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PhD in Computing - Detection and Amplification of Cancer Biomarkers through DNA Computing

Newcastle University

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,009
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 9th October 2019
Closes: 30th November 2019

Value of award

100% of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate will be paid and an annual maintenance grant equivalent to the National Minimum Doctoral Stipend (for 2019/20 this is £15,009). A research training support grant is available to support fieldwork and associated costs (eg travel and subsistence for conferences, workshops etc.)

Number of awards: 1

Start date and duration

6 January 2020, full-time for 3 years.


The Interdisciplinary Computing and Complex Biosystems Research Group and Nanovery Ltd. are seeking for an ambitious PhD candidate to work both computationally and experimentally in the area of DNA nanotechnology and DNA computing with application to liquid biopsy for cancer diagnostics, in particular prostate cancer and melanoma.

Analysis of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) released from cancer cells is emerging as a breakthrough clinical tool for cancer screening. Nanovery Ltd. is developing a revolutionary point-of-care diagnostics solution based on pioneering DNA nanotechnology and DNA computing to create nanorobots that detect ctDNA in blood and release a fluorescent signal upon detection.

The objectives of the PhD project are (i) to develop an automated computational pipeline that generates optimal DNA sequences for use in the detection and amplification module of a ctDNA detecting nanorobot, (ii) to experimentally characterize the sensitivity and specificity of computational designs using state-of-the-art screening technologies, and (iii) to develop a closed-loop platform to iteratively improve DNA designs based on incoming experimental results.

The candidate will have the opportunity to work within a strong academic research group consisting of 50 individuals who conduct interdisciplinary cutting-edge research at the interface of computing science and complex biological systems. The candidate will also work in the startup company Nanovery Ltd. with the aim to bring academic research solutions to market readiness.


EPSRC and Nanovery Ltd

Name of supervisor(s)

Dr. Harold Fellermann, Newcastle University and Dr. Jerzy Kozyra, Nanovery Ltd.

Eligibility Criteria

The successful candidate will have a strong background in computer science and mathematics or in molecular biology, experimental physics, paired with experience or strong interest in the respective other disciplines. An excellent degree in any of these subjects is expected. The award is available to UK/EU students only.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’.

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk in the application portal must to be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:

  • Insert the programme code 8050F in the programme of study section
  • Select ‘PhD Computer Science - Computing Science’ as the programme of study
  • Insert the studentship code COMP016 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • Attach a covering letter and CV. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code COMP016 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
  • Please also send a copy of your CV to
  • Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.


For further details, please contact:

Dr. Harold Fellermann
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3859

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