Development of novel technology (bio-sensors) for the rapid analysis of fatty acid composition in meat from pig and cattle

An opportunity for a fully-funded PhD studentship is currently being offered by the Centre for Research in Biosciences,  Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences at UWE Bristol. The PhD is funded by Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

The closing date for applications is Friday 28 April 2017.

About the studentship

The amount and type of fat in meat, in particular the saturated:unsaturated fatty acids ratio, is an important characteristic of meat quality. It not only has an impact on human health but also influences the shelf life and streamlining of meat for further processing. The fatty acid composition of monogastric animals can be easily manipulated by diets when compared to the fatty acid composition of meat from ruminants.  It is well known that meat from cattle has higher content of undesirable saturated fatty acids and lower content of desirable unsaturated fatty acids when compared to pigs.

A number of strategies have been applied to improve fatty acid composition, fat content and distribution in pigs and cattle including selective breeding and diet. However, one of the issues is the absence of online technology for the rapid and cost-effective measurement of fatty acid composition in carcasses, meat or meat products.  This technology would be highly beneficial for the assessment of the effectiveness of strategies for the manipulation of fatty acid composition (eg by diet or genetic selection) and facilitating the grading/streamlining of carcasses for further processing. Furthermore, this technology would also assist in choosing the most effective packaging approaches to increase meat shelf life.

There are no online technologies for measuring fatty acid composition. Currently these analyses are done by gas chromatography or other analytical techniques which require: (i) sample collection, (ii) transportation, (iii) multi-step sample treatment; these are time-consuming, expensive and complex analytical procedures which are followed by further data analyses steps.

 Aims of PhD project:

To develop and evaluate novel technology (bio-sensors) for rapid, user-friendly and cost effective on-line measurement of fatty acid composition in pig and cattle carcasses. The technology can also be used for analysis of fatty acid composition in meat cuts and meat products.

The specific objectives of the project are:

  1. To develop (bio)sensors for on-line detection of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in pig and cattle carcasses/meat.
  2. To integrate the (bio)sensors in an array for simultaneous analysis of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
  3. To evaluate the technology performance on pig and cattle fat/meat samples against the “gold standard”. As a “gold standard” we will use one of the laboratory-based analytical methods such as high resolution gas chromatography.

Supervision team and research environment

This PhD will be based at the Centre for Research in Biosciences,  Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences at the University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol.

The supervisory team will comprise Prof. John P. Hart (Director of Studies), Professor Olena Doran and Dr Adrian Crew. The student will have regular face-to-face meetings with the Director of Studies and input from other members of the team in response to the specific needs of the student and the research.

  • Prof. John P. Hart, Professor in Biosensor and Electroanalytical Sciences (UWE Bristol). Researches into the design and development of disposable low-cost sensors and biosensors for application in agri-food, environmental and biomedical analyses.
  • Prof. Olena Doran is a Professor in Biomedical Research and Director of the Centre for Research in Biosciences (UWE Bristol).  Researches meat quality including identification of physiological candidate genes for fat deposition in pig, cattle and sheep.
  • Dr Adrian Crew is a Senior Research Fellow (UWE Bristol).  Researches into food quality and biosensor technology development.

The PhD student will join The Centre for Research in Biosciences (CRIB) which brings together world-class multidisciplinary, collaborative research with focus on the following themes: biomedicine, bio-sensing and analytical, agri-food, plant and environmental science. CRIB address both, fundamental and applied aspects of research. Close links with national and international academic partners, health organisations and industry ensure that CRIB research has real social and economic impact.

The PhD student will be a member of the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, which provides a programme of training and support for PhD students. This includes access to any relevant UWE Bristol modules, or external university modules/courses to meet their specific training needs for 60 Master’s level credits. Additional short courses are available free of charge to all postgraduate research students through the Graduate School Researcher Development Programme, which is delivered by the UWE Bristol Graduate School.

Funding details

The studentship will start on 1 October 2017 and consists of an annual tax-free stipend of £14,553 subject to satisfactory progress, for three years. In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for three years. The studentship is funded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and involves collaboration with UK industry.

The studentship will only fully fund applicants who are eligible for Home/EU fees. Applicants who are normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must have a good honours degree (2.1 or equivalent) in a relevant scientific discipline. A recognised English language qualification is required. 

How to apply

Download and complete the application form and send it directly to the UWE Bristol Graduate School. Please ensure you include the title of the research project you propose to undertake, and detail why you are interested in undertaking this PhD project and what relevant knowledge, experience and qualifications you would bring to the research. Please see the guidance notes for further information about how to complete the application form.

Please also complete the Equal Opportunities form and complete the first section of the Application reference sheet before sending to your nominated referees.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Prof. John P. Hart at

Closing date

The closing date for applications is Friday 28 April 2017.

Further information

Interviews will take place in May 2017.

If you have not heard from us by 26 May 2017, we thank you for your application but do not wish to pursue it on this occasion.

The start date of this PhD studentship is 1 October 2017.

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