The exciting PhD opportunity was funded by BioBit International Programme of Zhejiang Lab. We are offering a fully funded national PhD studentship covering tuition fees, competitive stipend, research and consumables, and travel for international conference. The candidate will be working with a highly interdisciplinary and international team to develop the advanced sensors technology for rapid monitoring of chemicals, metabolites to provide new understanding for advances point-of-care diagnosis device for healthcare. The candidate are welcome to apply with a background or an interest but not limited to biosensors, microfluidics, synthetic biology, analytical chemistry, environment science, molecular biology, microbiology and engineering. 

The nature is surrounded by living organisms, small molecules, analytes which are all considered as potential markers of human disease, pullulation or even indicator for the transmissible source. The conventual detection methods mainly depend on nucleic-acid, antibody-based and electrochemically based sensor, but it is challenging to fully utilize these approaches to detect potential marker due to different tradeoffs and complicated sample environment. However, with the expansion of synthetic biology, it is possible to build a biological-based system equipped with CRISPR-Cas, genetic circuits and biocomputing as alternative to resolve the previous limitations and expand the improved biosensing platform into a broader field including public health, food health, agriculture etc. 

The aim of the project is to bridge the gap within the multidisciplinary skills set, which offers the artificial chassis the potential to replace living organisms in distributed biocomputing by equipping artificial cells with the ability to execute algorithms and respond to multiple extracellular signals.

Cranfield University is number one in the UK for training and producing engineering and technology postgraduates. It is one of the top five research-intensive universities in the UK and has an unrivalled reputation for transforming cutting edge technology, management and science into practical, life-enhancing solutions. This research project will be conducted within the Water Science Institute, School of Water, Energy and Environment. 

We have recently established an Advanced Sensors Laboratory funded by UKCRIC, and this dedicated laboratory is the centre of the world-class 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 (led by Dr Zhugen Yang) aims to explore multiciliary approach to advance sensor technology and address global challenges in water-environment-health nexus. The projects underway involve aspects of diverse disciplines, ranging from synthetic biology, microfluidics, biosensing, 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 demonstrate our paper-based sensors for the field detection of COVID-19 in local quarantine for early warning of infectious disease in the community, and this has been featured in Science and wide public media coverages and displayed in London Science Museum. 

This project aims to further improve the performance of our device (in terms of multiplexing pathogens, detecting antimicrobial resistance and improving ease of use) with new engineering approaches, and evidence their impact so that they can find widespread application in both rural and urban environments, together with CRISPRS/Cas system and synthetic biological tools. 

The student will be widely engaging with a multidisciplinary team to learn advanced sensor technology and interact with stakeholders (e.g., University of Edinburgh, Zhejiang University and Zhejiang Lab in China) to disseminate the research output. The funding supports travel throughout the project to meet with the collaborators, along with opportunities to attend and present results at international conferences (e.g., Biosensors Congress). Cranfield University are leading a UK water and wastewater network, as well as involved water sensors network, involving academic, industrial and public sector organisations; It is expected that the PhD researcher will become involved in this network, enabling the researcher to develop their profile in the sector and engage with experts in related areas.

This PhD opportunity provides the researcher with exposure to working in a large multi-national and multi-disciplinary project as part of a wider team.  The area of research is a rapidly growing area of national importance, and the candidate will have opportunity to engage with both world-class academic and industry; therefore, it is anticipated that this PhD would allow the successful candidate to pursue an exciting career upon completion. The PhD research may also can travel to the collaborator for secondment.

At a glance

  • Application deadline01 Nov 2023
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date01 Feb 2024
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityUK, EU, Rest of World
  • Reference numberSWEE0233


Dr Zhugen Yang 

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first- or second-class UK honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline. This project would suit students with a background biosensor, microfluidics, synthetic biology, analytical chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology or engineering.  


Sponsored by BioBit International Programme of Zhejiang Lab, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to *£18,000 (tax free) plus tuition fees for three years for UK students (The total funds can be converted to cover oversee students’ tuition and stipends for less than three years and details will be discussed on individual case for overseas candidate). 

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

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

If you are eligible to apply for this PhD, please complete the online application form stating the reference No. SWEE0233

For further information please contact:
Dr Zhugen Yang

T: +44 (0)1234 758082

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Diversity and Inclusion
As an inclusive and diverse doctoral centre, we welcome applications from all highly motivated individuals, regardless of background, identity or disability.