Physics: Fully Funded EPSRC iCASE PhD Scholarship at Swansea: Use of Raman Spectroscopy

  • Phd
  • Full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend
  • 23 July 2021

Physics: Fully Funded EPSRC iCASE PhD Scholarship: Use of Raman Spectroscopy in the Evaluation of Materials used in In-Vitro Diagnostic Devices
This scholarship is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) iCASE award.
Start date: October 2021
Supervisors:

Project description: The project is a collaboration with industrial sponsors, Siemens Healthineers.
In-vitro diagnostics tests are an important part of patient care, influencing greater than 70% of the decision made on the care pathway to follow. The ability to consistently produce product with equivalent performance is key to supporting healthcare professionals in this decision making. A large proportion of in-vitro diagnostics are immunoassay, relying on the highly specific interaction of antibodies with the target molecule. These tests commonly contain complex mixes of biological components, including the antibody of choice often modified by addition of a marker compound such as an enzyme, luminescent tag (conjugates), etc.
Other biological components such as serum proteins and animal sera are also required in the assay reagents for it to function correctly with patient samples. Many of the antibody conjugates, serum proteins and animal sera are not well characterised in terms of the properties required for optimum performance within the immunoassay system and so a change in material lot represents a significant risk to the performance of the reagent. Each new lot of the biological materials for these systems therefore has to be assessed as to its performance to ensure the product consistency and quality is maintained, with significant time and resources investigated in these evaluations.
Raman spectroscopy gives a spectral fingerprint with sensitivity to chemical structure, molecular bonding and conformation. Through a previous PhD studentship, the application of Raman spectroscopy has been demonstrated to:
• distinguish different grades of BSA and define the structural differences between these grades
• identify the presence of structural changes in protein structure following exposure to different conditions of pH, temperature and mixing
• in combination with FTIR, characterised the structural changes occurring following conjugation of BSA to a small molecule and the further minute changes that occur as the conjugated protein ages.
This project seeks to expand on the work described above to further the develop the methodology for use as a quality control and/or troubleshooting tool within immunoassay manufacturing. The ultimate aim is to be able to use analytical tools such as Raman within the quality control process for new materials, to reduce the time and resources taken to identify and qualify suitable new lots. The project scope will include:
• expand the range of proteins characterised
• development of suitable analytics utilising coding and incorporating machine learning where appropriate.
• determine which specific characteristic are linked to positive or negative performance characteristics in immunoassays
• examination of proteins within complex reagent mixing as a potential
troubleshooting tool for unexpected reagent performance challenges
Development of improved material testing methodology will result in improved effectiveness of material selection, increased productivity through reduced scrap and rework activities and increased customer satisfaction.

Eligibility

Candidates must have a first, upper second-class honours or a master’s degree with Merit, in a relevant discipline such as Physics.

The project would greatly benefit from candidates with experience and demonstratable skills in lasers, optics, spectroscopy, and computer-based data analytics. Experience and competency with coding (e.g. R, Python, etc.) is essential and any specific machine learning experience would be greatly beneficial. 

For candidates whose first language is not English, we require IELTS 6.5 (with 6.0 in each component) or equivalent. Please visit our website for a list of acceptable English language tests. We prefer candidates to have already met the English Language requirements at the point of application, although this is not a requirement.

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Benefits

This four-year fully funded scholarship covers UK tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,245.

Please note that the iCASE studentship involves working closely with the industrial project sponsor, Siemens Healthineers (Llanberis, Wales, UK).

Application

Please visit our website for more information.

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