"Sniffing out” prostate cancer non-invasively using urine volatiles

A Partnership PhD studentship opportunity located in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences at UWE Bristol, supported by a living stipend and tuition fees at Home/ EU rates.

The closing date for applications is Monday 5 November 2018.

About the studentship

This exciting PhD opportunity is in partnership with West Wales Prostate Cancer charity, in an emerging area of diagnosing disease non-invasively using volatile (small molecules which can give samples a characteristic smell) markers of disease.

The project will be focused on the analysis of volatile markers from the urine of prostate cancer sufferers and hospital controls. There has been much anecdotal evidence of dogs that are able to sniff out cancer.

Pilot work that we and other research centres have undertaken shows that this approach has promise for making new diagnostics which are fast and inexpensive.

At present Prostate cancer is diagnosed using invasive techniques and population screening via the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is fairly unreliable.

This PhD will have two main aims:

  • The collection and analysis of relevant clinical samples using Gas Chromatography –Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). GC-MS is a gold standard analytical technique for the analysis of small molecules associated with clinical samples. We have pioneered the addition of a second detector, a UWE fabricated metal oxide gas sensor with excellent sensitivity to a range of volatile compounds. The production of a GC-MS-Sensor system enables the detection and identification of volatile markers of disease using the vast mass spectral library whilst benchmarking and validating the performance of the sensor. This means that a secondary outcome dependent on the successful separation of the clinical samples into relevant diagnostic groups (this is usually accomplished using pattern recognition techniques) is the production of a diagnostic instrument based on sensors. These GC-Sensor systems potentially provide a rapid inexpensive diagnostic instrument which can be deployed widely e.g. GP surgeries, clinics etc.
  • The investigation of new sensor technologies that can be interfaced to chromatographic systems in order to make rapid diagnostic instruments that can be deployed for near patient testing.

Funding details

The studentship will start on 1 January 2019 and consists of an annual tax-free stipend of £14,777, subject to satisfactory progress, for three years. In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for the length of the funding period.

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

Eligibility criteria

Essential Criteria:

  • A minimum of a good honours degree (minimum of upper second class honours degree) in a relevant scientific discipline (e.g. Chemical, Forensic, Biological or Biomedical Sciences).
  • A recognised English language qualification is required. 


How to apply

Download and complete the Graduate School studentship 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 Graduate School studentship application guidance notes for further information about how to complete the application form.

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

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please contact Dr Ben de Lacy Costello Ben.DeLacyCostello@uwe.ac.uk.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is Monday 5 November 2018.

Further information

If you have not heard from us by 19 November 2018, 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 January 2019.

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