ESR4: Episode One

I find it hard to believe that I am already more than half a year in my PhD project. I still remember the excitement of moving to Leeds in the UK – my third country of study/work abroad.  After taking a small break between my Masters and PhD to explore South-East Asia, I came back full of energy and motivation to embark on this new research project.

I did not know much about Leeds before setting foot here, but everything exceeded my expectations in a positive way. Leeds is a very student-friendly city and there is a wide range of activities and events to stir-up your interest. I am enjoying the great music culture here, practicing racquet sports, even learning a bit of swing dance in my spare time. Besides this, I am blessed with a great team in our department at work, open-minded scientists with a great will to cooperate and advance science.

In terms of my PhD work at the University of Leeds, I aim at developing functionalised electrochemical nanoprobes to monitor the metabolic activity of in vitro cultured embryos. IVF procedures are known to have a low success rate. A particular bottleneck with regard to these procedures is selecting the embryos with the right development competence that can lead to a successful pregnancy after the transfer. One key aspect that can potentially overcome this challenge is developing non-invasive methods that allow the assessment of embryos’ metabolic activity during their early development stages that can be used as indicators to improve the selection process. My PhD project targets this problem by developing integrated microfluidic platforms where pre-implantation embryos can be cultured and assessed non-invasively using functional electrochemical nanoprobes. I work in a multidisciplinary and collaborative setup, under the supervision of Dr. Paolo Actis and Dr. Virginia Pensabene. Together, we endeavour to merge nanoelectrochemistry with microfluidics to advance this research area.

For me this PhD project is more than just research. Thanks to the SENTINEL network, we can establish many collaborations across the world, interact with industry and see the bigger picture of our research field.  This career stage also brings great opportunities to get involved in public engagement, science communication and become committed citizens of the world.  And this is just the warm-up…

Sam Confederat

Find out more about Sam Confederat.