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The synthesis and evaluation of novel esters for the detection of pathogenic microorganisms (Ref: SF20/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

The detection and differentiation of pathogenic microorganisms, those which cause disease in human beings and animals, routinely relies on the observation of a change of colour in the growth medium caused by the action of microbial enzymes on artificial substrates. In hospital pathology laboratories, routine screening of patient samples for Salmonella and Listeria relies on the hydrolysis of weakly-coloured ester substrates to form highly coloured alcohols, however the stability of these esters in aqueous solution limits their shelf-life.
The aim of this project is to design, synthesise and evaluate a range of novel chromogenic esters with improved stability for use in healthcare, environmental monitoring and food quality control. The successful applicant will spend much of their time focusing on synthetic organic chemistry (particularly involving highly conjugated heterocyclic systems) along with associated analyses, and training will also be provided in microbiology to allow you to evaluate the substrates produced for use in industry.
Applicants for this position should be highly motivated and good at managing their own time. You will have the opportunity to attend training sessions for personal development, and opportunities for attendance and presentation at national and international conferences will be encouraged. The project supervisor is a keen developer of public science outreach, and you will also be encouraged to get involved.

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); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

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

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed and the reasons you consider yourself suited to the project. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Potential applicants are welcome to contact Dr Graeme Turnbull at [Email Address Removed] to arrange an informal discussion prior to application.

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


Cellier-Rastit, M.; James, A. L.; Orenga, S.; Perry, J. D.; Robinson, S. N.; Turnbull, G.; Stanforth, S. P. Fluorogenic L-Alanylaminopeptidase Substrates Derived from 6-Amino-2-Hetarylquinolines and 7-Amino-3-Hetarylcoumarins and Their Potential Applications in Diagnostic Microbiology. Bioorganic Med. Chem. Lett. 2019, 29 (10), 1227–1231.
Cellier, M.; James, A. L.; Orenga, S.; Perry, J. D.; Turnbull, G.; Stanforth, S. P. The Synthesis of L-Alanyl and β-Alanyl Derivatives of 2-Aminoacridone and Their Application in the Detection of Clinically Important Microorganisms. PLoS One 2016, 11 (7).
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