Rachel Morrison

3rd Year DPhil student, St Hilda's College

Rachel MorrisonMy first degree was in chemical engineering at the University of Edinburgh. As I progressed through my degree I became more interested in biological and biomedical applications of engineering. I took courses in bioprocess engineering, engineering in medicine and nanotechnology. I was also a member of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Edinburgh team where we initiated work on a nitrate biosensor using synthetic biology. After the summer of research we presented that work at the competition conference in Boston. I continued the project as part of my final year research project.  This inspired me to study biomedical engineering at the University of Oxford.

In 2010, I joined the Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation to start my DPhil studies. There we undertook a year of intensive training in biomedical engineering, carried out hospital placements and worked with companies to complete market research projects. After this I focused my research down into to developing nanoparticle based treatments for cancer therapies. I am currently funded by Research Council UK Digital Economy Program.

I am currently developing multimodal embolization particles for cancer therapy as part of my DPhil in Healthcare Innovation at the University of Oxford. Embolization therapy works by blocking the blood vessels supplying to the tumour, which limits oxygen and nutrient supply and causes the tumour to die. The embolization particles feature a polystyrene core and a mesoporous silica nanoparticle shell.  We have loaded chemotherapy drugs into the mesoporous silica nanoparticles which allow the drugs to be delivered directly at the tumour site thereby reducing the systemic toxicity effects of the drug. The embolization particles have also been doped with tantalum oxide nanoparticles, which act as X-ray contrast agents, and allows the particles location to be monitored both during and post the particle placement procedure.

In addition, the academic life Oxford offers many opportunities to participate in sports and societies. While here, I have learnt to dive with the Oxford University Underwater Exploration Group and now I instruct, both in the pool and giving theory lectures, on a voluntary basis for the club.