Integrated photonics technology for sensing and point-of-care diagnostics

Cardiff University

About the Project

The current pandemic has highlighted the importance of fast and reliable tests to detect the presence of biomolecules in a sample. While accurate, PCR tests show the typical shortcomings of other laboratory-based tests, e.g., culture, immunoassays etc., as those approaches require the transport of samples to a specialised laboratory, where experienced personnel perform lengthy and costly tests. On the other hand, lateral flow tests guarantee fast response at the expenses of the sensitivity. Yet, for many infectious diseases, an accurate and timely diagnosis at the point of care is critical for a rapid initiation of the treatment.

With this studentship, you will have the unique opportunity to join our group and work towards the development of a new generation of miniaturised biosensors capitalising on several emerging technologies in semiconductor physics, photonics, and biochemistry. The proposed device will be fast, accurate, reproducible, cost-effective, easy to use, and fully integrated with today’s mobile data technology.

The design is based on a lab-on-a-chip approach, where the optical excitation, sensing elements, and detectors are fabricated on the same compound semiconductor chip, requiring only electrical drive and read out. The building blocks of the sensor are photonic crystals, i.e. optical devices where periodic structures of dielectric materials are engineered to tailor the interaction with light, to create unique optical properties. Notably, the sensor will allow the detection of hundreds of analytes at once, providing a multiplex diagnostic platform for the analysis of multi-biomarker array data, in a miniaturised footprint compatible with wearable technology, offering the possibility of a continuous monitoring for time course analysis of biomarkers in patients.

Training and Development Opportunities:

You will gain key skills on a range of different technologies, from the computer modelling of photonic devices to their experimental characterization.

You will be trained to use advanced multi-physics modelling software (COMSOL, Lumerica) which allows the simulations of optical, electronic and thermal properties to optimise their performance. You will also learn to program in Matlab. This a highly transferable skill as Matlab is a software used in many applications, within academia and industry.

For the characterization part, you will learn how to operate micro-spectroscopy experimental set-ups to investigate the optical and electrical properties of the device. Notably, you will be trained to operate different laser systems and spectrometers, and to perform electric measurements using a home-made probe station to drive current through the device and read the output signal.

Beyond research experience, you will disseminate the findings through publishing in leading international academic journals and high-impact conferences, developing writing and presentation skills. Finally, you will gain experience in project management, developing important organisational skills.

Research Environment:

You will join the Quantum Optoelectronics and Biophotonics group, which gathers experienced scientists and PhD students from both the School of Biosciences and the School of Physics. Beyond the research on the biosensor development, the group activities span across a range of topics, from solid state physics to bio-imaging and big data analysis. You will join regular meetings where group members will discuss their research and will also have the opportunity to attend School’s and university wide scientific seminars

The studentship will commence in October 2023 and will cover your tuition fees (at UK level) as well as a maintenance grant. In 2023 the maintenance grant for full-time students was £17,668 per annum. As well as tuition fees and a maintenance grant, all School of Biosciences students receive access to courses offered by the University’s Doctoral Academy and become members of the University Doctoral Academy

As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

How to apply:

You can apply online – consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Biosciences, with an October 2023 start date.

Please use our online application service at

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Information on the application process can be found here

Application deadline: 31/08/2023 with interviews (either in person or by Skype) being held week commencing 10/09/2023

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