Electrochemical Sensing of Phytoplankton, Bacteria and Viruses

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr Minjun Yang  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Graduate Teaching Assistantship

This is a Graduate Training Assistantship (GTA), which means that you will be required to do some teaching, and particularly lab demonstrating, as part of your training. GTAs allow research students to fund their PhD through part-time teaching work with the University.

A Graduate Teaching Assistant is responsible to the Head of School and is expected to undertake teaching or other duties within the School - not normally exceeding 8-10 contact hours per week - while undertaking research leading to a PhD.

Approximately 80% of your time will be spent on doctoral research and 20% on GTA responsibilities. Training is provided to help Graduate Teaching Assistants develop their teaching related skills and enhance their professional competencies.



  1. Electrochemical sensor innovation based on species-specific response to electro-oxidative damage 
  2. Investigate the mechanism of interaction via a bottom-up approach by synthesising bio-mimicking proto-cells
  3. Patent and publish new electrochemical sensing strategies for bacteria and viruses

Project Summary

Growing industrialisation and anthropogenic emissions are suffocating our planet. Frequent and unnatural harmful algae blooms are directly linked to sewage and agriculture pollution. Deadly viruses are ravaging our nation and posing a threat to the human race. These are global issues asphyxiating our generation and we need to start monitoring our planet now.

Recent electrochemistry-based research showed that different species of marine phytoplankton exhibit a species-specific susceptibility towards electrogenerated oxidative species.[1,2] Marine phytoplankton are the beacon of climate change not least because they are the basis of the food web of our Ocean but certain toxic-producing species are the underlying cause of the so-called ‘red tide’. The breakthrough in electrochemistry offers a promising basis for a sensor technology to be developed to monitor the health status of our ocean which also acts as an early warning system for future harmful algae blooms. 

This project provides a platform for the student to develop electrochemical sensing strategies of marine phytoplankton with opportunities to expand into bacteria and viruses sensing by first understanding how electrogenerated species react with single-entity ‘soft-body’ particles. The project is core in electrochemistry with a close connection to environmental monitoring and real-world applications.

This project welcomes students with a strong background in Physical Chemistry, Biology or Biochemistry. The candidate should highlight, although not essential, any prior research experience in electrochemistry and/or soft matter. During this studentship the candidate will develop many desirable scientific skills of wide applicability, embracing electrochemistry, microscopy, instrumentation and sensing strategies, data analysis, surface chemistry as well as other key transferable skills. Patenting and entrepreneurship/start-up opportunities will be explored closely with the Leicester Innovation Hub.


[1] Yang, Minjun, et al. "Fluoro-electrochemical microscopy reveals group specific differential susceptibility of phytoplankton towards oxidative damage." Chemical Science 10.34 (2019): 7988-7993.

[2]Yang, Minjun, et al. "Calcifying Coccolithophore: An Evolutionary Advantage Against Extracellular Oxidative Damage." Small (2023): 2300346.

Entry requirements:

Open to UK applicants only.

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.  

The University of Leicester English language requirements apply

Informal enquiries:

Please email enquiries to [Email Address Removed]


To apply please refer to https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/funded-opportunities/chemistry-gta

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6)

Funding Notes

GTA Studentships provide funding for 4 years to include:
Tuition fees at UK rates
A combined teaching and stipend payment. Currently £18,622 for 2023/4