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Investigating the diversity issues in the UK construction industry

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Knowledge capture using Building Information Modelling to reduce cost of poor quality: an empirical study

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Leadership for health and safety implementation in the UK construction Small and Medium Enterprises

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Delivering Smart Cities: Exploring the opportunities and challenges for the UK business

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Exploring infrastructure asset management issues and challenges

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Translation of Disulfiram, an anti-alcoholism drug, into malignant mesothelioma treatment

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Using nano-technology to reposition disulfiram, an antialcoholism drug, for advanced breast cancer treatment

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Hydrophobin mediated air filled emulsions

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CROSS-FACULTY PROJECTS: FACULTIES OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, AND EDUCATION, HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Gendered interests and career choices in Science and Engineering

p35


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THE DETAIL:

SEMANTICALLY ENHANCED TRANSLATION MEMORIES Recent research carried out by the Research Group in Computational Linguistics has shown that paraphrasing can improve the retrieval of segments from translation memories and speed up the translation process. We invite PhD proposals on how to use other types semantic information (e.g. named entities, word sense disambiguation, semantic role labelling, terminologies, etc.) can improve the performance of translation memories and other translation technologies. Possible supervisors: (in alphabetical order): Prof Ruslan Mitkov, Dr Constantin Orasan This project will be hosted by the Research Group in Computational Linguistics (http://rgcl.wlv.ac.uk).

PHYTOREMEDIATION OF SOILS AS A CLEAN-UP MECHANISM FOR POLLUTION EVENTS The use of plants as an effective way of cleaning up pollution has been a possible solution for a number of years now. Plants phytoremediate using a number of different mechanisms and a wide range of different species can do this, but not all are equally effective. The study will investigate the potential use of native species which are found locally to a pollution incident to remediate soils within the vicinity. This technique is beneficial in a number of ways particularly for being a cheaper and sustainable alternative to more traditional clean-up mechanisms. It is also readily available. Often the use of non-native species for this purpose leads to other problems not least of which is the potential invasion of the site, and local area, by imported plant species. The study could consider the use of native species for a range of different pollution problems. Possible supervisor: Lynn Besenyei


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CORPUS-BASED TRANSLATION STUDIES (CBTS) Corpora are collections of texts stored electronically for linguistic analysis. Recently there has been interest in corpora of original texts and their translations, and quantitative methods of comparing them. Due to the growing interest in the use of corpus material and methodologies in translation research, there is a need for the adaption of the various statistical tests used in corpus linguistics in general for the purpose of translation research. The development of quantitative analytical methods in CBTS will help in the construction and testing of theoretical models for translations, and enable the expansion of the field of translation studies as a whole. In order for this to happen, building of suitable parallel or comparable corpora is needed. PhD on this topic can focus on either the quantitative methods or on corpus building, as well as a combination of both. Possible supervisors: (in alphabetical order): Prof Gloria Corpas, Prof Ruslan Mitkov, Dr Michael Oakes, Dr Constantin Orasan This project will be hosted by the Research Group in Computational Linguistics (http://rgcl.wlv.ac.uk).

PHD IN SCIENTOMETRICS Scientometrics is the research field involving the development and assessment of quantitative indicators to help evaluate aspects of research communication or impact. Scientometric indicators are often derived from citation counts, patents or social media attention metrics. This PhD will develop or evaluate a new scientometric indicator or apply a range of scientometric indicators to evaluate a research area or type of research output. It can also take a statistical approach and evaluate indicators from a more theoretical statistical perspective. The project will be hosted by the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group http://cybermetrics.wlv.ac.uk/ Examples of similar research http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~cm1993/mycv.html Possible supervisors: Prof Mike Thelwall, Dr Kayvan Kousha, Dr Paul Wilson


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JOINT NANOMEDICINE PROGRAMME The new joint nanomedicine programme was established from a multi-million Euros adventure consortium (MyJoint) (NEST)- FP6-NEST-2006-INTEFRATING Grant agreement number: 28861 and two FP7 platform projects (Hyanji Scaffold) PIRSES-GA-2008-230791 and (Heptag Exchange) FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IRSES-295218 Since the exploitation of anesthesia in 1846, cancer treatments took approaches to the removal of tumours through surgeries, by killing malignant residues by chemotherapies, and a control of the growth of tumours via the exploitation of targeted drug deliveries, and a detection of cancer markers at the earliest stage, along with the prevention of tumour development, once diagnosed. The understanding of cancer therapies shifted from tissue toward cell and molecular levels. Drug delivery systems are miniaturised, ever further down from micro- to nano- scales, and taking advantage of the emerging nanotechnologies for medicine. These nano-carriers are designed molecularly for long blood circulation, are size controlled to evade macrophage removal to renal filtration, and surface modified with specific ligand for tumour cell targeting, in order to achieve precision in drug delivery and a maximisation of drugs in efficacy. The exemplar PhD projects are multidisciplinary in nature, falling into the areas of targeted drug delivery, pharmaceutical materials, and nanotechnology. The potential PhD projects can be categorised as: • Particulate delivery systems by exploiting functionalised polymers such as amphiphilic polymers for micelle formation • Nanoparticles such as magnetic iron oxide for cancer diagnosis (MRI imaging) and treatment (hyperthermia treatment) • Bioconjugation of tumour targeting ligands for active targeting consideration (imaging and treatment) Entry requirements: minimum entry qualification – an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, pharmaceutical science and pharmacy, biomedical engineering, or cell biology. English language requirements need to be satisfied by EU/Overseas applicants. Possible supervisors: Professor James Z Tang supported with academic members and institutions in the Joint Programme under the umbrella of global training scheme


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JOINT PHARMACEUTICAL MATERIALS PROGRAMME The existing pharmaceutical materials programme was established from a multi-million research programme of UK Centre for Tissue Engineering supported by BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC and two FP7 platform projects of Hyanji Scaffold and Heptag Exchange from 2002 to 2015. Biomaterials can be categorised as degradable and non-degradable materials in biological and biomedical applications. Biomimetics can be prepared from biomaterials and be in 0D, 1D, 2D, and 3D spatial layouts through micro-assembly to macro-integration. The process can be guided and self-oriented using internal cohesive force and external stimuli. Exemplar cases are FDA approved liposomal Doxil, the nanodrug (1995) and the titanium 3D printed prosthetic jaw in surgery (2015). The Joint Pharmaceutical Materials Programme has three distinctive directions, namely Nanopharmaceutics, Solid Dispersion and Implants & Devices. The potential PhD projects can be categorised as: • Particulate delivery systems by exploiting functionalised polymers such as amphiphilic polymers for micelle formation • Formulation of potent and insoluble drugs for sustained release such as growth factor release for tissue regeneration • Exploitation of 3D Printing for multiple drugs co-release and delayed release Entry requirement: minimum entry qualification – an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, pharmaceutical science and pharmacy, biomedical engineering, or cell biology. English language requirements need to be satisfied by EU/Overseas applicants. Possible supervisors: Professor James Z Tang supported with academic members and institutions in the Joint Programme under the umbrella of global training scheme


