This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Self-powered point of care diagnostics

Subject: Engineering


Summary

“Healthy communities” have been highlighted as one of the four core themes in Ulster University’s strategic plan. In line with this, at the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bio-Engineering Centre (NIBEC), our work is focused on the development of novel healthcare technologies and a particular aspect of this involves research in the next generation point-of-care diagnostic sensors, on which the proposed PhD is based. Accurate, rapid diagnosis is a critical component of healthcare which drives the treatment, prognosis and clinical outcome for patients. The current colormetric lateral-flow assay (LFA) point-of-care (POC) devices provide a pathway to overcome the high infrastructure, resource costs and time-constraints associated with laboratory-based blood culture tests.

The existing challenges for these LFA-POC devices are primarily around the user bias arising from the time-bound colorimetric response which in a busy and frequently resource-constrained clinical setting, hampers the accurate diagnosis. While the LFAs themselves are simple and inexpensive, where qualitative results can be obtained visually, there is a growing demand for quantification, sensitivity, traceability and connectivity in healthcare diagnostics. To achieve this and in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s ASSURED criteria(1), there is an urgent need for inexpensive platform POC reader technologies which are independent of: (i) time-bound colorimetric response and (ii) infrastructure/resource constraints i.e erratic power supply or battery challenges (replacement cost, shelf-life and recyclability).

This PhD program aims to overcome these challenges by facilitating the development a proof-of-principle quantitative POC reader. This will be achieved through research into triboelectric energy harvesting techniques(2-4) with integration of suitable low-cost optical sensing and readout platforms. The harvesting of ambient mechanical energy through triboelectric nanogenerators is expected to provide large power and energy densities and through development of power management circuits, high conversion, storage and delivery efficiencies. As part of this PhD, you will be exposed to a diverse range of experimental techniques in materials development for energy harvesters, lateral flow assays, rapid prototyping and low-power design technologies. As a test-case, the project will focus on C-reactive protein (CRP), a well-established key biomarker of infection, inflammation and sepsis. It is, however, anticipated that further development of multiplexing techniques for multi-analyte detection will be pursued to provide a rapid and accurate on-demand diagnosis of topical diseases, even in the remotest and resource-constrained communities.

1.“The potential of paper-based diagnostics to meet the ASSURED criteria”, S. Smith, J. G. Korvink, D. Mager et al., RSC Advances, 2018, 8(59), 34012-34034, DOI

2.“Expanding the portfolio of tribo-positive materials: aniline formaldehyde condensates for high charge density triboelectric nanogenerators”, P. Zhao, N. Soin*, A. Kumar, J. McLaughlin, J. Luo  et al.  Nano Energy, 2019, 104291, DOI

3.“Emulsion electrospinning of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) nanofibrous membranes for high-performance triboelectric nanogenerators”, P Zhao, N Soin*, K Prashanthi, J. Luo et al. ACS Applied Materials & Interface, 2018, 106, 5880-5891, DOI

4.“Significant triboelectric enhancement using interfacial piezoelectric ZnO nanosheet layer”, A. A. Narasimulu, P. Zhao, N. Soin* J. Luo et al. Nano Energy, 2017, 40, 471-480, DOI


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Dr Navneet Soin


Other supervisors

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Engineering

Subject: Engineering

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