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Postgraduate research project

Laser-based fabrication of medical diagnostic devices in paper

Competition funded View fees and funding
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree
View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

The focus of our group’s research is the development of user-friendly sensors or devices for affordable and rapid clinical diagnostic testing at the point-of-care (POC) of a patient, i.e., at their hospital bedside or in a care/nursing home, or in ambulance or at home.

The broader aim of the project is to use a laser-based direct-writing technique developed and patented by our group to pattern microfluidic devices in paper for the creation of the diagnostic sensors or tests.

To detail, the innovative laser-based manufacturing technique is used to create within a paper, custom-designed fluid flow paths that when used in combination with bio-chemical assays provides a route to producing sensors with much desired functionalities, including multiplexing, semi-quantification, and enhanced sensitivity

This research is highly multi-disciplinary, which not only draws upon expertise in laser physics/engineering and microfluidics, but also vital knowledge of biochemistry and medicine.

The objective of the PhD is the development of lateral flow tests (such as those widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic) for simultaneous detection of multiple disease-specific biomarkers which help early-stage detection of the targeted diseases or conditions – examples include tuberculosis (TB, which according to the WHO Global TB Report–2015, ranks alongside HIV as a leading cause of death worldwide), sepsis, allergy and asthma. For each of these applications research will happen in collaboration with clinical researchers from a different department or institute.  

The PhD will further explore the development of microfluidic paper-based analytical devices with 2D/3D flow architectures that allow the detection of bacterial pathogens routinely causing infections such as upper respiratory tract infections and urinary tract infections. The goal is to develop devices that are uniquely designed to simultaneously identify both a bacterial pathogen and its susceptibility to different antibiotics - an important pre-requisite that provides an essential guide to a GP/Consultant in prescribing the correct antibiotic required for the treatment of that specific bacterial infection. To further reduce the time-to-result, we have explored the use of AI-algorithms, and this project will further that methodology.

The project is mainly experimentally oriented and will provide opportunities to train across disciplines through working within different laboratories (laser- and bio-labs with different systems/instrumentation and procedures) and locations (universities, central governmental labs or hospitals) within UK and outside. It will also provide valuable learning opportunities relating to impact awareness and outreach to lay audience. 

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