PhD Studentship: Three dimensional imaging of cell populations in human placental villi


Lead Institute / Faculty: Medicine

Main Supervisor: Rohan Lewis

Other members of the supervisory team: Jane Cleal (Medicine), Bram Sengers (Engineering), Chris Torrens (Medicine)

Duration of the award: 3 years

Project description: The placenta provides the fetus with the nutrients it needs to grow and impaired placental function is a major cause of fetal growth restriction. Impaired fetal growth is associated with health problems in around birth and with increased rates of chronic disease in adult life. This project aims to explore how the placenta works in order to develop new ways to prevent and treat fetal growth restriction and to optimise health outcomes across the lifespan. Much of the work on the placenta has focused on the role of the trophoblast and non-trophoblastic cells have been relatively neglected. However, the advent of three-dimensional imaging techniques has highlighted the diversity and importance of these cells in maintaining placental function. This PhD will use both three dimensional imaging techniques and physiological approaches to understand the structure function relationships between cells within the placental villi. The student will use state of the art imaging facilities in the Biomedical Imaging Unit including serial block face scanning electron microscopy and light sheet microscopy. This approach will lead to fundamental advances in our understanding of how the placenta works and may help explain the underlying causes of impaired placental function.

The successful candidate will join a strong and growing interdisciplinary placental laboratory in Southampton ( During the course of the studentship, the successful applicant will be trained in the relevant imaging and physiological techniques as well as participate in the faculty’s postgraduate training programme: (

Please contact: Rohan Lewis,

Person Specification: The candidate should have a good degree in biological sciences or engineering (with an interest in biological or image analysis).

The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

  • A 1stor 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters

Funding information: The studentship is funded by The Gerald Kerkut Charitable Trust, A University of Southampton Vice Chancellor’s Studentship and The Human Development and Health Academic Unit in the Faculty of Medicine. This covers tuition fees for UK/EU students and a maintenance grant paid at current RCUK rates.

Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University’s online application form, which you can find at pos=4383&majr=4383&term=201516

You should enter Rohan Lewis as your proposed supervisor. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date).

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to Rohan Lewis (

Interview date: To be confirmed


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