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ESR14 – Lab on a Chip for Pathogen Analysis

Supervisor: Prof. Nicole Pamme
Location: School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (Chemistry)
University of Hull (UK)

Background: Pathogen infection is a big burden in the developed as well as developing world affecting millions each year with symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to a threat to life. A large challenge in managing pathogen treatment is that fact that pathogen analysis is hampered by lengthy procedures, often involving selective culturing of samples that may take several days. One promising technique for faster pathogen analysis is fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH), which allows the identification of microbial cells by fluorescence microscopy directly in a sample of interest in less than 3 h. However, due to low numbers of cells present in the clinical samples, pre-enrichment steps are required before the FISH procedure can be carried out, which results in full analysis taking one day.

Aim of project: In this project we will investigate microfluidic-based methods for fast pathogen cell pre-enrichment in blood samples and subsequent trapping in defined locations for FISH analysis. Pathogen cell enrichment procedures will include inertial microfluidics, as well as magnetic or acoustic trapping forces. For analysis, we will employ biochemistry developed by one of the ITN partners (Biomode), based on peptide nucleic acid (PNA) or locked nucleic acid (LNA) which are more robust and specific compared to conventional DNA probes. Furthermore, in collaboration with our parnters in Frankfurt, we will develop miniaturised platforms with immobilised adhesins to study binding and interactions to host-receptors. The post holder will be trained in a highly interdisciplinary manner, gaining experience of microfluidic device design and fabrication, physical principles of cell separation and bioanalysis of pathogens.

Requirements: The successful candidate must hold a BSc in Biochemistry/Chemistry or a related discipline and ideally an associated Masters or an equivalent level of professional qualifications or experience. Candidates must comply with both EU and the Hull University eligibility criteria. Due to the EU rules to promote mobility, you are not eligible for a position in a country where you have lived (worked, studied) for more than 12 months in the last 3 years. You are thus eligible for this position no matter what your nationality, unless you have studied or worked in the UK for more than 12 of the last 36 months. For applicants finishing or who have just finished their degree, this typically means that you can be graduating from any university except a UK university.

Further details on this project are available from Professor Nicole Pamme ( and at and Please consult further details about the post and the Hull University PhD programme. Please also find further information on the position here.


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