E.U./U.K. nationals: PhD Studentship: Low-cost Paper-based Device for Rapid Monitoring of Water Quality

Cranfield University
Cranfield, United Kingdom
Position Type: 
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Bachelor's (Or Equivalent)


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Start date: 01.11.2020

Eligible applicants: Any Fee Status (UK/EU)

1st Supervisor: Dr Zhugen Yang

2nd Supervisor: Prof Frederic Coulon & Dr Francis Hassard

Sponsored by Royal Academy of Engineering, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £18,000 (tax free)* plus tuition fees for three years, and national and international travel for conferences.

Microbiological contamination of water used for human consumption presents high risks to human health, and it occurs throughout low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). For example, more than 80% of the peri-urban population of Yaounde in Cameroon access drinking water from boreholes, hand-dug wells and rivers, and over 60 million Nigerians are exposed to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and dysentery. 

Surveillance of drinking water are carried out at a late stage after the occurrence of outbreaks of diseases. The current detection methods rely on conventional microbiological culture or serological assays which lack sensitivity and are slow (hours-days). Molecular methods such as polymerase chain(PCR) reaction are typically expensive, require a well-equipped lab and skilled personnel to interpret results.

The project aims to implement and deploy low-cost, low-power, point-of-use paper-based biosensors for rapid monitoring of water contamination (e.g. pathogens, antibiotic resistance genes) in Nigeria, Cameroon and other LMICs where access to infrastructure, equipment and technical expertise is limiting.

We have recently established a brand-new sensors laboratory, and this dedicated laboratory is the centre of the world-class, cutting-edge research into sensors and their uses in water and the water industry being conducted at Cranfield. With an impressive legacy in biosensors, Cranfield’s UKCRIC sensors lab continues the University’s work in this area by providing state-of-the-art facilities for chemical, biological and microbial sensors’ design, elaboration, characterisation and application. The advanced sensors group aims to explore fundamental science and advanced sensors technology to address the water-environment-health nexus. The projects underway involve aspects of diverse disciplines, ranging from engineering, chemistry, environmental, biomedical and analytical science to nanotechnology.

We have demonstrated in India and Uganda a DNA-based paper-origami device which exploits hot wax printing to integrate sample preparation and microfluidic flows for pathogens detection. These low-cost assays are both sensitive and specific for pathogen detection in drinking water. We also recently shows a significant potential of our paper-based sensors for the detection of COVID-19 in sewage for early warning of infectious disease in the community, and this has been featured in Science and wide public media coverages (such as BBC, Daily Mail, Yahoo etc.)

This project aims to further improve the performance of our device with new engineering approaches, and evidence their impact so that they can find widespread application in both rural and urban environments.

Entry requirements

First or second class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline. Would suit students with a background biosensors, microfluidics, biomedical engineering, analytical chemistry, water science, environment engineering, molecular biology, microbiology and engineering. 


*To be eligible for this funding, applicants can be either a UK or EU national citizenship.

How to apply

Zhugen Yang

Email: zhugen.yang@cranfield.ac.uk

T: (0) 1234 758 310

If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form ref no. SWEE0118