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JOINT PHARMACEUTICAL ANALYSIS PROGRAMME The existing pharmaceutical analysis programme was established from two FP7 platform projects of Hyanji Scaffold and Heptag Exchange providing capacity and strength from the existing research innovative network for student and staff exchange since 2009 High-resolution analytical techniques used for pharmaceutical excipients include spectroscopy, calorimetry, X-Ray Diffraction, Moisture sorption/desorption isotherms and chromatography. This program aims for quality control of the samples prepared from formulation or natural resources with interest in developing online process design, monitoring and control based on the entrance qualifications of the candidates. The program has distinctive areas of separation and extraction, pharmaceutical analysis, pharmaceutical materials, nanotechnology, and their combination. The potential PhD projects can be categorised as: • Quality control of herbal medicine in consideration of nanomaterials and nanotechnology for pharmaceutical separation and extraction • Quality control of pharmaceutical excipients for optimisation of formulation and its process Entry requirement: minimum entry qualification – an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, pharmaceutical science and pharmacy, biomedical engineering, or cell biology. English language requirements need to be satisfied by EU/Overseas applicants. Possible supervisors: Professor James Z Tang supported with academic members and institutions in the Joint Programme under the umbrella of global training scheme

THE CREATION OF SPECIES-RICH HAY MEADOWS USING GREEN HAY STREWING Background: Habitat loss resulting from agricultural improvement has resulted in the loss of most of the UK’s species-rich hay meadows. The use of green hay strewing has been shown to be a relatively effective technique in the creation of new meadows and the restoration of existing species-poor grassland. Aims: This study will investigate ways of improving the use of this method to increase the range of plant species that can be introduced. Specifically it will look to study which plant species do less well when using this method of creation by attempting to match the timing of seed set and vegetation cutting date for both early and late flowering species. It will also examine the use of growing orchid


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species using in vitro techniques as a way of introducing these species into newly created meadows. Benefits: An understanding of the factors that affect plant species germination and growth will help to facilitate the restoration of biodiversity in both rural and urban areas by utilising this sustainable and traditional method. Possible supervisors: Besenyei, Lynn (Dr) / Tim Baldwin

PROCESS MODELLING OF ASSEMBLY/DISASSEMBLY OF HETEROGENEOUS ELECTRONIC SYSTEM ENVIRONMENTS The widespread use of electronic systems driven by the relentless development in computing and communications is posing considerable challenges to the environmentally friendly disposal of end-of–life equipment. Equally, the rapid reduction and shortening of the life cycle of electronic products has contributed significantly to this challenge, making this an urgent and critical global problem. Although the European Community introduced the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive in 2012 to help improve material recovery, recycling, and disposal of electrical and electronic products after end-of-life operation, the technological challenges have continued to increase. The aim of this PhD project is to investigate and develop technologies for cost-effective assembly and disassembly of electronic systems for recovery of materials and components/modules for re-use and for re-pair work for extending the operating life-time and therefore reducing waste generation. Previous studies have shown that laser and microwave technologies have the potential to be exploited for disassembly of electronic systems. Laser and microwave based processes will be investigated through process modelling for cost-effective implementation in recycling, repair and material recovery from electronic products. The unique property of localised heating by laser and microwave can enable rapid and selective removal of electronic components/modules from a PCB board. As the energy is largely concentrated at the effective location, the processes are energy efficient. Unlike other methods, the new processes do not generate additional waste and therefore they are environmentally friendly approaches. Equally, laser and microwave processes will also be investigated for cost-effective assembly of electronic components and modules in electronic manufacturing providing similar advantages. The process modelling work from this study will contribute to the development of new materials, processes and design methodologies that will enable ease in rework and recycling of printed circuit boards and heterogeneous systems used in the manufacture and assembly of modern electronic products. For more details please contact Professor Ndy Ekere (Ndyekere@wlv.ac.uk). Possible supervisor: Prof Ndy Ekere


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VIRTUAL PASTE MATERIALS LABORATORY FOR ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURING AND ASSEMBLY The main objective of the study is the development of a “Virtual Laboratory” for Paste Materials used in Microsystems Assembly. In this project, we will be bringing together the scientific knowledge and process models we have developed from our previous projects, and by applying state of the art CFD techniques, we will work to develop a new virtual prototyping laboratory for formulating and testing new paste materials. The work will concentrate initially on paste materials used in the printing and fusion of solder particles in solder pastes form microsystems interconnections, and will later investigate the applicability of the techniques to other materials such as underfills and conducting adhesives. The virtual laboratory for the prototyping of paste materials will be used to support materials and equipment suppliers to the electronics manufacturing industry by predicting the functionality and performance of new materials, paste formulations and sub-processes used in electronic products assembly. The benefits to both paste formulators and electronic product manufacturers will include reduction in time-to-market, better understanding and definition of the material processing window, and the ability to optimise new paste formulations and processing. For more details please contact Professor Ndy Ekere (Ndyekere@wlv.ac.uk).

MONTE CARLO STUDY OF THE PERCOLATION AND CLUSTER STRUCTURE OF AMORPHOUS CONDUCTIVE INSULATING GRANULAR COMPOSITES The market for conducting – insulating composite materials in the materials processing industry (and in particular the electronics sector) is very large and consists of material and equipment suppliers and end users. These materials are used in a variety of applications such as the bonding of electronic components (flip-chip, CSP, and BGA) and printed circuit boards (PCB’s) used across a range of dimensions where the solder interconnects can range from 50 microns to 5mm in size. The theoretical modelling of these materials is an import and fundamental aspect of materials science. By modelling their structural and functional properties quantitatively, we can provide better understanding for improving the performance of existing composites and for designing and predicting novel composite materials/devices with improved performance. The work proposed in this PhD project will develop and validate computational process tools that can be used to identify radically improved material properties and process conditions for amorphous conductive – insulating granular composite materials such as adhesives. Such tools will also provide new knowledge on the key properties and process conditions that result in interconnection defects and hence poor product performance. For more details please contact Professor Ndy Ekere (Ndyekere@wlv.ac.uk). Possible supervisor: Prof Ndy Ekere, FSE


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BIO-EXTRACTION OF RARE EARTH ELEMENT Rare earth elements are central to a modern technological life. Currently, most of the world’s production is centred in China and distribution is globally controlled. Significant deposits have been identified in Canada. Unfortunately, these metals are present in silica sand, which make economic extraction exceedingly difficult and costly. One possible route is through bio-leaching. This is where the growth of microorganisms promotes the removal and oxidation of metal species from rocks and ceramics for use by the organism. Thus far the rare earth sands have resisted conventional leaching processes. It has been suggested that extremophile bacteria, those that live at close to 100oC or in high acidity or salt concentrations, might be able to extract the metals we want. This project will look at the bioleaching of rare earth elements using thermotollerant bacteria. It will also look at possible sources of waste heat that might be used to keep the bacteria at the temperatures they require. This demanding project will be in collaboration with The University of McGill, Canada. Possible supervisor: Prof. P.W. Cox

MOLECULAR MEDICINE IN CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the developing world, with a rate even higher than cancer. Excessive or insufficient angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels) represents a key aspect in the progression of cardiovascular pathologies. We are characterising the molecular players that control the formation of blood vessels during the progression of cardiovascular disease. The identification of the key molecules involved in pathological angiogenesis will allow us to design new therapeutic approaches to modulate the formation of pathological blood vessels in patients suffering from cardiovascular disease. We welcome applications to work in this area. A PhD will involve the characterization of molecular targets implicated in blood vessel formation through examination of the consequences of suppression of specific genes or overproduction of certain proteins in the ability of endothelial cells to migrate, proliferate and form capillaries. Examples of work published by previous PhD students from our group can be found at Baggott et al., Plasma membrane calcium ATPase isoform 4 inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor-mediated angiogenesis through interaction with calcineurin. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2014 Oct; 34(10):2310-20 and Holton et al Endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity is inhibited by the plasma membrane calcium ATPase in human endothelial cells. Cardiovasc Res. 2010 Aug 1;87(3):440-8. Possible supervisor: Angel Armesilla


