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(BBSRC DTP) Detecting and differentiating pathogens by binding their surface glycans

   Department of Materials

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  Dr Christopher Blanford, Prof Robert Field, Dr Samuel Jones  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The “sugar coating” on cells and viruses acts like a fingerprint. These glycoproteins and glycolipids affect pathogen virulence through binding to host receptors, forming resistant biofilms, and stimulating immune responses. Their distinctness offers a route to detect these pathogens as well as differentiate between strains of the same pathogen. This project will develop sensitive electronic diagnostics so that appropriate treatment can be offered. Lectins are proteins that bind sugars; native and engineered lectins will act as biological recognition elements. The project will explore three sensing modes: electronic current through a graphene field effect transistors, electrochemical activity, and impedance. The doctoral candidate on this project can expect to be trained in carbohydrate chemistry, working with viruses, biophysical binding assays, and electronic sensing. Candidates should have experience working in any one of these areas and are not expected to be experienced in all aspects of the project. 

 The project will be guided by three principal investigators and their research groups: 

  • Dr Blanford leads a team who engineer surfaces for selective binding of biological and biochemical analytes, from enzymes to fungal spores. He and his team will lead creating and testing sensing systems, especially quantifying performance factors like sensitivity, limit of detection, and selectivity. 
  • Prof. Field is a carbohydrate (bio)chemist. He is also founder and CEO of the spin-out company Iceni Glycoscience. He and his group apply chemistry to understand and modify bacterial adhesion and infection. His group will lead on identifying bacterial targets, synthesising glycans and lectins that can bind to a sensor surface, and provide industrial perspective to the project. 
  • Dr Jones and his group research the interactions between viruses and materials. They will identify viral targets, provide training on viral structures, assays, and antivirals. 


Applicants must have obtained or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science, engineering or technology. 

Before you Apply

Applicants must make direct contact with preferred supervisors before applying. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to meet with potential supervisors, prior to submitting a formal online application.

How To Apply

To be considered for this project you MUST submit a formal online application form - full details on eligibility how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team [Email Address Removed]

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website

Funding Notes

Studentship funding is for 4 years. This scheme is open to both the UK and international applicants. We are only able to offer a limited number of studentships to applicants outside the UK. Therefore, full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
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