lifeTIME CDT Newsletter December 2020

Meet the 2020 Cohort

We are delighted to welcome 18 new PhD students to the lifETIME CDT. To find out more about our new students and their research please click here.

The new cohort started their PhD on the 1st October and over the last three months the students have followed a blended training model, with a mix of research time in the lab and online skills training. Students have had the opportunity to meet all the 2020 supervisors individually during multidisciplinary training. The cohort have enjoyed meeting all members of the CDT management group, hearing about their research and role within the CDT. The students have been working hard and have also completed IP training and connecting with industry training.

It has not been all training and lab work for the cohort as we have had plenty of online cohort building activates with escape rooms, quizzes and murder mystery nights.

Murder Mystery
‘’I really enjoyed my first week in the CDT. The virtual events were great in bringing the cohort together, especially the virtual escape room which was challenging but still great fun.‘’ Hannah Williamson, LifETIME Student at the University of Birmingham

Student Voice

We have four management committees within the CDT and each year we welcome a student representative onto the committee for a two year period. This year we would like to congratulate and welcome the following 2020 class representatives:

  • Executive Management Committee - Ibrahim Erbay (NUI Galway)
  • Interdisciplinary Skills Committee - Chloe Wallace (University of Glasgow)
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group - Hannah Williamson (University of Birmingham)
  • Skills and Training Committee - Aleksander Atanasov (University of Birmingham)
2020 Student Representatives


Our first virtual lifETIME CDT Student Day event took place in September, bringing together academics, industry partners and lifETIME students. During the event we had an array of industry presentations from our partners and funders below:

The 2019 cohort who work across the University of Glasgow, University of Birmingham, Aston University, National University of Ireland Galway and Trinity College Dublin presented short project updates.


lifETIME CDT student Mirella Ejiugwo from NUI Galway attended the Energising Global Health Innovation & Entrepreneurship (ENERGHY) Summer School. Mirella talks about her experience below:

Energising Global Health Innovation & Entrepreneurship (ENERGHY) summer school was revolutionary for me. It was a pleasant blend of lectures, talks from start-up founders, and teamwork - organised by a strong panel of partners. The teamwork sessions, especially, were engaging! Each team was assigned to resolve a global challenge along with a business model. It was intriguing seeing people from diverse nations and academic/professional backgrounds brainstorming and coming up with innovative ideas and related business models; presenting their pitches on identified solutions and just enjoying the learning environment.

I remember embarking on the ENERGHY course with no actual scope of becoming a business freak! However, at the very end of the 11-day summer school, amazingly I developed a strong drive to implement what I had learnt in my CDT lifETIME project. I was able to think wider and deeper, and saw possibilities of coming up with something that addresses an evident unmet global need coupled with a business potential. For example, I got thinking about the place the anticipated outputs of my doctoral project has in the real market: “who will actually need my bioengineered diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) model? What are the pains and desired gains of my potential customers (e.g. wound therapeutic companies) in using current DFU models…and how can I address them? How can my bioengineered DFU model stand out compared to current solutions in order to have a pool of customers?” Such questions came to my mind… all because I attended ENERGHY summer school.

From my ENERGHY experience, I would say that engaging yourself often in such stimulating environments triggers that innovative/entrepreneurial side of you. This will help focus your research and translate your findings from the lab to a market that will genuinely benefit from your findings. I strongly encourage researchers in general to be a part of the upcoming editions of ENERGHY summer school or similar.


Georgia Harris from University of Birmingham took part in virtual outreach during lockdown. Below Georgia talks about her experience:

I’m a Scientist, Stay at Home is usually a hands-on outreach programme but due to COVID-19 restrictions they quickly developed an online platform that allowed scientists from engineers, biologists, medics, chemists and mathematicians to interact with the primary & secondary school students who were stuck at home. The platform allowed students to submit questions to specific members or openly, everyday there were new questions, each one more imaginative than the next. Teachers could sign up to 1 hour sessions with a class, where about 5 scientists would join and speak with them (text format) about what their jobs are, what their career path was like and anything else the students wanted to know. At first I found these quite nerve-wracking but then found the students to be really interested and easy to speak to.

I really enjoyed the experience and felt like it was a great way to inspire students when their interest in science may have been dwindling whilst being away from classrooms. I felt I really got to grips with explaining my research project to a broad age-range, especially as teachers were keen to ask questions too. Selfishly, I think the interactions gave me the self-confidence boost I needed when working from home, as I was reminded that my research is really exciting, which motivates me to work harder towards making it a reality!


Elaine Ma (University of Glasgow) discusses a recent paper in which she is one of the named Authors:

Development of a cost-effective automated platform to produce human liver spheroids for basic and applied research

Liver disease is global health issue with an increasing morbidity and mortality rate. Currently, liver transplant is the only curative treatment for end-stage liver disease and with limited liver organ donors, advances in clinical treatment is required. To aid this advancement in clinical treatment and efficiency of drug development, there is an unmet need for improved in vitro liver disease models.

