University of Sheffield researcher honoured with Doctoral Researcher Award (DRA2020)

Biomaterials researcher, Dr Betül Aldemir Dikici recently won first place in the Engineering Sciences category of the Doctoral Researcher Awards for her research into development of multiscale porous, osteogenic and angiogenic bone tissue scaffolds.

PhD Student using microscope

Dr Betül Aldemir Dikici from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering has been awarded Doctoral Researcher Award (DRA2020 - in the category of Engineering Sciences for the recognition of her research on development of multiscale porous, osteogenic and angiogenic bone tissue engineering scaffolds.

Graphical summary of bone scaffold research

DRA is an annual UK-wide academic competition in which junior researchers who are pursuing (or have recently completed) doctoral degrees in the UK present their research to an audience of their peers along with experts in a range of disciplines. The awards, which first took place in 2012, are presented in three main categories: Natural & Life Sciences, Engineering Sciences, and Management & Social Sciences.

In May, candidates were asked to submit their CV, research statements, representative research paper, and project description of their PhD research. In July, five finalists in each category were notified, and invited to participate in the competition final. Since the Covid-19 pandemic prevented the event taking place in a physical location, the finalists were asked to take part virtually, presenting their papers online at the event on 12 September.

Dr Aldemir Dikici presents her research to Doctoral Researcer Award panel
Dr Aldemir Dikici presents her research to the DRA2020 panel

Following her presentation, Betül was awarded the 1st place in the category of Engineering Sciences of DRA2020.

Betül has been working as a PhD student, in the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Group of Kroto Research Institute and Insigneo Institute under supervision of Dr Frederik Claeyssens and Prof Gwendolen Reilly, and has recently completed her PhD. Her research has focused on the development of emulsion templated matrices for tissue engineering applications.

In the presented work, both the structural and biochemical requirements for the development of scaffolds for bone regeneration were discussed. Multiscale porous polymeric scaffolds have been fabricated by combining emulsion templating and three-dimensional (3D) printing techniques, taking advantage of the photocurability of the polymer (polycaprolactone synthesised at the University). This research suggests an alternative approach to improve the biological performance of polymeric matrices by the decoration of the scaffolds with bone cell-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) decoration.

In vivo and in vitro evaluations demonstrated that ECM-decorated multiscale porous scaffolds developed in this study appear to have great potential to be used as a bone graft substitute.

This work has recently been published in ACS Applied Materials, and more details of Betül’s research, can be found in the selected papers listed below or on her personal website (

Selected papers

(1) B. Aldemir Dikici, F. Claeyssens, Basic Principles of Emulsion Templating and Its Use as an Emerging Manufacturing Method of Tissue Engineering Scaffolds, Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. 8 (2020). doi:10.3389/fbioe.2020.00875.

(2) B. Aldemir Dikici, S. Dikici, G.C. Reilly, S. MacNeil, F. Claeyssens, A Novel Bilayer Polycaprolactone Membrane for Guided Bone Regeneration: Combining Electrospinning and Emulsion Templating, Materials (Basel). 12 (2019) 2643. doi:10.3390/ma12162643.

(3) B.A. Dikici, C. Sherborne, G.C. Reilly, F. Claeyssens, Emulsion templated scaffolds manufactured from photocurable polycaprolactone, Polymer (Guildf). (2019). doi:10.1016/j.polymer.2019.05.023.

(4) S. Dikici, B. Aldemir Dikici, S.I. Bhaloo, M. Balcells, E.R. Edelman, S. MacNeil, G.C. Reilly, C. Sherborne, F. Claeyssens, Assessment of the Angiogenic Potential of 2-Deoxy-D-Ribose Using a Novel in vitro 3D Dynamic Model in Comparison With Established in vitro Assays, Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. 7 (2020). doi:10.3389/fbioe.2019.00451.

(5) B. Aldemir Dikici, G.C. Reilly, F. Claeyssens, Boosting the osteogenic and angiogenic performance of multiscale porous polycaprolactone scaffolds by in vitro generated extracellular matrix decoration, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces. 12 (2020) 12510–12524. doi:10.1021/acsami.9b23100.

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.