World-Leading Scholarship in Medicine and Physics and Astronomy

Wednesday 17 January 2024



The University of St Andrews is pleased to offer a full scholarship funded by St Leonard’s Postgraduate College, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following project:

Photodynamic therapy of Diabetic foot ulcers.

Accepted start dates:

  • September 2024
  • October 2024

Closing date for applications:

15th April 2024


This interdisciplinary project between the Schools of Medicine and Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews explores new light sources for killing bacteria and other microbes.  We are looking for candidates either from a biological sciences/microbiology/medicine background or from a materials science/physics/engineering background.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a powerful tool that currently has applications in cancer treatment at the skin surface. Antimicrobial PDT (aPDT) is in its infancy but has great potential that must be explored, especially in the era of ever-rising levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

aPDT is similar to conventional PDT in that three elements are required: light, a light-activated chemical (photosensitiser) and oxygen.  The light source excites the photosensitiser, which in the presence of oxygen generates reactive oxygen species that kill undesired cells.

Although PDT is used across the world, it has so far been limited by the need for large and specialized light sources, such as lasers.   We have shown that organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) – now widely found in mobile phone displays and televisions – can be used as light sources for PDT.  They are thin and potentially flexible, enabling convenient wearable light sources for medicine to be made.   In this project you will make OLEDs and explore their use for antimicrobial PDT, with particular emphasis on diabetic foot ulcers.  The project offers a unique opportunity to influence how antimicrobial treatment progresses into the future.

According to the world health organization (WHO) survey in 2014, a total of 422 million people around the globe have been diagnosed with diabetes, and among the diabetic population the chances of developing foot ulcer are significantly high. A recent global epidemiology study shows that the prevalence of diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) in Belgium alone is 16.6% with an average of 6.3% in the world. Approximately 1 in 17 people in the UK has diabetes and around a quarter of them may develop foot ulcers at some stage. These ulcers are hard to heal even with specialist care, and in the UK only about half heal within 6 months, causing a huge burden on people with the disease, and many ulcers reoccur within a year of healing. Unfortunately, a substantial fraction (10-15%) of ulcers do not heal at all, leading to amputation of the toe, foot or affected limb and a drastic shortening of life.

The aims of the project are:

  • To demonstrate that OLED PDT can kill the bacteria found in diabetic foot ulcers
  • Optimise treatment conditions for PDT of the bacteria in diabetic foot ulcers
  • Demonstrate that OLEDs are suitable for treatment of diabetic foot ulcers
  • Produce preliminary data that provides the basis for  a full clinical trial.

As mentioned above, we expect an applicant to come from a biological sciences/microbiology/medicine background or from a materials science/physics/engineering background.  A successful applicant should be interested in learning about the other field, and would be required to learn the necessary skills in the field of study they are less familiar e.g. a microbiologist would learn to make OLEDs, and a physicist would learn to perform microbiology experiments.

The student will be supervised by Dr Robert Hammond (School of Medicine) and Prof. Ifor Samuel (School of Physics & Astronomy).

Value of award (per year)

Home tuition fees at UKRI rate (£4,712 2023/24)

Annual maintenance paid monthly at UKRI rates (£18,622 2023/24)

Duration of award

Up to 3.5 years. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.

Additional criteria

You must have applied for a PhD programme at St Andrews.

You must not already hold a doctoral degree or be matriculated for a doctoral degree at the University of St Andrews or another institution.

How to apply

  1. Apply for admission as a doctoral student. Please see the advice on Research programmes.
  2. Apply for the scholarship, which is available through the World-Leading Doctoral Scholarship application in the Scholarships and Funding catalogue, in the Scholarships and Fundingsection of My Application. You must allow at least three working days for processing and issue of your log in details before you can apply for this scholarship. Once you have received an email confirming your access to the portal:
    • Enter the catalogue by following the instructions in the email, then choosing Scholarships and funding (under ‘Useful links’) and then clicking View the scholarships and funding catalogue.
    • Select 2024/5 as the Academic Year and click ‘Refresh list’.
    • Find the World-Leading St Andrews Doctoral Scholarship that you wish to apply for in the list of scholarships (using the filter box if necessary), click Apply and complete the application form.
    • You can also use the catalogue to search and apply for other scholarships for which you are eligible.
    • Scholarship application form guidance


Please see link below which will take you to the World Leading Studentships site where you will find more information on the PhD and the programme.

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