PhD Studentship: Investigating the physics of phagocytosis

United Kingdom
Dec 04, 2017
Feb 28, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

To effectively prevent infections, phagocytic cells of the immune system need to efficiently engulf microbes of widely varying size, shape and biomechanical properties. This is achieved by a process known as phagocytosis.

How phagocytic cup formation is spatially organized, and adapts to engulfing particles of different geometries and stiffness is however poorly understood. This project will directly address this, providing insight into both fundamental mechanisms of phagocytosis and immune cell function.

These important questions will be answered using a cross-disciplinary approach, combining polymer physics, genetics and cell biology. This project will initially generate particles as bacterial analogues, controlling their size, shape, stiffness and surface ligands/chemistry. This will be combined with the use of the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum as a model phagocytic cell that allows us to genetically manipulate the cell and image particle uptake at high resolution.

This novel approach will allow a detailed analysis of how different particles are engulfed and modeling of the forces applied in a system where both the cell and particle can be controlled.

Evasion of phagocytosis is a key mechanism employed by pathogens to avoid the immune system. Understanding the mechanics of phagocytosis in greater detail than previously possible will therefore help us better understand how infections are suppressed, and help improve our approaches to combatting antimicrobial resistance.

This is an interdisciplinary project and will provide training across the physical and life sciences including polymer physics, surface chemistry, microscopy, genetics and cell biology. Candidates from either a physics, chemistry or biological background are all potentially suitable - given an open mind, enthusiasm and the ability to learn new skills.


More information on the King laboratory can be found at

The Parnell laboratory website can be found at


Science Graduate School

As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

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