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Development of polymer-based platforms for the thermal detection of antimicrobial resistance

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Peeters
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Reference Number: MP-2018-PhD-1

Project Summary
The group of dr. Peeters focuses on the development of novel bio-sensing platforms that can be used for commercial applications. The candidate is expected to continue with recent work, which includes detection of antibiotics and (AMR) bacteria.

Specific Requirements of the Project

This is a multidisciplinary project, dealing with engineering, biology and chemistry aspects. The project will focus on the background of the applicant, but affinity with one of the subject areas is required. The applicant will have the chance to work with novel technology, which will ensure high impact of the work. The student will work in a vibrant research group and with other PhD students and postdocs. More information about the group can be found on

We expect the applicant to have:
- A 2.1 Bsc degree in either Engineering or Chemistry.
-Affinity with biology is considered a plus, but is not essential.
- The candidate will be trained how to work with the thermal device and is expected to work independently after adequate training.
- It is crucial that the candidate possesses excellent communication skills so he/she can communicate with different departments and present work at international conferences.
- Ability to push research forwards
- Analytical skills: critical evaluation of obtained results
- Motivation to solve complex problems
-Ability to work unsupervised (after adequate training)
-Enthusiastic and self-motivated

Project Aims and Objectives

In 2012, van Grinsven et al. found an anomaly in the thermal resistance when DNA was heated up. This could be correlated to the melting of DNA; the strand undergoes a change in conformation going from a well-defined elongated brush to a spaghetti-coiled structure. The DNA surface area is therefore increased by 150% and since it acts as an insulating layer, this will result in an increase in the overall thermal resistance. In recent years, this method has been extended to the screening of cells with Surface Imprinted Polymers, the detection of neurotransmitters with Molecularly Imprinted Polymers, and the measuring of phase changes in lipid vesicles. An overview of the heat-transfer method (HTM) can be found in ref [1], but since this technique has the advantages of being fast, straight-forward, and low-cost (only requiring two thermometers and an adjustable heat source, making it perfect as a home-made setup), there is an ongoing search to find novel applications.

Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) are polymeric receptors, also called ‘plastic’ antibodies, which have nanocavities that can detect their template molecules with high affinity. It is a new and emerging technique, and dr. Peeters has demonstrated neurotransmitter detection by combining MIPs with the heat-transfer method. By binding of the neurotransmitters to the polymeric MIP layer, the cavities in the porous structure of the MIP are blocked and the thermal resistance increases. This effect, named the “pore-blocking model” is schematically described in ref [2].

Recently, these Molecularly Imprinted Polymers were incorporated onto screen-printed electrodes with a direct functionalization method. This is a promising new method, since it allows for mass-production, but the thermal detection method needs to be optimized in order to enhance bacterial detection. A couple of important factors are the type of screen-printed electrode and the thickness of the layer. The candidate will evaluate these properties and subsequently use these screen-printed electrodes to antibiotics and bacteria (preferably simultaneously). The project is a combination of engineering and chemistry and will be adopted to the applicant’s background. From engineering terms, the set up needs to be adapted and automated to measure these novel screen-printed electrodes. From a chemistry perspective, Molecularly Imprinted Polymers are polymers that need to be synthesized and optimized for the use of several bacteria. We will also study the influence on the structure of bacteria when they are exposed to selected antibiotics.

Project is open to: Home/EU and overseas

Informal enquiries can be made to
Tel 0161 247 1450 email Dr. Marloes Peeters ([Email Address Removed])


[1] van Grinsven, K. Eersels, M. Peeters et al., The heat-transfer method: a versatile low-cost, label-free, fast, and user-friendly readout platform for biosensor applications, 2014, ACS AMI, 6, 16, 13309-13318.

[2] M. Peeters, P. Csipai, B. Geerets, A. Weustenraed, B. van Grinsven, J. Gruber, W. De Ceuninck, T.J. Cleij, F.J. Troost, P. Wagner, Heat-transfer based detection of L-nicotine, histamine, and serotonin using molecularly imprinted polymers as biomimetic receptors, 2013, Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 405, 6453-6460.

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