PhD Studentship - Targeted SERS probes for Ultrafast Raman Mapping Microscopy

Durham University - Department of Chemistry

Raman spectroscopy is based on the principle of inelastic scattering of the light by the molecule and the difference in energy between the original and the scattered photons. The unique advantage of Raman spectroscopy based imaging technique is that it is non-destructive and allows the analysis in aqueous media to be executed. Importantly, key biological materials have unique Raman spectral fingerprints at different physiological and pathological conditions, rendering them to be used successfully as bio-markers. This unique label-free methodology promotes fast scanning Raman Microscopy to be a potential candidate to be used as an early diagnostic tool for disease detection. Therefore, the use of Raman imaging techniques is rapidly increasing to understand the complexity, diversity and performance of many vital intra-cellular bio-chemical and biological processes.

However, the Raman Effect is inherently weak and therefore the relatively long scan times required with currently available techniques restricts the live-cell applications of Raman imaging. In addition, especially in live cell conditions, long scan times could lead to image artefacts and incoherent 3D Raman data due to sample movement during scans. One possible solution to overcome this is to amplify the studied Raman signal harnessing nonlinear plasmonic effects using metal nanoparticles. The extent of this effect is size dependant and well documented in the literature using gold as core metal particles. 

Here, we propose to design and synthesis of coated functionalised gold nanoparticles to detect homeostatic anomalies by incorporating short peptide sequences as target vectors. This how these carefully designed nanoparticels could aid us to detect a wide variety of diseases before any cell morphological changes occur that current clinical detection methodologies often rely on, lending themselves as early stage diagnostic tools.  These probes could complement our DLP based fast Raman imaging method, currently in developmental stage, which can be utilized to study various dynamic processes in real time by decreasing the scan time up to subsecond domain without sacrificing the spatial resolution, spectral information and sensitivity.

If successfully developed , Functionalised SERS Raman Probes and Imaging will provide the broad scientific community with a novel label free 5 dimensional (3 spatial, 1 temporal and 1 spectral dimension) live cell imaging technique. Amongst many potential applications in modern day analytics it is designed and destined be used as a facile early diagnostic tool for disease detection and real time 3D mapping.

The position is available from October 2017.

The position is only open to applicants from the UK or EU for fee purposes.  Early applications are strongly encouraged as the position will be filled when a suitable candidate is identified.

Applicants should contact Dr Pal ( with a covering letter, CV and the names of two suitable referees.  Potential applicants are also welcome to contact Dr Pal with informal enquiries.

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Northern England