Water is central to all life on Earth. Access to potable water is essential for humans, while much of our food chain is also reliant on the aquatic environment.
Pollution of water by heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides has been well-publicised, as have its effects on aquatic plant and animal life and the quality of drinking water. Less discussed are the effects of pollution from drugs used in human/veterinary medicine. While not deemed persistent organic pollutants, the fact of their continual human use renders them pseudo-persistent. There is a growing body of evidence that drugs, even at concentrations well below human therapeutic levels, can have serious effects on aquatic wildlife throughout the food chain, which will ultimately affect us all. Thus, methods for in situ detection of low concentrations of drugs in environmental waters are required.
In this project, we aim to offer a solution based around the preparation of electroactive molecularly imprinted polymers (eMIPs) for incorporation into electrochemical sensors. The eMIPs will target substances known to exert effects on freshwater species and contained on an EC vigilance list, namely diclofenac, diazepam and carbamazepine. The approach can provide a route to robust, selective and inexpensive devices to monitor drug-derived environmental pollution.
The specific project aims for the student awarded this scholarship will be to:
1. synthesise new polymerisable building blocks containing both recognition and electroactive elements, ensuring electrochemical signal transduction of recognition events.
2. prepare eMIPs targeting pollutants of pharmaceutical origin, specifically diclofenac, diazepam and carbamazepine, using these building blocks.
3. assess the recognition properties of the eMIPs and their selectivity in the presence of interfering compounds.
Further aims, in collaboration with external partners, are to:
4. incorporate the optimal eMIPs into screen-printed electrodes (SPE) to create eMIP-SPEs.
5. test the utility of the eMIP-SPEs in the analysis of model and real-world samples.
Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a first class or upper second class degree and/or Masters degree in a relevant discipline (chemistry, materials science, etc). Practical experience in organic synthesis, materials science and/or supramolecular chemistry would be a distinct advantage. Above all, candidates should be highly motivated, independently-minded and should be able to demonstrate the ability to learn new skills in a research environment.
Applications should include a cover letter detailing research interests and aspirations, along with a detailed CV including the names and contact details of two referees. These should be sent directly to Dr. Hall via e-mail (to: [email protected]