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  Metamaterial-based chiroptical spectroscopy for bio-analysis


   Department of Physics

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  Prof Ventsislav Valev, Dr Soraya Caixeiro  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project under the supervision of Prof Ventsislav Valev in the Department of Physics.

Chirality – the absence of mirror symmetry – splits the material world into right and, sometimes, very, very wrong. Chirality exists in almost all biochemically/medicinally important molecules (amino acids, sugars, proteins, DNA, etc.) and it plays a key role in drug discovery. Indeed, most new pharmaceuticals that enter the market are chiral. However, while one mirror-form (or ‘handedness’) of a molecule can be a cure, the other handedness (sometimes called ‘the evil twin’) can be a poison. The most famous example is the drug ‘thalidomide’, whose wrong handedness caused the birth of over 10,000 babies with shortened or no limbs. It is therefore vital to accurately determine the handedness of molecules and one of the best ways is to use light.

Light too can be chiral. So called ‘circularly polarised light’ has long been used to tell chiral molecules apart. Unfortunately, these light-mater interactions (chiral-optical effects) are extremely weak; because of the size difference between the chiral pitch of light (100s of nm) and that of molecules (units of nm).

Recently, novel light states have been created (called ‘superchiral’), where the chiral pitch of light is highly compressed. Such states are created using nanostructured materials (metamaterials) and they can greatly enhance the sensitivity to chirality.

In this project, we will develop a new form of highly-sensitive spectroscopy for detecting chirality in biomolecules. Using electron beam lithography, we will prepare gold metamaterials that can create superchiral hotspots. We will build a setup that can illuminate these metamaterials and map high-order diffraction spectra. We will decorate the metamaterial surfaces with capture antibodies, tailored to specific target molecules, which (due to enhanced chiral-optical effects) will change the diffracted spectra. In biomedical applications, molecules like C-reactive protein (indicative of inflammation and infection) and prostate-specific antigen (a marker for cancer recurrence post-radical prostatectomy) could be targeted, showcasing the versatility of our new biosensing technique.

Due to its increased sensitivity, our new technique will allow chiral optical characterisation in tiny volumes of mixtures. This will help speed up the screening of many mixtures and will speed up the discovery of potentially life-saving drugs.

Key words: Plasmonics, photonics, optics, chirality, laser, spectroscopy, metamaterials, nano

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class UK Honours degree (or the equivalent) in Physics or in a relevant subject. A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous but is not essential.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Applicants are encouraged to contact Prof Ventsislav Valev on email address [Email Address Removed] before applying to find out more about the project and to discuss their suitability for the role.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Physics.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We welcome and encourage applications from under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.


Engineering (12) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students; for example, those who have secured an external scholarship or those who have other means of supporting their studies in full (tuition fees, bench fees and living expenses, as well as relocation and immigration costs where applicable).

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