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GW4 BioMed MRC DTP PhD studentship: Novel Diagnostics for Stress and Neuroendocrine Disorders

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, November 25, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the ‘GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership’ which is offering up to 18 studentships for entry in September 2020.

The DTP brings together the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to develop the next generation of biomedical researchers. Students will have access to the combined research strengths, training expertise and resources of the four research-intensive universities.


Lead supervisor: Dr Nuno Reis, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Bath
Co-supervisors: Prof Stafford Lightman (Bristol), Prof Tony James (Bath), Prof Julie Turner-Cobb (Bournemouth) and Dr Bernardo Castro-Dominguez (Bath)


Millions of people struggle with stress and endocrine disorders, yet there is not an established rapid diagnostics methodology for neurosciences and mental health (NMH), able to measure stress and neuroendocrine biomarkers.

We hypothesise that a simple rapid optical, wireless biosensing test would enable multiple patient and healthcare benefits such as speeding up of diagnosis of endocrine disorders; reducing cost of intervention for patients undergoing therapeutics; enabling health psychologists to make more rational decisions; facilitating the job of neuroendocrine researchers studying the links of neuroendocrine system with chronic diseases; and providing clinically important information in areas of the world with poor laboratory services.

This collaborative project would suit a creative and curious student with a background in Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, Chemistry or any relevant applied science, interested in the opportunity of being involved in the early development of a new generation of healthcare tools for NMH in cooperation with pioneering engineers and chemists at Bath, neuroscientists at Bristol and Health Psychology at Bournemouth, with a track record of supervision of PhD students from various backgrounds. To validate this, we will carry out an interdisciplinary project focused in 3 main inter-disciplinary activities.

TASK 1 (James and Reis): We will synthesise and screen new physical, biosensing reporter molecules enabling one-step quantitation of hormones that can be easily incorporated in a disposable device and provide optimum signal-to-noise ratio for optical interrogation. The targeted hormones will be selected based on a SWOT analysis, NHS statistics data and expertise of supervisory team, but the initial focus will be a displacement assay for cortisol quantitation. We will characterise the probes using state-of-the-art molecular and imaging techniques.

TASK 2 (Reis and Castro-Dominguez): We will integrate the new displacement assays into miniaturised devices including 3D printed, photolitography and melt-extruded. For example, the “Lab-on-a-stick” approach pioneered by Dr Reis (Reis et al, Lab Chip, 2016,16, 2891-2899) can be quickly adapted to one-step quantitation of hormones from saliva, urine and a finger-prick, yet a microfluidic device embedded within a ‘skin patch’ would enable continuous monitoring of hormone from sweat. We will access state-of-the-art nano- and micro-fabrication facility, surface characterisation and microscopy and imaging facilities. Student have assistance for manufacturing and testing of the devices, including access to CAD, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and optical imaging and fluorescence imaging.

TASK 3 (Lightman and Turner-Cobb): We aim at testing the methodology in endocrinology and health psychology, and benchmark it against current analytical methodology (ELISA and MS), this will involve clinical testing with healthy patient samples in a small group of volunteers.


Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an area appropriate to the skills requirements of the project.

IMPORTANT: In order to apply for this project, you should apply using the DTP’s online application form:

You do NOT need to apply to the University of Bath at this stage – only those applicants who are successful in obtaining an offer of funding form the DTP will be required to submit an application to study at Bath.

More information on the application process may be found here:


Funding Notes

A full studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a Research and Training Support Grant of £2-5k per annum and a stipend (£15,009 per annum for 2019/20, updated each year) for 3.5 years.

UK and EU applicants who have been residing in the UK since September 2017 will be eligible for a full award; a limited number of studentships may be available to EU applicants not meeting the residency requirement. Applicants who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

More information on eligibility may be found here: View Website

How good is research at University of Bath in Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 61.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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