PhD Project in the Area of Sensor Manufacture - Novel Lactate/pH Sensor for Monitoring of Baby Delivery

Heriot-Watt University

Funding Program: CDT studentship in Embedded intelligence (CDT-EI)


Heriot-Watt University

University of Edinburgh

Charity organisation: Tommy's, London

PhD supervisors: Prof. Marc Desmulliez, Dr. Fiona Denison

Application Deadline: 3rd of November 2017

Funding: Stipends of £17,553 per year, and full tuitions fees payment, for 4 years

Relevant fields: Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Materials

Project Description:

Currently 300,000 pregnant women a year in the UK have their babies monitored during labour using cardiotocography (CTG), as recommended by the NICE intrapartum care guideline. It is however recommended that fetal blood sampling, where a sample of blood is taken from the baby’s scalp, is used in conjunction with CTG monitoring to confirm the acid-base and lactate balance of the fetus. Unfortunately current methods of taking fetal blood samples are time-consuming, technically difficult, unreliable, and require the use of an expensive separate blood gas analyser. They also only give a snap-shot of the state of fetal wellbeing at the time of sampling and do not provide a continuous real-time assessment of fetal wellbeing. There is therefore an unmet clinical need for a device capable of providing accurate real-time assessment of fetal acid-base and lactate state though-out labour to inform timing of delivery and prevent brain injury.

We are looking for a creative and highly motivated student willing to work in the field of sensor manufacturing in collaboration with our colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and the Charity Tommy's. Studies in Chemistry, Physics, or Engineering (Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical, Materials, Biomedical or related), are desired. The student is expected to work effectively as a part of a team, both in the host institution and with the project partners. Good manufacturing and/or experimental skills are required.

The student is funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under its Centre of Doctoral Training (CDT) programme. This particular CDT is run in collaboration with the University of Loughborough although the PhD position will be at Edinburgh (Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinbugh). The project consists in the development of a novel lactate/pH sensor to monitor hypoxia during the delivery of babies. The PhD will be developed under the supervision of Prof. Marc Desmulliez (Engineer at Heriot-Watt University) and Dr Fiona Denison (Obstetrician at the University of Edinburgh/NHS Lothian). The Charity organisation, Tommy's, is sponsoring part of the PhD studentship. Heriot-Watt is Scotland's most international university, boasting the largest international student cohort, with five campuses in three countries. In a strategic partnership with the University of Edinburgh, EPS was ranked first in power ratings in General Engineering by the last Research Excellence Network assessment of UK research quality (REF2014).

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof. Marc Desmulliez ( or Dr. Fiona Denison (


All applicants must be home/EU and must have or expect to have a 1st class Bachelor Degree or a MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng, MBioChem by Autumn 2017. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). The Scholarship consists of an annual stipend of £17,000 (tax free) and full tuition fees payment, for 4 years.

Deadline of applications: 3rd of November 2017. The successful candidate must commence studies by early January 2018 at the very latest.

All applications should be made online by using the electronic system of Heriot-Watt University:

(For this, refer to the CDT-EI PhD studentship)