The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK CI) is a joint venture between the Charity, Cancer Research UK, and the University of Cambridge. The Institute has excellent state-of-the-art facilities and research ranges from basic cancer biology and computational biology through to translational research and clinical application. Graduate students play a pivotal role in the continuing success of our research programmes and gaining a studentship in the Institute is an excellent opportunity to start a research career in an environment committed to training outstanding cancer research scientists of the future. For further information, go to:

Dr Sarah Bohndiek, Head of the VISIONLab, wishes to appoint a student to work on the project entitled: Non-invasive imaging of the tumour microenvironment during radiotherapy response.

About us:

The VISIONLab at the University of Cambridge develops novel imaging approaches for early cancer detection and evaluation of disease prognosis. Our imaging innovations arise primarily from low cost optics and photonics technologies, applied both in cancer models and in patients. We are particularly interested in developing methods to interrogate the cancer metabolism and the tumour microenvironment. Importantly, we place emphasis on biological validation of the imaging biomarkers that we measure, connecting our non-invasive imaging signatures with the molecular processes that generate them.

Project details:

Optoacoustic imaging is an emerging clinical technology that combines the high contrast of optical imaging with the spatial resolution of ultrasound imaging. Recent work in the VISIONLab has shown that this technology can be used to identify tumour vascular phenotypes and oxygenation status at unprecedented resolution and depth in vivo. A crucial application for such imaging methods is radiotherapy, where imaging of blood oxygenation and tumour tissue hypoxia find applications in monitoring response and determining radioresistance.

This PhD project will focus on developing methodology that enables accurate identification of oxygenation changes in the tissue before, during and after radiotherapy. Initial validation will be performed in vivo, using small animal models of cancer. These studies will run in parallel with imaging in patient trials in the clinic, which the student will have an opportunity to support, seeing their efforts transition from bench to bedside. The student will have the opportunity to work across multiple research environments and departments, with potential for research visits to other centres within the CRUK Radiation Research Network and beyond. It will also involve external industrial collaboration.

Desirable qualifications and skills

The ideal candidate must have (or expect to obtain) a 1st or 2:1 honours degree in biological or biomedical sciences. Candidates with a strong interest in the project but coming from a different scientific background will also be considered if they can demonstrate sufficient coursework in the appropriate discipline. We strongly value a candidate with the desire to learn, create and innovate.

The project will combine a majority of experimental imaging with a minority computational element for image analysis and statistics. Background knowledge of programming languages used for quantitative data analysis (e.g. Matlab, Python), or an interest in computational methods, is thus desirable. The successful candidate should also have a strong interest in experimental research, including and acquiring in vivo imaging data. Additional relevant skills include: demonstrably excellent oral and written communication skills; strong team working skills; an ability to take initiative to solve problems; strong motivation in driving projects forward; and a significant critical thinking capability. Examples of any past experience that demonstrates these characteristics should be highlighted in the cover letter that accompanies any application. We expect the candidate will develop into an independent experimental researcher and will present their work in academic journals, as well as at conferences.

Candidates with previous experience of in vivo imaging or biomedical optics, for example during a Masters or Diploma degree, are particularly encouraged to apply.

Further information

This funded PhD project will be based in the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge. Funding is available at CRUK studentship rates through the CRUK RadNet funding to the University of Cambridge. Supplementary funding may be obtained by the successful candidate from other University funding mechanisms (see More information about the VISIONLab can be found on our website ( Requests for more information about the project or questions related to candidate experience should be made to Dr Sarah Bohndiek ( with the subject line “Optoacoustic PhD 2019” before the application to the University is complete.


This project is funded by a Cancer Research UK studentship that includes full funding for University and College fees and a stipend of £19,000 per annum.


No nationality restrictions apply to Cancer Research UK funded studentships. Applications are invited from recent graduates or final year undergraduates who hold or expect to gain a first/upper second class degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject from any recognised university worldwide.

How to apply

All applications need to be made using the University Applicant Portal. Please visit: for further information about the course and to access the applicant portal.

To complete your on-line application, you need to provide the following:

Reference Request: The names and contact details of two academic referees who have agreed to act on your behalf.

Research: If you wish to be considered for more than one studentship, please enter the names of all of the supervisors you wish to consider your application in the ‘Research summary’ text box. If you only wish your application to be considered by a single supervisor, then please enter their name in the ‘Research Supervisor’ text box. Please describe your past ‘Research experience’ in the appropriate text box.

Course Specific Questions: Your statement of interest (limit of 2,500 characters) should explain why you wish to be considered for the studentship and which qualities and experience you will bring to the role. Please also state how you learned of the studentship.

Supporting Documents: Please upload your CV (PDF file), which should include a list of the examinations taken at undergraduate level and if possible, your examination results


The closing date for applications is 15 November 2019, with interviews expected to take place in December/January.

Please quote reference SW20741 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

19 Sep 2019
15 Nov 2019