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BLOCK CO-POLYMER MIMICS OF NATURALLY OCCURRING HYDROCOLOIDS Naturally occurring hydrocolloids are present in many consumer products and supply a great deal of the functionality to these materials. This project will look at replicating these desirable characteristics, e.g. rheology and interfacial activity, but by using organic chemistry in place of the bio-derived molecules currently available. If successful we will then be able to manipulate the physical characteristics of these molecules without the need for “biology”. The project will be a collaborative approach between plant biologists, chemist and chemical engineers. Possible supervisors: Prof. P.W. Cox, Dr D. Keddie & Dr T. Baldwin

MONITORING COALESCENCE IN EMULSIONS DURING HOMOGENISATION Many industrial and consumer products are based upon emulsions. These structures, whilst requiring massive amounts of energy to make, provide food and chemical products with a fascinating range of physical properties. This project will develop a new method to monitor the coalescence of emulsion droplet as they leave the high shear production environments used in the process industries. We will look at this process via novel means of identifying coalesced droplets. Once the method has been established we will then examine a number of flow regimes to develop population models for droplets and their fate during processing. Such data will allow for optimisation of production and save large amounts of energy and expensive raw materials whilst still delivering the production functionality required. Possible supervisor: Prof. P.W. Cox

NOVEL NON-MEAT/HIGH PROTEIN FOODS FOR WITH LOW FAT, SALT AND SUGAR CONTENTS The objective of the project is to create a range of hemp-protein based ‘meat free’ products. The emphasis is on developing tasty and inherently attractive substitute products for traditional meat-based options but with much lower saturated fats, sugar and Salt levels and high dietary fibre. The use of meat like textures and appearance is to be engineered as many consumers, whilst acknowledging ‘meat-


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free’ products are ‘healthier,’ have not made the decision to switch away from animal protein. The work will look at fibre structuring during the flow of the material through an extruder or an extruder cooker. Prof Cox has worked on similar projects and has published work regarding flow alignment of food fibres by flow However, the current project presents a very different feedstock of materials and will require considerable effort in terms of experimentation and data modelling to optimise an in flow technique. Miri, T., Barigou, M., Cox, P.W., Fryer, P.J. (2005). Flow induced fibre alignment in mycoprotein paste. Food Research International 38, 1151-1160. Miri, T., Cox, P.W. & Fryer, P.J.(2001) In-situ visualisation of hyphal structure and arrangement in mycoprotein pastes. Biotechnology Letters, 25, 295-300. Possible supervisor: Prof. P.W. Cox

ZEOLITE PHD PROJECT Zeolites are porous aluminosilicates with uniform molecular-size pores containing mobile cations. They act as “molecular sieves” so that traditionally their main use in industry has been, and still is, as shape selective catalysts. Since 1993, all new petrol cars in the UK have been fitted with a catalyst which is traditionally a mixture of precious metals and oxides mounted on a ceramic honeycomb. The introduction of lean burn engines, with lower temperatures and strongly oxidising conditions present problems for the exhaust catalysts, and much research has been directed to the use of metal cation exchanged zeolites bonded to a ceramic honeycomb. However the mobile cation in the pores tends to be easily oxidised and deactivated. Efforts are directed to cation incorporation into the zeolite framework, however current synthetic strategies result in catalysts with low cation loadings and resulting poor performance. This project addresses both a novel synthetic and combinatorial high throughput route to the preparation and subsequent characterisation of catalysts with greatly improved performance resulting in the reduction of exhaust gases to meet new legislative requirements. We believe that many aspects of this work to be internationally competitive and some leading. It is also of great concern that there is little, if any, work on NOx reduction in the UK and that British industry will be left behind by European and USA competitors who are very active in these areas with dedicated research centers, e.g. CNRS in France. This project will look at synthetic methods to load Nobel and transition metals into zeolite frameworks. Possible supervisor: Craig Williams


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PLANT SPECIES COLONISATION IN RELATION TO BROWNFIELD LAND CONTAMINATION AND SOIL PROPERTIES The topic will investigate the colonisation and distribution of plant species on land contaminated by various kinds of pollutants in and around the urban conurbation of the West Midlands as a consequence of its history of heavy industry. It will consider the effects of chemical residues in the soils on the colonisation potential of these brownfield sites by plants. This topic links land contamination and the study of urban ecology and falls within the remit of the new Brownfield Regeneration Innovation Centre (BRIC) within the University at its new Springfield campus within the city. The aims of this study will be to investigate a range of brownfield sites which have industrial contamination and relate plant species colonisation to soil properties and type of contamination. The study will assess the ability of different species to grow in different levels of soil toxicity and relate these to the plant species’ ecological characteristics. The student will study a range of sites around the Black Country conurbation in order to understand how different types of toxicity within brownfield soils affect different plant species and their ability to grow in these areas. An understanding of the factors that affect plant species colonisation will help in facilitating the natural remediation of these sites. Possible supervisor: Lynn Besenyei

OLFACTORY COMMUNICATION AND REPRODUCTION IN OLIVE BABOONS It is becoming increasingly clear that olfaction plays an important role in primate sexual behaviour. Female primates signal impending ovulation with a suite of sexual signals. Studies of these signals have focused on visual, and to a lesser extent, acoustic signals, neglecting olfactory signals, despite the fact that male primates clearly pay attention to female olfactory cues. This is particularly the case for Old World monkeys and apes (catarrhines), which have traditionally been considered as “microsmatic” (i.e. olfactory sense reduced). My EU-funded PrimOlf project, integrates behavioural ecology, digital imaging, cytology, endocrinology and semiochemistry to address questions relating to reproductive strategies, sexual selection and signalling in olive baboons (Papio anubis). The project will contribute to our understanding of olfactory communication in primates that – like humans – have traditionally been considered as “microsmatic”, and the role of multiple signals in mate choice.


