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  Green synthesis of probes for microbial detection using biocatalysis (ref: SF22/HLS/APP/TURNBULL)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr G Turnbull  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

This project requires a talented student with a background in biology, biochemistry, or chemistry to make a library of compounds to be used in the detection and identification of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts.

Enzymes are present in all living organisms and are vital for metabolism, however there are differences in the specific enzymes present in different species. Through the use of (chromogenic (colour-generating) enzyme substrates we are able to differentiate certain bacteria and yeasts, and these compounds are of vital importance for diagnostics in hospital laboratories and the food industry.

The successful applicant will join an award-winning team of chemists, microbiologists, and clinicians to develop new enzyme substrates through the use of biocatalysis. Focusing primarily on peptidase substrates, the work will involve the screening of enzymes, synthesis of oligopeptides, coupling to coloured cores, and evaluation of the substrates against a wide range of disease-causing microorganisms such as E. coli, MRSA, and Salmonella spp. Successful compounds may be developed into microbiological media for use in hospital pathology and food microbiology labs.

A bioscience or chemistry background is essential, but full training will be given for any areas you are not fluent in. The publications below will give you more information on the projects that we have carried out previously, but please get in touch by email ([Email Address Removed]) if you have any questions about the position

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

•      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non- UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above)

•      Appropriate IELTS score, if required

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


Please note: All applications must include a covering letter (up to 1000 words maximum) including why you are interested in this PhD, a summary of the relevant experience you can bring to this project and of your understanding of this subject area with relevant references (beyond the information already provided in the advert). Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF22/…) will not be considered.


Deadline for applications: Ongoing

Start Date: 1st October and 1st March are the standard cohort start dates each year.

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University hold a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career development of researchers.

Informal enquiries to Dr Graeme Turnbull ([Email Address Removed])

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6)

Funding Notes

This project is fully self-funded and available to applicants worldwide. Tuition fees will depend on the running cost of the individual project, in line with University fee bands found at The fee will be discussed and agreed at interview stage.
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
have settled status, or
have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.


Cellier, M; James, AL; Orenga, S; Perry, JD; Turnbull, G; Stanforth, SP; “The synthesis of L-alanyl and β-alanyl derivatives of 2-aminoacridone and their application in the detection and identification of clinically-important microorganisms.” PLoS One, 2016, 11, 7, e0158378.
Cellier-Rastit, M; James, AL; Orenga, S; Perry, JD; Robinson, SN; Turnbull, G; Stanforth SP. “Fluorogenic L-alanylaminopeptidase substrates derived from 6-amino-2-heterylquinolines and 7-amino-3-hetarylcoumarins and their potential applications in diagnostic microbiology.” Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2019, 29, 10, 1227-1231.
Truong, VT; Twist, A; Zaytsev, A; Mars, ECL; Perry, A; Turnbull, G; Orenga, S; Stanforth, SP; Perry, JD. “Evaluation of a novel chromogenic medium for the detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in respiratory samples from patients with cystic fibrosis.” Microorganisms, 10, 1004.

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