Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Funded PhD: Dr Ciara Murphy - Developing Innovative Injectable Collagen-Bioceramic Composites for Medical Devices

This is an exciting and unique opportunity for an ambitious student researcher to join the laboratory of Dr Ciara Murphy, on a four-year PhD studentship, in the emerging area of injectable bioceramic composites as advanced cell and drug delivery platforms, as well as novel bio-inks for 3-D printing.

Overview of position

Dr Murphy was recently recruited back to RCSI, under the Strategic Academic Recruitment (StAR) Programme, from her position as director of the Orthopaedic and Regenerative Medicine Research group at University College Dublin (UCD). She is widely published and highly cited in the area of tissue engineering and orthopaedics in leading journals such as Biomaterials and Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Her state-of-the-art laboratory is located alongside the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) cluster at the 123 St Stephen's Green campus.

Dr Murphy develops advanced biomaterials as innovative platforms for disease model systems and targeted therapeutic delivery systems for tissue repair. The main focus of her research is the study of cell-matrix interactions in metabolic bone disease, such as osteoporosis, to design minimally invasive targeted therapies and technologies to treat metabolically impaired bone defects. She is building a research team of postgraduate students and is looking for a highly motivated, enthusiastic and conscientious PhD student to join this team and drive forward innovated research.  

Project description 

There have been huge advances in the development of 3-D polymer-based composite scaffolds as therapeutic platforms for tissue engineering applications. However, from a clinical standpoint, the application of these biomaterials is often restricted by the shape and size of the defect. Shear thinning injectable polymer-based biomaterials provide a solution to these restrictions due to their ability to conform to the cavity in which they are placed and fill irregular-shaped tissue defects.

Furthermore, they offer a significant advantage over implantable scaffolds by reducing the infection risk associated with traditional implant surgery. While some injectable biomaterials show promise, injectable polymer-ceramic composites have had very limited success. This project aims to develop a novel range of shear thinning injectable collagen-bioceramic composites, capable of in situ hybridisation, for drug and cell delivery in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. Specifically, the objectives of this project will be two-fold: 

  1. Combine collagen with a variety of ceramics with bioactive properties (e.g. hydroxyapatite, magnesium phosphate, strontium, calcium phosphate) and develop a series of shear thinning, thermoresponsive, injectable composite biomaterials 
  2. Functionalise the injectable composites with specific therapeutics to guide cell differentiation and tissue formation both in vitro and in vivo  

The student will be primarily based at RCSI and will work closely with members of a multidisciplinary project team including PIs, postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers within this research cluster. Opportunities will also arise for working with national and international collaborators

The outcome of this project will be a catalogue of novel shear thinning injectable composite biomaterials with a broad range of mechanical properties and biological functionalities to be used as medical devices in the treatment of diseased and damaged tissue.

  • Research theme: Bioengineering
  • Keyword: Biomaterials, injectable polymer, collagen-based scaffolds

Personal specification

  • An Honours Bachelor degree (grade 2.1 or above) in Engineering, Biomedical Science, Materials Science, or related discipline
  • English language requirements for candidates who do not speak English as their first language: an IELTS score of 6.5 or above
Knowledge and experience (Essential)
  • The ideal candidate would be self-motivated, creative and highly competent with a passion for fundamental scientific discovery
  • A strong interest in biomedical/tissue engineering
  • Excellent analytical, computational and communications skills 
  • Strong organisational and administrative skills
  • Ability to work on one’s own initiative as well as in a multidisciplinary, team environment
  • Willingness to undertake training and career development

Application process and scholarship details

Please apply here with an up-to-date CV, a 500-word statement outlining your interest in and suitability for the position, and contact details of two referees.

  • Department: Department of Anatomy 
  • Location: RCSI, 123 St Stephens Green, Dublin 2
  • Tenure: 48 months
  • Stipend: 18,000 per annum 
  • Proposed start date: October 2018 
  • Application deadline: Friday, 29 June 2018 at 5 p.m.
  • Interview date: early August 2018


Mentors Dr Ciara Murphy