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We warmly welcome applications that seek to look at this area – particularly focussing on behavioural assays of male response to female odours in order to test whether male baboons receive this information. Research will combine field work at the CNRS Primate Centre (France) and lab work at the University City Campus in Wolverhampton, benefitting from collaboration with staff working on cytology, endocrinology and chemistry, as well as adequate facilities and resources. We offer support for the dissemination of your research, via conferences and mass media, and help with writing papers to publish in peerreviewed international journals. Possible supervisor: Stefano Vaglio

OLFACTORY COMMUNICATION, REPRODUCTION AND HEALTH IN HUMANS Primate odour signals reflect the biological state of the signaller, including its diet, reproductive status and health. The study of chemical signals in non-human primates – particularly in excellent model species for reproductive studies (e.g. olive baboon) – is important also for the development of models with potential practical consequences for humans. The results of my PrimOlf project may lead to further research work to resolve questions of interest for humans (e.g. whether and how olfaction is related to women’s ovulation) to be addressed using a similar methodological approach as well as to develop and evaluate commercially viable products (e.g.diagnostic/ prognostic electronic nose technology) with practical consequences for health in humans. In addition, the collaborative research work deriving from EU-funded DiseaseRecognition project has clear potential for further development on humans (e.g. menopausal transition, disease recognition via olfaction). We warmly welcome applications that seek to look at this area – particularly focussing on menopausal transition or disease recognition via olfaction. Research will combine sampling at the New Cross Hospital and lab work at the University City Campus in Wolverhampton, benefitting from collaboration with staff working on cytology, endocrinology and chemistry, as well as adequate facilities and resources. We offer support for the dissemination of your research, via conferences and mass media, and help with writing papers to publish in peer-reviewed international journals. Possible supervisor: Stefano Vaglio


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OPTIMIZATION OF DNA ANALYSIS FROM SOURCE MATERIAL CONTAINING TRACE AMOUNTS OF HIGHLY DEGRADED DNA This project focuses on DNA analysis of difficult sample material, which contains merely traces of beyond that highly degraded DNA, such as historical human remains or remains that were exposed to severe conditions like e.g. cremation or an unfavorable burial environment. Material such as this can be encountered in both, the Forensic and the Ancient DNA (Molecular Anthroplogy and Archaeology) context. The goal here is to optimize methodology for extraction and analysis of DNA from this kind of difficult source material, based on published methodology, but also to develop new approaches and protocols, based on thorough knowledge of methodological principles and current technology. Possible supervisor: WM Schmerer

RECONSTRUCTION OF BODY HEIGHT AND SEX FROM DIMENSIONS OF ISOLATED BODY PARTS Multiple fatality scenarios, such as mass fatality incidents frequently lead to dismemberment of the bodies of the victims involved, resulting in the recovery of isolated body parts. In such cases, identification of the deceased will require determination of a bio-profile for each of the elements recovered, critical characteristics of which are sex and body height (stature) of the individual. While methodology for the assessment of body height and sex from elements such as hands and feet is well documented, the usefulness of other body parts (e.g. arms, legs, torso) are merely hinted at in the literature. The goal of this project is the development of methodology for reconstruction of body height and sex based on a variety of body parts for which so far have not been utilized for the purpose. This includes thorough investigation of the viability of candidate variables and development of new methodology based on anthropometric / biometric data collection and analysis. Possible supervisor: WM Schmerer


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NON-INVASIVE DETECTION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES IN AQUATIC AND TERRESTRIAL ENVIRONMENTS In wildlife investigations of endangered species – whether in wildlife forensics or in a conservation context - the determination or confirmation of species identity is essential and usually accomplished by DNA analysis. In the conservation context it is imperative that such testing is not resulting in further disturbance of the already endangered species, thus requiring the least invasive mode of sampling possible. The most non-invasive testing or confirmation of the presence of a species in a given environment can be accomplished by detection of the DNA they leave behind, be it by release of DNA directly into a soil or aquatic environment, or by leaving behind DNA-containing material such as hair or scat. In either case, DNA recovered will be trace amounts of degraded DNA and consequently requires highly sensitive methodology for detection and analysis, respectively an analysis approach which is optimized for the detection of highly degraded DNA. The goal here is to develop such detection assays and optimize them for application on different detection platforms including real time PCR, genetic analyzers, but also simpler low-tech detection systems like gel electrophoresis of unlabeled PCR products, which would allow for their utilization independent of budget and technology available. Possible supervisor: WM Schmerer This proposal is supported by the following pilot studies (PI: WM Schmerer): Aquatic species: KTP Environmental DNA Analysis (Halford CM 2015-2017 University of Wolverhampton & Crestwood Environmental LTD) Terrestrial species: MSc projects focusing on pine marten (Maina CW 2016) and wild cat (Clack DE 2017)

EVOLUTION, ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION OF REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS Reptiles and amphibians are among the poorest studied groups of vertebrates, yet are at the greatest threat of extinction. Though often considered relatively disparate research areas it is important to study evolutionary and ecological processes to understand how conservation measures can be implemented and measured to best help the animals and environment in question. The impacts that climate and environmental change will have on reptiles and amphibians is high but very little research has focussed on this area and the devastation that it is likely to cause to global diversity and distributions, especially in the tropics. continued overleaf


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We warmly welcome applications that seek to work on tropical reptiles (snakes and lizards) and/or amphibians (frogs/toads, salamanders/newts and caecilians) to address one or more of the following research areas: to identify past demographic events in order to understand current diversity and distributions and the events that have led to patterns that we see today; how different species/populations have evolved to occupy different ecological niches; how climate and environmental change impact on reptile and amphibian diversity and distribution; or phylogenetics and systematics of reptiles and amphibians. The applicants should employ a multi-disciplinary approach to their research and seek to make a real contribution to the understanding of their chosen topic by employing cutting edge techniques. The applicant should have a willingness to engage with different audiences and media outlets to disseminate their results as widely as possible, including publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at international conferences. Possible supervisor: Simon Maddock

DEVELOPMENT OF NEW METABOLIC THERAPIES FOR GLIOBLASTOMA IN ADULTS Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive type of tumour of the central nervous system and multi-modality treatment including surgical resection, adjuvant chemotherapy and targeted or whole brain radiation has not improved median survival beyond 14 months. The Brain Tumour Research Group at the University of Wolverhampton has a large research programme centred around identifying and validating novel therapeutic targets for clinical intervention. Metabolic processes are universally disregulated in glioblastoma and using high-throughput array screening, we have identified genetic aberrations in a number of metabolic enzymes involved in energy production which can be used as druggable targets. We are seeking PhD applications to join our experienced team of cell and molecular biologists to investigate the efficacy of novel metabolic therapies to selectively kill glioblastoma tumour cells and to understand the molecular mechanisms of their action. These include repurposed drugs and agents in early phase clinical trials for other cancers as well as novel experimental agents which we are specifically designing against target genes, all of which will be assess in patient-derived preclinical tumour models. Possible supervisors: Prof Tracy Warr (DoS), Dr Mark Morris and Prof Weiguang Wang


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DEVELOPMENT OF ARGININE DEPLETION THERAPY IN PAEDIATRIC MALIGNANT BRAIN TUMOURS The outcome for children with malignant glioma is poor and patients commonly develop serious late effects associated with endocrine dysfunction and neurocognitive delay as a result of conventional radio- and chemotherapy. We have completed an extensive genetic analysis of these tumours and have identified a number of novel potential molecular therapeutic targets, for which further studies are ongoing. One of the targets that has great promise to be quickly translated into the clinic is the arginine synthesis pathway. Tumour cells with deficient key enzymes involved in the de-novo synthesis of arginine depend on external sources of arginine for survival and are sensitive to cell death induced by arginine deprivation. We have demonstrated that these genes are down-regulated in up to 50% of the most common types of childhood glioma. We are seeking PhD applications to join our experienced team of cell and molecular biologists to investigate the efficacy of arginine-degrading drugs in preventing tumour cell growth. The molecular mechanisms of tumour cell death will also be investigated in preclinical in vitro models of paediatric glioma. Possible supervisors: Prof Tracy Warr (DoS) and Dr Mark Morris

