The  exciting PhD opportunity was funded by 5-year Leverhulme Trust Leadership Award, which aims on sensing wastewater for real-time public health, particularly on the development of novel low-cost and rapid sensors for rapid and on-site wastewater surveillance. We are offering two 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 wastewater surveillance (wastewater-based epidemiology) to provide new understanding for real-time public health by monitoring of chemical and biological biomarkers in wastewater and advancing sample preparation method for complex matrix. The candidate is 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 PhD studentship was funded by a five-year Leverhulme Research Leadership Award on sensing wastewater for real-time public health to support 3 postdoc positions and two PhD student. You will contribute to the delivery of Cranfield University’s research portfolio in the Advanced Sensors Laboratory for Water-Environment-Health led by Prof Zhugen Yang, preferably with a background in biosensing, microfluidics, analytical science, molecular biology, microbiology and engineering background. 

The candidate will conduct research project and be trained with skills sets including biosensing, microfluidic, wastewater surveillance, signal amplification strategy, CRISPR/Cas assay, and biocomputing experiments using state-of-the-art facilities in the UKCRIC-funded advanced sensors laboratory at Cranfield and national and international collaborators from academics, industry and governmental sectors.

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, in collaboration with national and international collaborators such as academics from MIT(USA), University of Queensland (Australia) and industry partners. 

We have 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 Prof 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 hotel 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,) with new engineering approaches, and evidence their impact so that they can find widespread application in both rural and urban environments, e.g., using 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., UKHSA, Water utilities etc) 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 deadline24 Jul 2024
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date30 Sep 2024
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityUK
  • Reference numberSWEE0256


Prof 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 background.


Sponsored by Sponsored by EPSRC, Atkins and Cranfield University, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £18,000 plus fees for four years.

To be eligible for this funding, applicants must be a UK national. We require that applicants are under no restrictions regarding how long they can stay in the UK i.e. have no visa restrictions or applicant has “settled status” and has been “ordinarily resident” in the UK for 3 years prior to start of studies and has not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals). Due to funding restrictions all EU nationals are eligible to receive a fees-only award if they do not have “settled status” in the UK. If you are an international or EU national applicant interested in this vacancy, please discuss potential options with the contact provided.

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

For further information please contact: Prof Zhugen Yang
T: (0) 1234 758 310 
If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the online application form stating the reference number SWEE0256.

For further information contact us today:
T: +44 (0)1234 758082