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University of Bath URSA project: Molecularly imprinted polymer-based biosensors for sustainable healthcare

   Department of Chemical Engineering

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  Dr Hannah Leese, Prof Pedro Estrela, Dr Antoine Buchard  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.


The global need for rapid, reliable and cost-effective diagnostics of disease is ever-growing. One of these pressing needs, is to diagnose infections effectively and equally to contribute to the fight against antimicrobial resistance in a sustainable way. Sustainable device engineering and optimisation through material design for sensitivity and reliability is a core objective of this project and the Materials for Health Lab that you will be part of.

This interdisciplinary project will develop sustainable polymeric molecularly imprinted sensors – that utilise complementary epitope recognition sites installed in a sustainably produced polymeric structure, mimicking size, shape, and orientation of the epitope and manufactured utilising green chemistry principles. Epitopes are small sites on an antigen to which a complementary antibody may specifically bind. Imprinting introduces a molecular memory into the polymer and mimics molecular recognition mechanisms.

The developed polymeric molecularly imprinted sensors will be cost-effective, minimally invasive or wearable devices that are biochemically, physically, thermally more stable than current assays. All these elements are crucial for wide distribution, shelf-life and patient acceptability – with all processes having sustainability at its heart. By utilising polymeric materials that do not persist in the environment, this project has the potential to transform the way we produce, manufacture, and dispose of self-testing diagnostic devices in the future.

About us:

Research in the Materials for Health Lab, led by Dr Hannah Leese focuses on developing advanced materials for transformative sustainable healthcare, specifically, materials that can detect and diagnose the presence of disease at point-of-care.

Research in the Buchard group addresses all aspects of the development of sustainable polymers and produce innovative polymers for new technologies, including packaging, battery solid electrolytes and health materials. Research in the Estrela group, focuses on the development of label-free electrical biosensors and chemical sensors for a wide range of applications such as medical diagnostics and environmental monitoring.

Find out more about C3Bio (Centre for Biosensors, Bioelectronics and Biodevices at the University of Bath).

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 Hannah Leese - [Email Address Removed]

Please make a formal application should via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemical 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: Applied Chemistry; Biomedical Engineering; Biotechnology; Chemical Engineering; Electronic Engineering; Polymer Chemistry; Polymers

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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