MOLECULAR MECHANISMS IMPLICATED IN RESISTANCE TO ANTI-ANGIOGENIC THERAPY IN GLIOBLASTOMA TUMORS Brain tumour growth is dependent on angiogenesis, the biological process by which new capillaries are formed from pre-existing blood vessels, and there is great interest in the identification of angiogenesis inhibitors and the characterisation of the molecular mechanisms that regulate tumour angiogenesis. However, although current anti-VEGF therapies lead to an initial reduction in the size and vascularisation of glioblastoma, the most malignant type of brain tumour, this progression-free period is transient and inevitably followed by a second phase where the tumour shows resistance to continued anti-angiogenic therapy. There is evidence that increased expression and release of bFGF (or other pro-angiogenic factors) by glioblastoma cell constitutes a pivotal mechanism to reactivate endothelial cell angiogenesis during anti-VEGF tumour evasion. This PhD project will investigate strategies to overcome tumour revascularization by simultaneous blockage of several anti-angiogenic factors and investigate the molecular mechanisms implicated enhanced cellular invasiveness shown by glioblastoma during anti-VEGF treatment. Possible supervisors: Dr Angel Armesilla (DoS) and Prof Tracy Warr


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INVESTIGATING CILIA-RELATED WNT SIGNALLING PATHWAYS IN PAEDIATRIC BRAIN TUMOURS Ciliopathies are a group of diseases that result from a dysfunctional or absent cilium. Cilia are evolutionarily-conserved, microtubule-based apical cellular protrusions that have been shown to form in almost all cell types. They are categorised as motile or immotile (primary) cilia, depending on whether their function is associated with movement or not. Cilia impact many signalling pathways, one of which is Wnt signalling and the brain is an organ abundant in cilia; motile cilia exist on the ependymal lining of the ventricular walls and primary cilia are present on most neuronal cell types ranging from progenitor cells to differentiated neurons and astrocytes. Brain tumours are the most common type of solid cancer in children. The outcome for many children with these tumours is poor and patients commonly develop serious late effects associated with endocrine dysfunction and neurocognitive delay as a result of conventional radio- and chemotherapy. Previously, we have used high-throughput expression array analysis to demonstrate that the Wnt signalling pathway inhibitor Chibby is silenced in a significant proportion of paediatric ependymoma, the 3rd most common type of paediatric brain tumour. The proposed PhD project will investigate more widely the role of Wnt signalling abnormalities in paediatric brain tumours in order to better understand the role of cilia-related signalling and to potentially develop new targeted therapies for these patients. Possible supervisors: Dr Paraskevi Goggolidou (DoS) and Prof Tracy Warr

PHOTOACTIVE SUPRAMOLECULAR POLYMERS WITH PHOTO-SWITCHABLE HYDROGEN-BONDING MOTIFS: TOWARDS OCULAR DRUG DELIVERY AND SELF-HEALING MATERIALS Hydrogen bonding is critical for self-organisation within biological systems, playing pivotal roles in the three- dimensional assembly of protein structures and complementary nucleoside base pairs. The utility of hydrogen bonding interactions is not solely limited to nature however, playing an important role in the materials properties of many polymers of industrial relevance including polyamides, polyureas and polyurethanes. Photo-actuation represents an attractive stimulus for reorganization of hydrogenbonding within supramolecular systems. A light-driven “switch� requires no addition (or removal) of reagents and can offer exquisite spatiotemporal resolution providing a means for rapid modulation; an obvious advantage over thermal or chemical modes of switching.


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This project will focus upon the design and synthesis of functional polymers systems where supramolecular hydrogen-bonding interactions may be tailored via photo-modulation. Investigations of the bulk and solution phase of these polymer systems will be undertaken with a view to determining their suitability in a range of potential applications where a light-triggered activation is advantageous, including ocular drug delivery or self-healing materials. Applicants should have a recognized Honours or Masters degree with a 2.1 or equivalent in Chemistry, Engineering or Materials (or a related field). The successful candidate will be trained in a range of advanced synthetic techniques used in the preparation of functional small molecules and precision polymers. Laboratory work and characterization will be undertaken within the University of Wolverhampton’s new Science Centre, the Rosalind Franklin building, which houses a broad range of state-of-the-art research facilities suitable for undertaking this synthetic project. Further details for candidates can be obtained via direct email from Dr Daniel Keddie (d.keddie@wlv.ac.uk).

RECYCLABLE MACROMOLECULAR CATALYSTS – TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY AND ENZYME-LIKE SELECTIVITY The macromolecular nature of functional polymer catalysts deliver three distinct advantages over small molecule analogues: it may (1) bestow additional factors that can improve selectivity such as functional group co-operativity and steric strain; (2) provide differing polarity to the bulk solvent phase which may enhance reaction rate; and (3) facilitate catalyst recovery allowing for reuse. Inspired by the intrinsic function of nature’s enzymes, we seek to develop recyclable, solution soluble, polymer-based organocatalysts that promote key organic transformations relevant for the synthesis of biologically active compounds, such as stereoselective desymmetrisation. The project will focus on the use of RAFT polymerization as it is compatible with a broad range of functional groups typically used in asymmetric organocatalysis (i.e. ureas, thioureas, alcohols, phosphines, N-heterocyclic carbene precursors). Substrate specificity will be probed through competitive reaction processes. Fine tuning the periodicity of catalytic functionality along the polymer backbone and tailoring of the hydrophobic-hydrophilic balance of the system are expected to enhance catalyst activity and selectivity.

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Applicants should have a recognized Honours or Masters degree with a 2.1 or equivalent in Chemistry, Engineering or Materials (or a related field). The successful candidate will be trained in a range of advanced synthetic techniques used in the preparation of functional small molecules and precision polymers. Laboratory work and characterization will be undertaken within the University of Wolverhampton’s new Science Centre, the Rosalind Franklin building, which houses a broad range of state-of-the-art research facilities suitable for undertaking this synthetic project. Further details for candidates can be obtained via direct email from Dr Daniel Keddie (d.keddie@wlv.ac.uk) or Dr Rebecca Butler (rebecca.butler@wlv.ac.uk) .

NEW FUNCTIONAL MONOMERS FROM RENEWABLE CHEMICAL FEEDSTOCKS FOR ‘GREEN’ POLYMER SYNTHESIS With the continued rise in production of commodity and high performance polymer materials there is an urgent need to develop new routes to renewable monomer feedstocks to ease demand on the ever diminishing supply of petrochemicals. In this context we are interested in the development of new classes of monomers from sustainable sources such as terpenoids, carbohydrates, furanics etc. from which functional polymers may be prepared. Synthetic protocols will focus on the use of atom-economic reactions, such as [2+4] and [3+4] pericyclic cycloadditions, for the preparation of the novel monomers and precision polymer synthesis methods , such as RAFT and ROMP for their polymerization. Chemical functionality and tailored thermomechanical properties will be accessed through rational design of monomeric components. Applicants should have a recognized Honours or Masters degree with a 2.1 or equivalent in Chemistry, Engineering or Materials (or a related field). The successful candidate will be trained in a range of advanced synthetic techniques used in the preparation of functional small molecules and precision polymers. Laboratory work and characterization will be undertaken within the University of Wolverhampton’s new Science Centre, the Rosalind Franklin building, which houses a broad range of state-of-the-art research facilities suitable for undertaking this synthetic project. Further details can be obtained via direct email to Dr Daniel Keddie (d.keddie@wlv.ac.uk).


