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University of Bath URSA project: A microfluidic electrochemical chip for monitoring of cancer cell therapies

   Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering

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  Prof Pedro Estrela, Prof Sofia Pascu  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the University of Bath URSA competition.


There is a great need for approaches where each cancer patient is treated and monitored in a personalised way, i.e. the treatment is tailored to the patient and adapted according to their response to the drugs administered. This can be achieved through novel companion diagnostic devices which inform the clinician on the best treatment to follow and enable the patients to regularly test the progression of the disease. The clinician can then have an overview of the progression of specific cancer biomarkers and of drug uptake over time and adapt the treatment to achieve its maximum efficiency.

Novel biosensors that detect different cancer cell membrane receptors will be developed in this project. The biosensors will use peptide-modified electrodes that capture the cells through specific membrane receptors in order to obtain an electrochemical impedance response. This response changes when a drug effectively interacts with the cell.

Arrays of electrodes will be developed to simultaneously test for different drugs or drug dosages. The integration of the biosensors with microfluidics and a simple electronic readout in a lab-on-a-chip format will enable a low-cost rapid test using only a small sample volume.

The student in this project will work within the Centre for Biosensors, Bioelectronics and Biodevices (C3Bio) and across Engineering, Chemistry and Pharmacology to develop and optimise the electrochemical biosensors using cancer cell lines, optimise the peptide linkers, integrate the sensors in a lab-on-chip platform and test the overall device with bespoke electronic readout circuits.

The development of such low-cost portable companion diagnostic devices can have a huge impact on the management of cancer patients, enabling a true personalised medicine approach and improving the life of cancer patients.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement by February 2023 in order to be considered for funding.

Enquiries and Applications

Informal enquiries are encouraged! Direct these to Dr Pedro Estrela - [Email Address Removed]

Please make a formal application should via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Electronic and Electrical Engineering

When completing the form, please identify your application as being for the URSA studentship competition in Section 3 Finance (question 2) and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section. 

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

Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements:

  • UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Those with Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We value a diverse research environment and strive to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We encourage applications from under-represented groups. In particular, we are welcoming applications from candidates with Refugee, Asylum Seeker, or Humanitarian Protection in the UK to our Doctoral Sanctuary Studentship in Engineering and Design.

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.

The Disability Service ensures that individuals with disabilities are provided the support that they need. If you state if your application that you have a disability, the Disability Service will contact you as part of this process to discuss your needs.

Keywords: Biochemistry; Bioengineering; Biomedical Engineering; Electronic Engineering; Physical Chemistry; Synthetic Chemistry

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for a University of Bath (URSA) studentship tenable for 3.5 years. Funding covers tuition fees at the ‘Home’ rate, a stipend (£17,668 p/a in 2022/23) and a £1000/annum training budget.
As URSA studentships only cover the ‘Home’ tuition fee rate, Overseas students are not eligible to apply. Are you an Outstanding Overseas student (e.g. with a UK Masters Distinction or international equivalent) who is interested in this project? If so, please contact the intended supervisor in the first instance, to discuss the possibility of applying for additional funding.

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