Novel liquid crystal droplets for detecting toxins


Contact Professor Helen Gleeson or Professor Steve Evans, to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Combating antimicrobial resistance is vital in all areas of medical practice. At present many of the diagnostic methods used do not give the desired instantaneous feedback and are relatively expensive to use. This is particularly an issue in the third world. Our vision is to produce a paper or plastic strip, a bit like a liquid crystal thermometer, that will provide a specific color-change when it detects a particular bacterial toxin or other disease 'marker'. We already have a large research project in this area.

Our approach is to make phospholipid (biomembrane-like) coated liquid crystal droplets. Liquid crystals are ordered fluids and their orientation depends on the surface they are in contact with. The liquid crystal droplet will have distinctive optical properties that depend on the surface orientation. Hence, a change in the phospholipid layer will influence the liquid crystal droplet.

This project will use microfluidics to produce coated liquid crystal droplets of a uniform size, with control over the alignment of the liquid crystal at the phopholipid interface. We are especially interested in understanding the relationship between the liquid crystal physical properties (elastic constants, polarity etc.) and the interaction with the lipid layer. This will allow us to fully understand some of the complex geometries that occur in the droplets as well as to optimize the materials that might be used in a device. Our exciting multidisciplinary approach uses liquid crystals in a new way and enhances our fundamental scientific understanding of liquid crystals, biomembranes and biomolecule interactions. Ultimately, we have the potential to provide a new way of diagnosing significant healthcare problems.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master's degree in a relevant subject.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the ‘Novel liquid crystal droplets for detecting toxins’ as well as Professor Helen F. Gleeson as your proposed supervisor.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates.  All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.