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PhD Studentship in Materials for Bioelectronics Applications

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  • Full or part time
    Prof M Geoghegan
    Dr M Peeters
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Number of awards


Start date and duration

September 2020


The need for biocompatible scaffolds that can be integrated into the body to support therapeutic applications requires a number of factors to work in concert. Material must be biocompatible and preferably biodegradable on time scales commensurate with the application (i.e. the time during which they are required), it must mechanically adapt to surrounding tissue (i.e, have an appropriate elastic modulus), and there must be the ability to chemically attach organic electronic components that relay information. If this can be achieved, then simple and fast in vitro and in vivo detection of disease warning signs has clear long-term benefits.

This project is to link transistor technologies with stimuli-responsive polyelectrolyte materials which signal the presence of factors (molecules or cells) associated with risks to health. The challenge for in vivo measurements is to identify the relevant event but avoiding problems due to the measurement itself. Electrolyte-gated organic field-effect transistors are ideal here because of their environmental versatility and their potential for chemical functionality. A typical challenge may be the detection of a response to pH changes associated with inflammation. To achieve this, polyelectrolytes may be used as part of the gate of a transistor. This polymer undergoes a conformational transition due to changes in local pH, changing the capacitance of the transistor dielectric. If the polymer is a grafted polyelectrolyte layer, then this signal will be indicated by a change in thickness. Similarly, the response of transistors to the presence of different types of cells may allow early detection of serious conditions.

Experiments triggering conformational changes in polyelectrolytes are an important means of detecting these cells, although controlling their behaviour in media with high ionic strength is not trivial. Here, ions shield the effect of charges, limiting the effect of pH which controls polyelectrolyte conformational transitions, and so requires particularly sensitive materials. The project is multidisciplinary and covers aspects of chemistry and chemical engineering, physics, and biotechnology.


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Name of supervisor(s)

Professor Mark Geoghegan (, School of Engineering (

Dr Marloes Peeters (, School of Engineering (

Eligibility Criteria

The award is available to UK/EU applicants only. Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria, you may be entitled to a full or a partial award.

The applicant is expected to have an upper second class degree MEng, MPhys, MChem or equivalent

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system (

You will need to:
•insert the programme code 8030F in the programme of study section
•select ‘PhD Chemical Engineering (full time) - Chemical Engineering’ as the programme of study
•insert the studentship code eng060 in the studentship/partnership reference field
•attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code eng060 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
•attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications

You should also send your covering letter and CV to Professor Mark Geoghegan by email to [Email Address Removed].


Professor Mark Geoghegan [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Full UK/EU fees (eligibility criteria applies to EU students) and annual living allowance of £15,009

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