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BIOINTERFACING POLYMERIC MATERIALS WITH TAILORED PHYSICOCHEMICAL AND THERMOMECHANICAL PROPERTIES VIA RING OPENING METATHESIS POLYMERIZATION The molecular microstructure of polymeric materials (i.e. polymer sequence and tacticity) is intimately linked to their physicochemical and thermomechanical properties, thus dictating their performance in specific applications. Within the context of polymeric biomaterials, control over these critical structural aspects, when coupled with the incorporation of the specific chemical functionality, will lead to improvements in the interfacing of these materials with biological systems. Homochirality and sequence distribution play crucial roles in dictating the shape, structure and ultimate properties of proteins and as such alterations in polymeric stereochemical microstructure, in addition to elaboration of architecture and topology, will greatly affect polymer-protein interactions. Within this context, we are particularly interested in the development of new ROMPbased synthetic protocols for the precision synthesis of polymers with tailored stereochemical microstructure with a view to biomedical applications. Importantly, functional groups will be introduced enantioselectively into monomers via asymmetric synthesis techniques. This will provide a route to polymers with nanoscale control over the presentation of chemical functionality within three-dimensional space. Extensive characterisation of model systems will provide insight into structureproperty relationships with respect to polymer microstructure and demonstrate the robustness of the synthetic protocols. Upon incorporation of the requisite chemistry, precisely synthesised polymers will be investigated as non-fouling surface coatings, for the selective binding of proteins for tissue integration, as polymeric antimicrobials or as drug delivery scaffolds. Applicants should have a recognized Honours or Masters degree with a 2.1 or equivalent in Chemistry, Engineering or Materials (or a related field). The successful candidate will be trained in a range of advanced synthetic techniques used in the preparation of functional small molecules and precision polymers. Laboratory work and characterization will be undertaken within the University of Wolverhampton’s new Science Centre, the Rosalind Franklin building, which houses a broad range of state-of-the-art research facilities suitable for undertaking this synthetic project. Further details can be obtained via direct email to Dr Daniel Keddie (d.keddie@wlv.ac.uk) or Dr Rebecca Butler (rebecca.butler@wlv.ac.uk)


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NOVEL POLYMERIC ANTIMICROBIAL ARCHITECTURES FOR TREATMENT OF ANCANTHAMOEBA KERATITIS THROUGH PRECISION POLYMER SYNTHESIS With the prevalence of drug-resistant infection on the rise there is a real and urgent need to develop new antimicrobial agents. One disease which we are particularly interested in developing a licensed treatment for is Acanthmoeba Keratitis (AK). AK is a blinding infection in the eye caused by the organism Acanthmoeba. The current (unlicensed) gold standard treatment of this condition is use of the polyhexamethylenbiguanide (PHMB), a commercial broad spectrum polymeric antimicrobial often used as a pool disinfectant. In many cases however the patients do not respond well to this therapy, the eventual result being surgical removal of the eye following irreversible destruction of corneal tissue. Clearly there is a need for the development of improved therapies for the treatment of AK. In this project the candidate will undertake the synthesis of a family of polymers bearing a range of functionalities known to possess activity against AK (e.g. triazoles, biguanides, diamidines, aminoamidines) and subsequently screen their antimicrobial activity against Acanthamoeba. Precision polymer synthesis techniques will be used to prepare polymers with a range of macromolecular architectures with a view to understanding the relationship between structure and activity. Applicants should have a recognized Honours or Masters degree with a 2.1 or equivalent in Chemistry, Engineering or Materials (or a related field). The successful candidate will be trained in a range of advanced synthetic techniques used in the preparation of functional small molecules and precision polymers and develop skills in microbiology. Laboratory work and characterization will be undertaken within the University of Wolverhampton’s new Science Centre, the Rosalind Franklin building, which houses a broad range of state-of-the-art research facilities suitable for undertaking this multidisciplinary project. Further details can be obtained via direct email to Dr Daniel Keddie (d.keddie@wlv.ac.uk) or Dr Wayne Heaselgrave (w.heaselgrave@wlv.ac.uk)


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AN INVESTIGATION OF ALGAL CELL WALL BIOLOGY Over the past fifty or so years, a great deal has been learnt with regards to the biosynthesis, structure and function of the cell wall in higher plants and a limited number of algal species e.g. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. However, only a limited amount of research into the evolutionary aspects of plant cell wall development/ structure and the similarities/differences between algal, lower and higher plant cell walls has been carried out. Aims: To compare and contrast the structure, molecular composition and function of cell walls present in thecate and athecate species of dinoflagellates them with those of other algae and lower and higher plant species using a variety of cell biological, biochemical and molecular biological methodologies. Benefits: An improved understanding of the molecular structure and composition of algal cell walls is directly relevant to the use of such organisms as biofuels. Possible supervisor: Dr Tim Baldwin

AN IMMUNOCYTOCHEMICAL AND PHYSIOCHEMICAL ANALYSIS OF SEEDLINGS OF ACACIA SENEGAL AND GUM EXUDATES (GUM ARABIC) SECRETED BY MATURE PLANTS OF THIS SPECIES. Background: Acacia senegal is an important agronomic species of legume, native to the Sahelian region of Africa, which includes the tropical, semi-arid regions of north eastern Nigeria. When wounded, mature trees of this species (and of A. seyal) secrete a valuable plant gum exudate (termed gum Arabic) to seal the damaged region of the plant. This gum is comprised of a variety of macromolecules (non-cellulosic polysaccharides, glycoproteins and proteoglycans) commonly associated with the plant cell wall. This exudate has been harvested on a commercial basis for thousands of years, and is currently used throughout the globe in a wide variety of industries e.g. food, beverage, pharmaceutical, construction and explosive. Apart from its use for the production of gum Arabic, this species is also used to replenish soil fertility and too rehabilitate land. As a nitrogen-fixing species, it offers a distinct advantage for improving nutrient deficient sites and enhancing nutrient availability in low-input production systems. However, little work has been conducted on A. senegal stress response(s) to temperature and drought.

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Aims and benefits: The chemical, biochemical and biophysical/physicochemical properties of gum Arabic have been intensively studied for over sixty years. However, relatively little is known regarding the biosynthesis of the gum (gummosis), or of the structure and molecular composition of the plant cell wall (components of which constitute the gum) in this species. The main aim of the proposed project therefore, would be to investigate (via immunocytochemistry), the molecular structure and composition of the plant cell wall in seedlings of this species, in conjunction with chemical and biochemical analyses of gum samples (harvested from the seedlings’ parent plants). The results from the proposed project would thereby provide a preliminary understanding of how the molecular composition of the gum relates to that of the plant cell wall of the species from which it is harvested. This project will run on from, and will complement previous PhD research (October 2012 – January 2016) that focused on the molecular structure and composition of gum Arabic, in relation to its’ emulsification properties,performed by Ibrahim Babale Gashua under Dr Baldwin and Professor Peter William’s (Glyndwr University) co-supervision. In addition, this project will also include a preliminary study of the response of A. senegal seedlings to temperature and water stress under controlled conditions, this component of the project will be co-supervised by Dr Habib Khan (University of Wolverhampton).

