PhD Studentship: Development of a Polymer-based Sensor Platform for the Thermal Detection of Antimicrobial Resistance

Manchester Metropolitan University


Development of a electrochemical sensor platform in order to thermally measure antimicrobial resistance (involving antibiotic compounds and bacteria). This combines polymerization techniques to functionalize sensors and biological aspects to measure biological compounds. The applicant will have the possibility to work with cutting-edge thermal technology.

Aims and objectives

The World Health Organization recently stated that antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria pose a fundamental threat to human health. Over 3 million European patients suffer from hospital acquired infections and approximately 50,000 patients die annually from these infections. Current gold standard techniques to determine bacterial strains are time-consuming. These include either conventional culture-based assays, which require a minimum of 48 hours to obtain a result, or genotyping-based methods, which depend upon access to expensive laboratory infrastructure and have a measurement time of ~2h.

The goal of this project is to develop a sensor platform that would make a step change by reducing measurement time to

Therefore, we will focus on the development of a biosensor tool for the determination of bacteria and antibiotic compounds in this proposal. We will use electrochemical methods to deposit Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) onto surfaces. MIPs are synthetic polymeric receptors that are low-cost, have superior thermal and chemical stability compared to antibodies, and can be manufactured in big quantities.

Preliminary work was performed using pyrrole as monomer and a methicillin-susceptible S. aureus strain as a template molecule. This strain from Prof. Enright’s library is an isolate of the UK-EMRSA 15-clone, which is of high relevance since it is the most tenacious and most rapidly spreading clone. Upon optimization of various parameters, sensors with 200 nm thick MIP layers were obtained after 60s of polymerization. These sensors were subsequently mounted into the developed device and the thermal resistance was measured, showing this sensor platform is suitable as a tool for screening.

Electropolymerization allows control over the surface architecture by adapting the reaction time, voltage and monomer concentration. It is essential for the selective detection of bacteria to have imprint sites that correspond to the size and shape of the template molecule, and contain chemical functionalities that specifically target the cell wall-anchored proteins of a particular bacterial strain. We will therefore screen a library of monomers. Furthermore, we will explore the commercial potential of the developed thermal biosensor platform by Dr. Peeters and build collaborations with relevant industrial partners.

See here for specific requirements of the project and how to apply

Student eligibility

This opportunity is open to UK and EU applicants

Informal enquiries can be made to:

Marloes Peeters 


Dale Brownson

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Northern England