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Biosensors for Forensic Analysis - 4 Year PHD Studentship


Project Description

The Forensic Biochemistry group within the School of Population Health & Environmental Sciences is seeking an exceptional and highly motivated early career researcher with a strong background in analytical science, forensic science or biochemistry to undertake a fully funded PhD studentship in the development of biosensors for the detection and identification of body fluids.

Body fluids are a vital source of forensic evidence left behind at many crime scenes. The detection and identification of fluids, such as blood, semen and saliva, can often help advance investigations by providing information on the nature of an offence, as well as a source of genetic material that may be used to construct a scientific link between an individual and a crime through DNA profiling. However, current techniques used to locate and attribute the identity of fluids deposited at crime scenes are often disadvantaged by issues of low specificity, detrimental effects on DNA recovery and an inability to be performed simultaneously as part of multiplex assays.

We have recently reported a number of fluorescent biosensors for use as novel strategies for the detection and identification of body fluids. Such sensors may have the potential to reduce overall fluid screening times by producing a real-time signal in response to specific biological interactions with body fluid targets. Biosensing is usually achieved through the use of a supramolecular complex comprising two components; a biological detection element for the recognition of a testing antigen and a physiochemical transduction element that allows the production of observable signal output upon successful interaction. The objectives of this project will be aligned with the design and development of these two components.

The aim of this PhD studentship is to design and synthesise ‘turn-on’ fluorescent probes (each detecting a specific biological trace) and test them for their ability to produce a recordable signal upon interaction with body fluids targets. Different biosensing mechanisms will be evaluated and tested, including aptamer-based sensors. Aptamers, short single stranded DNA sequences capable of binding to different molecular or cellular targets, will be developed towards a range of intra-body fluid targets using the SELEX process and Massively Parallel Sequencing techniques. Identified aptamer sequences will then be integrated into appropriate biosensor systems, which will be used to detect and identify different body fluid samples.

As part of King’s Forensics, the Forensic Biochemistry group headed by Dr Nunzianda Frascione investigates the nature and evidential use of forensic trace evidence such as biological fluids, touch DNA and fingermarks. Such traces are often the most important forms of evidence encountered within forensic casework and their presence may help support or refute victim, suspect or witness claims about events. The group works closely, both on a technical and operational level, with police forces, private forensic service providers and government-associated laboratories on several research streams.

The successful candidates should have at least a BSc or equivalent in an area related to the project’s scope. Applied research experience (including industrial experience) involving biosensor development will be advantageous. The position will be based at King’s College London on the Waterloo Campus.

The application process requires a statement of experience and research interests, CV and two reference letters. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and interviews of candidates on the short list will take place in March 2020. For further questions about this opening, please contact: Dr. Nunzianda Frascione.


How to apply
The application deadline is February 14th, 2020 and applicants have to apply through King’s College London’s online portal: see our web page listed in the Application Enquiries section.

The application process requires a statement of research interests, proof of previous academic studies and two reference letters. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and interviews of candidates on the short list will take place in March 2020.
For further questions about this opening, please contact: Dr. Nunzianda Frascione (see Application Enquiries section for contact details)

Funding Notes

£17,009.00 per annum including London allowance with possible inflationary increases after the first year, plus covered Home/EU tuition fees.

start date 06 April 2020

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