IONISATION AND FRAGMENTATION STUDIES BY ELECTRON IMPACT OF BIOMASS MOLECULES Addressing the energy crisis, a high priority for humanity, has been driven by depleting fossil fuel reserves and their impact on the atmosphere. Lignocellulosic material, commonly called biomass, has been increasingly investigated as a renewable source of energy and carbon containing compounds. Approximately 90% of plant materials dry mass is due to cellulose stored within the cell walls. It is this cellulose that can be hydolysed to sugars and other organic compounds which are subsequently converted to fuel or fine chemicals. Overcoming the natural physicochemical, structural and compositional factors contributing to the recalcitrance of biomass requires a pretreatment step. New technologies are being developed to breakdown lignocellulose and expose the cellulose using less energy with greater yields. One suggested approach is to use atmospheric plasmas. The viability and optimization of plasma pre-treatments can be assessed through chemical modelling or simulation, with models requiring all of the possible outcomes of interactions between the electrons within the plasma and the structure of biomass. This project will provide experimental ionisation cross sections with a long term aim to address the shortfall of experimental data vital to plasma simulations. Possible supervisor: Kate Nixon


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ELECTRON MOMENTUM SPECTROSCOPY FROM BIOMASS-DERIVED MOLECULES Industrial scale economic viability of second generation bio-fuels, specifically cellulosic ethanol, depends on two factors: overcoming the natural recalcitrance of lignocellulose and optimising the co-production of ‘value-added’ biomass derived molecules. A detailed understanding of the chemical structure, properties and reaction dynamics of both lignoicellulose and biomass derived molecules, is therefore important for the realization of energy and cost effective production of next-generation biofuels. Such understanding is most likely to come from modelling or simulation, which requires accurate quantum chemical structures of the molecules. Sophisticated quantum chemical models of the properties and behaviour of molecules are based upon the accurate calculation of the wavefunction. Electron momentum spectroscopy (EMS) measures the closest observable to the electronic wavefunction, and as such provides the most stringent test for benchmarking modern quantum chemistry calculations. This project will provide experimental EMS measurements of molecules relevant to biomass to explore the viability of innovative technologies and novel techniques so as to produce ethanol from biomass effectively and efficiently. Possible supervisor: Kate Nixon

INVESTIGATING THE DIVERSITY ISSUES IN THE UK CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY Project description: A study carried out previously to assess the barriers, challenges, facilitators and drivers for women in construction; particularly focusing on ethnic minority women. From this study arose specific areas for further research. A key area for further discussion was that of differing opinions and perceptions between ethnicities, specifically Black/Black British and Asian/Asian British women. Another key point was an apparent partner pressure which some women had experienced due to their role. However, it was found that there was not any obvious research to suggest that this was a current issue in construction; thus showing a gap in the research potentially creating an avenue for further investigation. The aim of this research is to raise an awareness of an evolving industry, from a male dominated sector to a diverse and fair industry. It is also necessary to introduce the start of a revolutionary change to the views of the Built Environment as a whole and show families, communities, cultures and businesses that there is nothing wrong with a woman working in a male dominated environment. continued overleaf


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The researcher would need to adopt a qualitative approach and participants would be a broad range of women from all ethnicities and construction backgrounds. This would need to be conducted across a larger selection of companies over a longer duration of time; in order to widen the pool of respondents and provide a more extensive insight into their views and experiences. We expect innovative and creative outputs as part of this research. Dissemination of the research findings will be through: awareness raising events; peer reviewed conferences and international journal papers would be part of the work. Opportunity is provided to improve publication skills and software skills such as Refworks and SPSS. Possible supervisor: Dr Subashini Suresh

KNOWLEDGE CAPTURE USING BUILDING INFORMATION MODELLING TO REDUCE COST OF POOR QUALITY: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY Project description: Poor skills, design changes, errors and omissions contribute to the internal failure cost element of the Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) while the resultant effect of client dissatisfaction contributes to the external failure cost. COPQ is prevalent regardless of project type and has been found to be over 10% of total project cost in certain cases. While the need to reduce COPQ is definite, it is uncertain what impact knowledge capture has in its reduction. The main characteristics of Building Information Modelling (BIM) include illustrating 3D CAD-based presentations and keeping information in a digital format, and facilitation of easy updating and transfer of information in the 3D BIM environment. Using the BIM approach, project managers and engineers can gain knowledge related to 3D BIM and obtain feedback provided by jobsite engineers for future reference. The aim of the research therefore is to investigate the impact of KM in reducing COPQ on construction projects using Building information modelling. The approach adopted will start with a literature review mapping the roadmap of project cycle with BIM and knowledge capture activities. A mixed method approach will be adopted for the research with an exploratory sequential research design utilising both qualitative and quantitative inquiries to address the research aim. Semi-structured interviews and questionnaire survey would be selected as the method for qualitative and quantitative data collection respectively. The results can be used for the development of a visual based knowledge capture management platform by utilizing the BIM approach and web technology. Possible supervisors: Dr Subashini Suresh and Dr Suresh Renukappa


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LEADERSHIP FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY IMPLEMENTATION IN THE UK CONSTRUCTION SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES Project description: In a globalised world the need for leadership in the construction industry has been greater due to the fact that health and safety has become an important business tool to reduce accidents to save lives and minimise injuries. The employment of migrant workers has emerged as an increasingly significant topic in recent years and is now one of the UK’s most contested public policy issues. The volume and movement of migrant workers has substantially increased and new trends in the industrial and occupational patterns of these migrant workers have developed. Whilst this has provided considerable benefits for the UK economy, this inflow has undoubtedly presented significant challenges for employers across many industries and sectors. Given its fragmented structure and low barriers to entry, the construction industry forms an interesting sector within which to explore labour migration. Ongoing growth within the sector and a paucity of skilled and un-skilled labour render it a relatively easy sector for migrant workers to gain employment. Much of the recent growth in migrant workers has come from Central and Eastern Europe as well as from non-EU countries. The discussion and decisions on BREXIT will play a role on the migration and the skill shortage in the construction industry. This PhD will investigate the role of leadership and workers involvement for health and safety to reduce risk in small and medium enterprises. The methodology would be Soft System Methodology approach. The output would be a creative toolkit. Possible supervisor: Dr Subashini Suresh

DELIVERING SMART CITIES: EXPLORING THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR THE UK BUSINESS Project description: The rapid urbanisation of our planet now under way is among the most seismic changes the world has ever seen. The McKinsey Global Institute report of 2013 estimated that between now and 2025, the world’s urban population will grow by 65 million people a year. As a result, many challenges upsurge as progressively more people are concentrated in the limited urban spaces, with outdated infrastructure, causing rapid increases in both resource consumption and emissions. Cities are also a motive force in generating and maintaining global economic growth, accounting for 80% of global GDP. However, they also consume about 75% of global primary energy and account for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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Meeting the needs of changing demographic and efficient use of natural resources will be challenging for public sector decision-makers. City planners and managers need to find innovative, radical and surprising solutions to the problem presented by growing urbanisation. The challenge before urban decision-makers is to provide essential city infrastructure in ways that are both financially and environmentally sustainable, without compromising the quality of life of citizens. Hence, attaining the anticipated sustainable transformation of cities cannot be achieved unless we shift into a ‘smart way.’ The UK Government Report BIS, 2013 estimated that the global smart cities industry would be worth over USD 400 billion by 2020, with the UK expected to gain a 10% share. Therefore, the UK Government established a ‘Smart Cities Forum’ and funded a range of related initiatives. The aim of this research is to explore the driver, challenges, initiatives and benefits of smart cities development in the UK. The research would consider a Mixed Methods approach which would involve qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. The output would inform policy makers. Possible supervisors: Dr Suresh Renukappa, Dr Subashini Suresh and Professor Mike Fullen

