Development of a DNA amplification-free assay for pathogen detection


   School of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a funded PhD position in the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham. The School of Chemistry is keen to achieve a gender and diversity balance across the School and welcomes applicants from all backgrounds.

This fully funded PhD position is available to start in September 2024 for an ambitious and talented candidate to contribute to our ongoing research program on virus/material interactions and pathogen detection.

As we have seen in recent years, the need for rapid detection of pathogens is crucial in the fight against pandemic causing viruses and drug resistant bacteria. Typically polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to give accurate and reliable results. Whilst it is reliable and sensitive, PCR usually requires expensive equipment, trained personnel and electricity. Making it unsuitable for use in resource limited settings or in the developing world. There are some isothermal amplification techniques that have been developed in recent years (i.e. LAMP, RCA etc.) that aim to overcome such problems but none have yet found widespread use.

Here we will develop a completely novel approach to detection of pathogenic genetic material that does not rely on enzymes, which are used in PCR and isothermal approaches. Such an approach will allow for rapid, temperature independent, readouts that can be used in any setting, which will significantly improve our ability to detect pathogens. To achieve this the project will explore a range of polymeric, catalytic and dye systems, building on existing expertise within the Jones Lab, and combine them with DNA-hairpins and/or aptamers to give visual or fluorescent read-outs. Synthesis and characterisation of these polymers, molecules and dyes, as well as coupling to suitable hairpins or aptamers, will be an essential part of this project.

This is an inherently multidisciplinary project offering unique training. Successful applicants will need to have strong chemistry experience in areas such as polymers, catalysis, and organic synthesis. The work will be undertaken within the Jones Lab at the Uni. of Birmingham, which consists of both Chemical and Virology labs. The project offers a motivated student the opportunity to work on all aspects of the research and as such the successful applicant will be expected to work in both labs (following suitable training) in order to complete this project. A keen interest and dedication to the project will be essential along with a hard working and independent work ethic.

A copy of the groups labs manual, which will give you further details on what it is like to work within the Jones Lab, can be found here: https://broadspectrumantivirals.com/join-us

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

The studentship is fully funded for 3.5 years and covers the tuition fees and annual stipend at the UK home rate. Please note that, due to funding restrictions, only those eligible for UK home fees status may apply.

Applicants should contact Dr Samuel Jones for informal inquiries, and before applying (with a CV and cover letter summarising your research interests and previous experience). Formal applications should be made through the University of Birmingham’s online application system.

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