Professor David Hay’s lab, at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine in the University of Edinburgh, have developed a robust and automated system to generate 3D human liver tissue that allow the study of human liver biology ‘in a dish'. In a new collaboration, we have begun to show the potential of this in vitro human liver model to study cancer metastasis.

I am looking forward to continuing this collaboration to study and develop the understanding of how the physical and biological characteristics of the extracellular matrix effects cancer cell behaviour and formation of metastatic tumours.


Aoibhín Sheedy (NUI Galway) founded WiSTEM (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) after finding out that she had secured a PhD within the lifETIME CDT. The idea behind the society is to support, help and encourage women studying STEM subjects in NUIG to achieve their full potential.

WiSTEM aim to be a part of a growing movement which makes STEM subjects more accessible to the next generation and make STEM a more diverse and accepting area to work and excel in. With this aim comes goals to help the women of STEM in NUIG build the skills they need to succeed and find role models, internships, and connections in their particular industry. For more information about WiSTEM and the events that they host click here.

Bioreactor and Growth Environments for Tissue Engineering

Our 2020 University of Birmingham students; Hannah Williamson, Aleksandar Atanasov and Abigail Wright took part in a the Bioreactor and Growth Environments for Tissue Engineering Module organised by Keele University. The students attended lectures by experts in the field before being distributed into small groups. Each group had to develop a bioreactor design over two days and present it for critical evaluation by a panel of lecturers (Dr. Karina Wright, Prof. Ying Yang and Dr. Jan Herman Kuiper).

Our students group was cut short, as far as work force was concerned, as some of the group members from other universities were unable to participate in the development. Regardless, the students looked to address the unmet clinical need of upscaling cell expansion for the purposes of pooled CRISPR screening protocols which currently use cell stacks.

The students design was placed third and praised for its engineered simplicity and projected increased efficacy, compared to cell stacks. The students also employed eco-friendly plant-based technologies reducing cell-culture waste.

Bioreactor for upscaling cell expansion for pooled CRISPR screening using microparticle hydrogel technology to replace cell stacks.


Congratulations to CDT supervisor and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Skills Committee Dr Pola Goldberg Oppenheimer from the University of Birmingham in winning the WeAreTechWomen 2020 TechWoman 100 Awards.

Dr Pola Goldberg Oppenheimer

The winners of these awards showcase remarkable women within the technology sector covering a wide range of roles.

We are Tech Woman hope that by highlighting the accolades of up-and-coming inspirational female tech talent, that they can help to create a new generation of female role models for the industry, and a pipeline of future leaders.


Alicia El Haj, Professor of Cell Engineering at the University’s Healthcare Technologies Institute and School of Chemical Engineering, has been awarded the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IOM3) Chapman Medal for her work within the field of Healthcare Technologies.

The Chapman Medal is presented for distinguished research in the field of biomedical materials and biomaterials innovation, and awards research which has benefited patients or contributed to opportunities within the industry.

Fully funded 4-year PhD Scholarships available

The CDT will train the next generation of interdisciplinary (engineering, chemistry, physics, maths and biology) leaders in developing in vitro tissues, sensing and diagnostics to develop humanised in vitro systems to drive better drug screening.

lifETIME have placed EDI at the heart of its activities offering part-time studentships, childcare support for conference attendance, flexible working for careers as well as prompting work-life balance. We also offer EDI funding to support applications from widening participation backgrounds providing an additional funding of £2k p.a.

Application Deadline: 31st of January 2021

Share details of this opportunity - https://lifetime-cdt.org/apply/


Our annual Stakeholder Day will take place on Thursday 21st January 2021 via Zoom.

The stakeholder day will bring together lifETIME students, academics, industry partners, iClub members and steering group. The purpose of the stakeholder day is to capture our stakeholder views form which the management will use to refine the CDTs impact strategy. In the morning a facilitator will capture CDT subjects, highlighted and raised by stakeholders. These subjects will then form the basis for the discussion points in the afternoon.

The afternoon will consist of six co-current discussions over three different sessions. Each session will be 30 minutes long and stakeholders will have the chance to attend the discussion most important and relevant to them. The discussion sessions will use open space principles and responses and suggestions will be collected.

There will also be an opportunity for all attendees to network.

Pleas click here to register.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas form the CDT

2020 has been a hard year for everyone and we would like to say well done to all the CDT students who have adapted fantastically to the measures that has been put in place due to the global COVID pandemic. Our students have worked extremely hard, completing a great deal of CDT required skills training courses, as well as making the most of every available opportunity to be in the lab continuing their multidisciplinary research.

Thank you to the CDT academics and industry partners who have provided a huge amount of support over the course of the year. This has help us create a programme of interactive and interesting learning experiences for our students - It is greatly appreciated.

Thank-you also to Michelle, Mihai, Aimee and Emma who look after the running of the CDT and have done an amazing job of looking after the CDT through the pandemic.