Summer Research Experience Program

Biomedical Engineering

2019 applications are now closed.

The BME Summer Research Experience Program is a 10–12 week (nominally December to February) summer research program offered to students studying Engineering, Science, Medicine and related disciplines who will be commencing the final year of their Bachelor or Master’s degree in 2020.

This involves students undertaking research activity in the Department of Biomedical Engineering to gain valuable research and laboratory experience. Successful applicants are expected to commence in early December. Students will be paid a nominal amount upon completion of the program.

This program does not replace or provide academic credit for any subjects.

  • Eligibility criteria
    • High-scoring students (H1 level equivalent)
    • Either:
      • Currently enrolled in a Master’s Degree with at least one year left in their degree; OR
      • Currently enrolled undergraduate student who is commencing the final year of their degree.
  • How to apply

    If you meet the eligibility criteria, please complete the following steps to apply:

    1. Write a single page application letter including all of the following information:
      • Student number
      • Student email address
      • Current postal address
      • Phone number
      • Your top three projects in order of preference
      • Why you are interested in undertaking the program and what your plans for further studies are
      • Attach Statement of Results to date
    2. Email this letter to from your student email account.


  • A tempest in a teacup for microscale manipulation

    Supervisor: Dr David Collins

    Einstein’s tea leaf paradox describes the phenomenon whereby particles entrained in a swirling vortex are observed to migrate toward the vortex center, rather than the edges. This is counterintuitive, since one might expect particle behavior to be dominated by inertia, which would drive them to the vortex edges. This apparent paradox is resolved by accounting for the full 3D flow field that develops in these cases, with fluid drag instead drawing particles below a critical density toward the center. This phenomenon can be readily observed in (what else) a cup of tea. Give it a try sometime! Recent observations, however, have shown that the cup shape can impact the flow field and thus particle aggregation pattern that develops.

    Understanding this process is important, since aggregation and micromanipulation activities are of wide import in chemical processing, cell studies and lab-on-a-chip devices. Of particular interest is cell manipulation for diagnostic devices and cost-effective drug testing.

    This project spans developments in fundamental physics, analytical theory, microfluidic simulations and experiments (including with biological cells). Students interested in developing a diverse skillset and creating quality research output with a view toward publication are highly encouraged to apply.

  • Acoustics to shape cellular spheroid formation

    Supervisor: Dr David Collins

    Acoustic fields – the same ones that allow you to hear and speak – interestingly have the ability to move objects. By increasing the frequency of these acoustic fields well above the range of human hearing (in megahertz rather than kilohertz) it’s possible to move and manipulate individual microscale objects, including individual cells. Acoustic microfluidic devices are ones that integrate these high frequency fields for biological processing, cell sorting and tissue engineering. One important application of this technology is the generation of cellular aggregates known as spheroids, which effectively act as a miniature organs. A major advantage of spheroids over traditional animal-based drug testing is that the permit rapid and ethical screening of drug compounds, where a drug’s effects can be extensively interrogated down to the level of individual cells with useful statistical power. Rapidly forming these spheroids from a mixed cell population to recreate physiological cell arrangements is a non-trivial task, however.

    In this work the student will focus on the novel implementation of high-frequency acoustic fields in microfluidic devices to form heterogenous cell constructs, with tasks including microscale design, fabrication, simulations and cell-based experiments.

  • Electrochemical characteristics of high charge capacity Stentrode for neural stimulation

    Supervisor: Sam John

    The Stentrode is a minimally invasive neural interface that has the capacity to stimulate neurons in the brain without the need for an open brain surgery. The stentrode does this by applying electrical pulses to target neurons. Efficacy, safety and long-term reliability are essential requirements for Stentrodes used for electrical stimulation. Efficacy relates to the ability for electrodes to transfer stimulus current to the neural tissue. However, present generation devices have a low charge injection capacity and are unable to effectively stimulate the neurons. This project aims to improve the efficacy of stimulation and the charge capacity of the devices by increasing the surface area of the electrodes and evaluating the electrochemical properties and charge capacity of the stentrode. This project will play an important role in designing the next generation Stentrodes to be usable in neurostimulation applications.

