Mechanical Measurements using Ion Pipette Aspiration: Technology Development

University of Auckland

About the Project

This fully-funded PhD studentship will focus on hardware development for ‘Ion Pipette Aspiration’, a technology that carries out quick, accurate and effective mechanical measurements on small, soft particles.

Many types of microparticle are soft: they deform and even flow when they are squashed and squeezed. The mechanical (or more fully, rheological) behaviour of these particles turns out to be very important for very many research fields. For example, there are open research questions about the mechanics of the cells that make up our bodies, eggs used for in vitro fertilization, colloids that make up food and beverages, the zoospores of Kauri Dieback, and the liposomes that carry medical payloads such as the new RNA vaccines. Researchers, clinicians and technicians working with these soft particles do not typically have the equipment to easily measure their mechanical properties.

This project will develop novel hardware for a portable, adaptable technology by combining microfluidic fabrication with electronics, and eventually with optics. During development, the technology will be deployed via collaborations with a network of experts across many academic disciplines, with the aim of producing a series of first-of-their-kind research studies. The student will work to continuously improve the technology based on user feedback from these studies.

This represents a rare opportunity to carry out transdisciplinary work collaborating with a range of highly-skilled academic groups. There will be opportunities for international travel, and we anticipate high-impact research outputs to go alongside technological developments. We are looking for students with a strong Honours or Masters degree in physics, chemistry, engineering, or a related field. Experience with one or more of microfluidics, electronics, and optics would be beneficial.

The project is affiliated with two of New Zealand’s Centres of Research Excellence (the MacDiarmid Institute and the Dodd-Walls Centre), providing access to excellent academic and practical training, and to a comprehensive range of tools and expertise throughout New Zealand. The student will benefit from the MacDiarmid Institute’s thriving postgraduate community which delivers various opportunities for personal development. For example, the CRISP programme offers vocational training to enable a smooth transition into an exciting career beyond the PhD.

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