Anna Reynard, Biomedical Science graduate at Hull Royal Infirmary

Exploiting polymeric viscoelastic properties to enhance wound healing


Funded PG Dip and PhD


3 years (full-time)

Application deadline:

17:00 on 7 May 2021

About this project

Applications are invited for an exciting 3-year funded full-time PhD studentship as part of novel project supported by recent patent publications and interest from industry, to improve the healing time of wounds. The studentship forms part of an interdisciplinary piece of work supervised by Dr Louise France and Dr Kevin Fancey.

Sutures are routinely used to assist the healing of wounds, since they can provide mechanical support to the wound area, reduce bleeding and infection risks, and minimise scarring. In addition to developments in “passive” sutures, there has been an upsurge of interest in “smart” sutures. Principally, these exploit the use of shape-memory materials to enable self-tightening and self-knotting for deep wound closures, but there has also been a growing interest in electronically stimulated sutures, with monitoring and actuation capabilities for wound i.e. truly smart sutures.

The purpose of this PhD studentship is to build upon previous work in applying a novel treatment to suitable polymeric materials to initiate time-dependent electro-mechanical responses. These in turn promote an improved wound healing response by releasing viscoelastically stored energy to the wound site over a period of several weeks. The student will perform detailed mechanical studies on several polymeric materials as well as testing biological efficacy and wound healing processes. Time will be spent optimising the viscoelastic response, with the aim to scale up from single strand sutures to structures such as woven patches for use with larger chronic wounds. The methodologies used are protected by European Patent Application No:19711332.7, for which the student will be fully trained, along with extensive training in cutting edge in vitro and ex vivo skin wound methodologies. The student will be required to employ a range of engineering techniques such as CADCAM, additive manufacturing and mechanical testing, as well as having a good understanding of polymeric biomaterials. Further skills such as cell culture, microscopy and histology can be taught if the student does not have suitable experience.

For informal inquiries, please contact Dr Louise France (

The successful candidate will join the dynamic and vibrant Biomedical Engineering Research group, housed in the Department of Engineering. Specifically working in the Wound Care group, supervision will be offered from within the Department of Engineering, with additional support from the biological team working at the Daisy Research Laboratories, Castle Hill Hospital. This unique partnership brings together the expertise of the Department of Engineering, Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Hull York Medical School, to fully support all engineering and biological aspects of the project.

This exceptional opportunity will provide academic training in an exciting multi-disciplinary environment – working on a project with the potential to reduce healing times for incisional and chronic wounds, with real potential to impact on national health agendas.

About the research group

The Biomedical Engineering research group is a vibrant and rapidly expanding collaboration of researchers, NHS clinicians, industrial partner, and academics working in multi-disciplinary areas to develop and apply new medical technologies and devices that will:

  • improve quality of life
  • improve the effectiveness of healthcare
  • make healthcare accessible
  • provide insight into underlying mechanisms of diseases
  • assist in diagnosis, treatment and management of disease


Within this team is a thriving group of researchers working to advance wound care technologies, with support from renowned clinicians, and world leading wound care industries.

Dr Louise France is Director of Studies for the Department of Engineering and teaches on the Medical and Mechanical Engineering programmes. Her research contributes to the Biomedical Engineering, and Materials and Manufacturing research groups in the Department of Engineering. Dr France's expertise lies in bioreactor development, biomaterials for wound care devices and tissue-material interactions for medical devices and wound healing. Her research forms part of the University Advanced Wound Care Cluster, working closely with Smith and Nephew.

Kevin Fancey has enjoyed working in various areas of industrial and academic research relating to physics and engineering, including acoustics (audiology), combustion (ignition systems), rheology (food gels) and display technology. Most recently, he has focused on viscoelastically prestressed polymeric composites and he also collaborates with colleagues in areas involving materials development, including air-conditioning (evaporative cooling) and medical engineering.

Contact Dr Louise France for more information about this project.

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The successful applicant will receive a fee waiver and a maintenance grant / stipend for three years, which covers the research period of the PhD. The fee waiver for 21/22 is £4500 (Home fee) and the maintenance grant is £15609. This rises each year in line with the UKRI’s recommended stipend allowance.

Entry requirements

The studentship will appeal to a candidate with a strong interest in Medical Engineering, or medical applications of Mechanical Engineering. You will require an undergraduate degree in with at least a 2.1, or MEng/MSc/MRes, in a relevant subject (Mechanical Engineering, Medical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, or related discipline). If English is not your first language you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ with a minimum of 6.0 in all components.

For more details on our entry requirements please visit the postgraduate admissions webpage.

This scholarship is available for full-time study only and not open to candidates who have already obtained a PhD.

International applicants

This opportunity is open to Home candidates only.

Submission of thesis

Submission of your final thesis is expected within three years and three months from the start of your PhD scholarship.

If you need to move into a fourth year to complete your thesis, please note that you will not receive a tuition fee waiver or maintenance grant during this period.