  • A next-generation personalised implant for the treatment of premature cranial fusion in children

    Supervisor: David Ackland

    Craniosynostosis is a devastating birth defect occurring when the bones of a baby’s skull fuse prematurely. As the brain continues to grow, the increased internal pressure can result in impaired early development and neurological conditions. This study aims to address high complication rates associated with current craniosynostosis surgery by developing and rigorously testing a novel patient-specific modular bone distractor capable of facilitating controlled bone displacement and skull growth rates in infants, while being safely operated from either the clinic or home. This novel, low-profile modular distractor will be geometrically tailored to the patient and capable of residing entirely under the scalp, thus greatly reducing the likelihood of wound infection, device malfunction and revision surgery. In this project, the student will create a computational (finite element) model of skull growth in the developing infant, develop a preliminary distractor design, and if time permits, perform virtual surgery and simulations.

  • Advanced wound dressings to aid chronic wound closure

    Supervisor: Daniel Heath

    Chronic wounds significantly impact the quality of life of countless patients and add billions to the annual healthcare budget. Generating novel wound dressings that promote closure and healing of these wounds is of upmost importance. In this project, we will look at designing such next generation wound dressings. Specifically, the student will produce fibrous scaffolds with particular architectures that will guide cells inward to aid in wound closure. Further, the fibrous scaffold will be coupled with a bioactive hydrogel layer that will promote cell proliferation and wound healing. The students will actively generate these scaffolds through the process of electrospinning. In vitro cell culture will also be used to assess interactions between the scaffolds and the cells.

  • Maintaining a high degree of cell viability during infusion and 3D printing

    Supervisor: Daniel Heath

    Stem cell therapies and tissue engineering often require the delivery of cells through a needle or nozzle. However, this delivery step damages/kills a large number of the cells (up to 40%!) This project aims to develop technology that will enable the cells to be delivered via injection while maintaining a high degree of viability. Such an advancement would drastically improve the efficacy of cell therapies and the success of tissue engineering strategies. In this project, we will look at different methods of cell encapsulation in order to provide this protective effect. Specifically, we will aim to develop cytocompatible and biodegradable encapsulation strategies using metal-polyphenolic complexes (MPNs). The students working on this project will develop the MPN coatings and illustrate that they protects cells during infusion processes, 3D printing, and exposure to other environmental insults.

  • Uncovering events that occur during tissue regeneration and remodelling

    Supervisor: Brooke Farrugia

    The extracellular matrix is assembled from various proteins and glycoproteins, of which collagen and proteoglycans (PGs) are prominent functional components. PGs are decorated with sulphated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) that are heterogeneous in structure, depending on the cell and tissue type of origin, and vary in a dynamic spatiotemporal manner. The structure of GAGs can be altered by intracellular enzymes before they are secreted, and by enzymes in the extracellular space. Remodelling of the extracellular matrix is a dynamic and ongoing process for many tissues, for which there is a critical interplay between the cells and cues they receive from their surrounding environment.

    Students involved with this project will investigate interactions that occur between the extracellular matrix molecules, collagen and the glycosaminoglycan chondroitin sulphate, to understand the mechanisms that control tissue regeneration and remodelling.

  • Developing biomimetic materials for wound healing and tissue regeneration

    Supervisor: Brooke Farrugia

    Rising healthcare costs and an ageing global population has seen the market demand for engineered tissues and biomaterials rise from $13.6B in 2016 to over $60.8B by 2021. These regenerative medicine strategies rely on the development of cost-effective materials that can induce specific biological functions and/or induce better integration into the body. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) play a key role in these tissue integration processes.

    GAGs are a family of sulphated polysaccharides (SP), and are complex, polydisperse linear chains that regulate many important biological functions. Heparin and heparan sulphate (HS) are the most well-known GAGs. The first step in regulating function is that the GAGs need to interact, or bind, with biological molecules. This interaction is highly dependent on the GAG’s structure. Specific binding of the GAG with a range of biomolecules, for example growth factors (GF) and chemokines, has significant downstream effects on the biological function.

    This project takes inspiration from nature as we seek to utilise marine SPs and develop a fundamental understanding of how changes in the structure and nature of these molecules affects their ability to induce specific biological activities and engineer biomimetic-inspired materials for the targeted delivery of growth factors to encourage wound healing and tissue regeneration.

Further information