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Funded PhD Opportunity

Novel Biosensors for the detection of waterborne microbial pathogens

Subject: Engineering


Background: Water borne diseases from drinking unsafe water contribute to high incidence of illness in developing regions.  At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated and thus likely to lead to diarrheal illness: nearly 1,000 children die each day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases. In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.  Low cost technologies for safe drinking water have significant potential to improve the health of communities who rely on unsafe water, and thus improve their quality of life through reduced illnesses, reduced absence from employment, improved school attendance, improved family life, and less stress on females (normally responsible for water in households).  This research project is directly linked to the SAFEWATER Project, ‘low cost technologies for safe drinking water in developing regions’ funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund RCUK.

Aims: The focus of this research will be to investigate the development of new sensor technologies that can provide quantitative information on a range of waterborne pathogens and thus enable more rapid feedback on water quality. The project will involve the immobilisation of various biorecognition systems onto disposable electrode platforms, characterisation of specificity / sensitivity and optimisation of the sensor response. Ultimately, the intention is to yield a prototype sensing system for use in field based pathogen identification.

Academic impact – This research project should deliver results concerning the development of novel device architectures, sensing methodologies and new approaches to the rapid identification of pathogens. The research should deliver data and results that can be published in high impact peer reviewed journals.

Overseas impact – This research is part of the SAFEWATER GCRF RCUK project which is a large transdisciplinary research project in partnership with universities and NGOs in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.   The overall goal is to deliver low cost technologies for safe drinking water in rural areas of Colombia and Mexico, and to build capability in the UK and capacity overseas for addressing global challenges.  The research student will be expected to work closely with the overseas partners, including research visits to Colombia, Mexico or Brazil.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)



    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 18 May 2018

Interview Date
end May 2018

Contact supervisor

Professor James Davis

Other supervisors


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