PhD Opportunity - The role of ionic mechanotransduction in gut motility

Please see this opportunity for a PhD scholarship at Massey University - application deadline 18 March 2018:

The digestive biomechanics group are seeking a high calibre physiology graduate to undertake a PhD on the genesis of mechanosensitivity in the gut wall with a view to gaining greater understanding of intestinal disorders associated with aberrant gut motility. The scholarship provides for a NZD$25,000 (tax free) stipend per year for three years. Suitable candidates will need to meet Massey University entry requirements for enrolling in a PhD. 


The processing of food by the gut to break it down into its component nutrients requires a combination of physical and enzymatic processing. The chyme which is expelled from the stomach largely consists of a suspension of partially digested food suspended in a watery fluid. Enzymatic digestion takes place under zero order kinetics with the rate being dependent on the rate of admixture of enzyme with particulate matter and its permeation into the particulate substrate. These processes depend on appropriate motility of the gut wall and cellular and neural mechanosensitive feedback.

While mechanosensitivity has been identified in neurons, myocytes and the interstitial cells of Cajal, the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Strain and shear forces may alter the rates of transit of certain ions through a number of ion channels in the plasma membranes of cells but it is unclear how forcescanbetransducedviathefluid-lipidcomponentsoftheplasmamembrane. Itisalsoknownthatthe spatial organization of lipid membranes can change according to the forces applied and thus assume a configuration that is thermodynamically appropriate to the forces that are applied.

The proposed work will simultaneously quantify the rates of transit of ions through certain ion channels, the forces applied to the membrane bearing them and the configuration of polar lipids within them using a combination of patch clamping and atomic force microscopy.

The successful candidate will have an appropriate degree in physiology or biophysics and a good grounding in mathematics. She or he will be given training in in vitro cell culture, the maintenance of tissues and organs in culture, patch clamp electrophysiology and atomic force microscopy (AFM).


Dr Wei-Hang Chua (School of Health Sciences, Palmerston North) Professor Roger Lentle (School of Health Sciences, Palmerston North)


The ideal candidate will have:

  • A degree in physiology, biophysics or a field related to this area of research.

  • An appropriate grounding in mathematics.

  • Bachelor’s degree with suitable Honours or a Master’s degree.

  • GPA of at least 7.5 (A-) out of 9.

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills and proven record of research productivity.

  • Laboratory experience with handling animal tissue, cell culture, microscopy or electrophysiology and

    AFM would be advantageous but is not essential.


    The successful candidate will receive NZ$25,000 (tax free) per year for three (3) years. Tuition fees are not included in the scholarship. Opportunities for paid graduate work outside of this stipend will be available.


    The student will be based at Massey University’s Manawatu Campus in Palmerston North, New Zealand.


    Apply by submitting a letter of interest detailing your previous research interests and experience, include your curriculum vitae, academic transcripts, and the names and contact details of at least two academic references to Dr Wei-Hang Chua ([email protected]).

Applications close March 18, 2018.

Potential candidates will be interviewed on a rolling basis. The successful candidate is expected to be enrolled by April 2018, and commence by the end of June 2018.

Further information can be obtained from:

Dr Wei-Hang Chua
Phone +64 (0) 6 951 6326 Email [email protected] funding.cfm 

Posted by Roslyn Kemp on 2 March 2018 | Comments

Browse by Date