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Using hyperpolarisation with MRI to track in vivo chemical changes

Project Description

The newly proven technique of “spin hyperpolarised” Magnetic Resonance (MR) has the potential to become a safe and uniquely versatile high-sensitivity tool for medical research, drug discovery, clinical diagnostics and the probing of chemical change more generally. By employing the “Signal Amplification by Reversible Exchange” (“SABRE”) method, developed in York, spin hyperpolarisation is delivered in seconds in a continuous low-cost mode to 1H, 31P, 19F, 13C and 15N nuclei, which are ubiquitous to drugs, metabolites, biomarkers and important chemical feedstocks thereby offering new routes to their MRI monitoring. In this context, hyperpolarisation simply refers to the pre-magnetisation of a sample, which simply increases its visibility to MRI by over 100,000 times. The in vivo detection of these now highly visible biochemical probes through MR measurement in a conventional hospital scanner could ultimately empower clinical diagnosis whilst improving the treatment in a wide range of medical conditions. In this project we seek to establish MRI methods to track chemical change in homogeneous, heterogeneous, enzymatic and in vivo processes. We will validate and optimise these methods through this award by reference to the molecules 5-methyl pyrimidine, urea and pyruvate.

All research students follow our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills. All research students take the core training package which provides both a grounding in the skills required for their research, and transferable skills to enhance employability opportunities following graduation. Core training is progressive and takes place at appropriate points throughout a student’s higher degree programme, with the majority of training taking place in Year 1. In conjunction with the Core training, students, in consultation with their supervisor(s), select training related to the area of their research.

Dr Kennerley will provide direction and training in the development of novel MRI procedures to enable the spatially resolved tracking of chemical change. This will involve the imaging of homogeneous, heterogeneous and enzymatic processes. Professor Duckett will provide support in the synthetic, mechanistic and hyperpolarisation aspects of this project. The student will therefore gain advanced training in MRI based analytical chemistry, inorganic chemistry and biochemistry alongside additional skills in synthesis, advanced data analysis, advanced MR analysis, MR pulse programming, signal processing and catalysis.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: This PhD project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%).

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2019. Induction activities will start on 30 September.

Funding Notes

Fully funded for 3 years by either the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council or a Chemistry Teaching Studentship and cover: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,777 for 2018-19), (ii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, (iii) funding for consumables. You do not need to apply separately for the EPSRC funding. However you need to submit a separate Teaching Studentship application: View Website
Teaching studentships are available to any student who is eligible to pay tuition fees at the home rate. ESPRC Studentships are available to any student who meets the EPSRC eligibility criteria: View Website


• Applicants should submit an application for a PhD in Chemistry by 9 January 2019
• Supervisors may contact their preferred candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Supervisors may nominate up to two candidates to the assessment panel
• The assessment panel will shortlist candidates for interview from all those nominated
• Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a panel interview at the University of York on 13 or 15 February 2019
• The Awards Panel will award studentships following the panel interviews
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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