PhD Student Molecular Imprinting within the Sensor Engineering Group of the Faculty of Science and...

Updated: about 2 months ago
Job Type: Temporary
Deadline: 16 Jan 2022

Research within the Sensor Engineering research group of Maastricht University is focused on developing innovative sensor technologies for implementation in diverse fields ranging from medical diagnostics to food safety assessment. For this position we are looking for a motivated PhD student with a master degree and a solid background in bio-, organic, polymer or analytical chemistry. The candidate will work in a multicultural, interdisciplinary team consisting of engineers, chemists and biomedical scientists. The research group has developed extensive expertise in combining sensor technology with chemistry and biomedical engineering to acquire knowledge and streamline applications for use in real life settings.

As a PhD student you will take care of your own research project in an independent manner, although supervision by experienced researchers is available within the group. You will read literature, develop a research plan, carry out experiments, process and interpret data and write scientific publications. If the pandemic allows it, you will participate in international conferences where you will present your work to the scientific community and represent the university, our research group and the project you are working on.

The PhD project is focused on improving the scalibility of MIP-based sensors. MIPs or molecularly imprinted polymers have been extensively studied as alternative for natural receptors (antibodies, enzymes...) in various applications ranging from their original application in columns for seperation technology to their use as recognition elements in sensors. Although MIP technology is still considered as very promising and has led to the development of commercial MIP production lines for seperation purposes, integrating MIPs into commercial sensors is challenging due to two bottlenecks: the synthesis process and the deposition of MIPs onto electrodes. The former is especially challenging as MIPs tend to be heterogenous when it comes to affinity for the target. A lot of academic research institutes, and recently commercial enterprises, have been focusing on scaling the MIP synthesis process and are making rapid progress towards methods for large-scale, automated synthesis of homogenous batches of MIPs. However, it is still necessary to immobilize these MIP particles in a reproducible manner onto sensing substrates which are often disposable plannar electrodes while the MIPs are either powders or dispersions of particles in liquid.

The PhD candidate can fall back on a lot of experience in MIP technology in the research group where we already experimented with growing MIP layers directly on a surface (surface grafting, electropolymerization...). The candidate should create a nice overview of all the existing possibilities in literature and highlight the most promising ones to research further using a model compound. In addition, the candidate should come up with new potentially interesting ways of creating reproducible MIP layers by using modern polymer deposition techniques such as spray coating, dip coating, inkjet and 3D printing... At the end of the PhD project we should be one step closer to brinigng MIP technology to the market due to the insights and results obtained by the candidate.

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