EXPLORING INFRASTRUCTURE ASSET MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND CHALLENGES Project description: Infrastructure forms an essential part of our daily lives and plays an important role in pushing forward economic growth, as it is the organisational backbone of the economy. Asset management is a framework for optimising and implementing decisions on creation, operation, maintenance, inspection, renewal, enhancement and disposal of physical assets in order to deliver a safe and economic infrastructure. Indeed, key challenges currently faced by the critical infrastructure industry include obsolescence, growing demands, climate change, increased vulnerability, demand for multi-functionality and growing interdependencies between different types of assets. The extent to which sectors involved with critical infrastructure are affected by these challenges changes and varies dependent upon the strategy and opportunities undertaken by various organisations. It is crucial to investigate the key asset management strategies currently being implemented in UK industry, so as to improve their sustainable competitiveness. This research focuses upon the energy, transport, water and construction sectors, what approach they are taking to asset management, whether an holistic approach is unanimous throughout, the approaches which are taken for the maintenance of such critical assets, the key challenges faced as barriers for asset management in their organisations, the business opportunities, cutting-edge developments there are in the field of infrastructure asset management and how these effect sustainable competitiveness. In order to achieve this, a mixed research methodological approach would be undertaken to collect and analyse the data. Possible supervisor: Dr Suresh Renukappa


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TRANSLATION OF DISULFIRAM, AN ANTI-ALCOHOLISM DRUG, INTO MALIGNANT MESOTHELIOMA TREATMENT Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is a very aggressive cancer. Although treatment outcomes in many other cancers have been significantly improved, the prognosis of MM remains very dismal. With most comprehensive treatment, MM patients can only survive for 9 – 12 months. MM contains a small population of cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are resistant to chemotherapy and responsible for cancer recurrence. MM also produces proteins enabling cancer cells to escape from immune surveillance. Therefore discovery of CSC-targeting and immune modulating drug becomes a hot spot for anticancer drug development, which will significantly improve MM chemotherapy results. Disulfiram, an antialcoholism drug without systemic toxicity to patients, shows very strong toxicity in CSCs from a wide range of cancer types including MM. In the previous BLF funded project, we developed a nanoparticlewrapped injectable DS with long-circulating time in the bloodstream. The new formulation of DS showed very strong killing effect on CSCs and blocked lung, breast and brain cancer development in mouse models. In our pilot experiments, DS was highly toxic to MM cells and demonstrated curative effect on MM developed in mouse abdominal cavity. DS also blocked the expression of PD-L1, a protein compromising immune surveillance in MM patients. All of these findings indicate that DS is a very promising candidate for MM treatment. This study intends to develop a novel injectable version of DS, which is applicable in chest and abdominal cavities. The effect of the new formulation of DS on MM will be examined in cell culture and in mouse models. The molecular anticancer mechanisms of DS, especially in CSCs and immune system, will be investigated. We will also examine the distribution of DS in different tissues and observe its general toxicity in mice. The success of this study will pave the path for clinical trials of DS in MM patients. Possible supervisor: Professor Weiguang Wang at RIHS/FSE

USING NANO-TECHNOLOGY TO REPOSITION DISULFIRAM, AN ANTIALCOHOLISM DRUG, FOR ADVANCED BREAST CANCER TREATMENT Background: The prognosis for patients with advanced breast cancer (ABC) remains very dismal. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are considered to be responsible for ABC metastasis, chemoresistance and recurrence. Therefore targeting these CSCs will improve chemotherapeutic outcomes of ABC. The clinical need for a ABC CSCtargeting drug is urgent. However, development of a new drug is a time (15 years) and cash (US$1.5 billion) consuming procedure. Therefore, drug repositioning has become continued overleaf


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an attractive strategy of drug development in the recent years. Our previous studies show that disulfiram, an anti-alcoholism drug used over 6 decades in the clinic, is highly selectively cytotoxic to CSCs in a wide range of cancer types and spare normal cells. Unfortunately the use of disulfiram in cancer treatment is limited by its very short half-life (less than 4 minutes) in the bloodstream. In order to stabilize disulfiram in the bloodstream, we recently encapsulated disulfiram into nanoparticles (liposome, polymers and gold). The nano-Disulfiram showed significantly improved anticancer activity in breast, liver, brain and lung cancer models. Aims: 1. Development of an intravenously administered polymeric micelle (PM)encapsulated biodegradable long-circulating disulfiram formulation; 2. Investigation of the anti-primary ABC CSCs activity and mechanisms of PMdisulfiram in vitro; 3. Investigate the pharmacokinetic status and anticancer efficacy of PM-disulfiram in mouse patient-derived xenograft models. Techniques and methods: Novel bio-nanomaterial development, nanoencapsulation, in vitro ABC CSC culture, patient-derived xenograft mouse models. Impact on breast cancer research: Both disulfiram and PM are FDA approved and the pre-clinical and clinical data are fully available. We propose that PM-disulfiram could be rapidly translated into ABC clinical trials and provide a more effective new treatment for ABC patients. Therefore, development of PM-disulfiram in an anti-ABC CSCs setting will have therapeutic and financial benefits for ABC patients and the NHS, respectively. Possible supervisor: Professor Weiguang Wang at RIHS/FSE

HYDROPHOBIN MEDIATED AIR FILLED EMULSIONS Prof Cox has worked extensively with Air Filled Emulsions (AFE) made from common food grade proteins. Fat mimetics based upon AFEs have successfully been incorporated into foods to improve function and reduce fat content and calories. However, AFE formulations originally used a novel and superior class of proteins – hydrophobins – that possess quite remarkable physical properties and are still of immense scientific/industrial interest. Unfortunately, hydrophobins are notoriously difficult to process at all stages of production and use. Recently, we identified an intermediate class of the proteins that may help solve some of these problems. Although a studentship would ultimately look at efficiently utilising the proteins in healthy foods, the journey will also examine each of the steps involved in expressing, producing and structuring to ensure efficient supply and utilisation. Hence, an extremely challenging project, but ultimately one to address the many aspects of novel product discovery and one already attracting industrial interest. It is expected that the student will work across many areas and disciples within the university and potentially elsewhere. Possible supervisor: Prof. P.W. Cox


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Cross-Faculty Projects

FACULTIES OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, AND EDUCATION, HEALTH AND WELLBEING:

GENDERED INTERESTS AND CAREER CHOICES IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING This project will investigate young people’s gendered interest and decisions about University study and careers in Science and Engineering by analysing quantitative and qualitative data from 15 and 16 year old pupils and teachers in a diverse sample of schools in the West Midlands and Yorkshire. Research questions • How does gender influence young people’s interest and decision to study science and engineering? • How might gender interact with ethnicity in the generation of science capital and young people’s decisions to study science and engineering at University? • To what extent schools reproduce persisting gender and ethnic inequalities in regards to interest, S and E subject and career choice? Possible supervisors: Dr Maria Tsouroufli Reader in Education and Professor Nazira Karodia, Professor of Science Education


Find out more Contact: Ben Halligan Director of the Doctoral College Email: B.Halligan@wlv.ac.uk /wlv_doctoralcol /wlvdoctoralcol ER709

Faculty of science and engineering phd opportunities  
Faculty of science and engineering phd opportunities