PhD Studentship: Zinc Oxide NanoFET Sensor for MicroRNA Biomarkers

United Kingdom
Aug 16, 2017
Oct 30, 2017
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time
PhD Studentship: Zinc Oxide NanoFET Sensor for MicroRNA Biomarkers Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnology

Location: Highfield Campus

Project title: Zinc Oxide NanoFET Sensor for MicroRNA Biomarkers                   

Supervisor: Dr. Harold Chong           

Co-supervisor: Dr. Maurits de Planque


Project description

MicroRiboNucleic Acids (miRNAs) are an important class of molecule that regulate gene expression in human cells. The presence of abnormal miRNAs correlates with a variety of medical disorders, including cancers. The ability to detect this aberration could potentially lead to miRNA-based diagnostics and therapeutics. Therefore, accurate quantification method is crucial for sensing of the miRNAs. Conventional techniques such as polymerase chain reaction method is inaccurate because the miRNA strand length is only 7nm and further difficulty in determining the absolute miRNA concentration, which could be in the pico-Molar region.

Currently silicon nanowire FETs have been shown to detect micro-DNA at femto-Molar concentration and there have been little work done for electrical detection of microRNAs. By combining with complementary DNA probe on the FET surface, it is possible to detect the charge differential of the miRNA and DNA. However, with uneven carrier doping profile on the silicon nanowire can result in poor electrical output and inaccuracy at low miRNA concentration.  The alternative is to use ZnO material that will have a uniform doping profile and its large bandgap energy offers low noise signal for charge readout and lower limit of quantification for miRNA sensing.

We have pioneered the top-down fabrication method of forming ZnO nanowires suitable for bio-compatible substrates such as glass or polymers. The main aim of the 3 year PhD project is to develop the first ZnO nanowire FETs capable of miRNAs detection and miRNA surface binding protocols to the FET’s surface along with optimised charge detection sensitivity.

Please contact: If you wish to discuss any details of the project, please contact Dr. Harold Chong ( and Dr. Maurits de Planque (

Website: and


Key facts

Entry requirements: Candidates with minimum of 2:1 BEng/MEng degree or strong MSc degree in Electronics, Engineering, Physics or related discipline and who are enthusiastic in sensor device technology and biochemistry interface are encouraged to apply.

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 30th October 2017 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Duration: Typically 3 years (full-time)

Funding: The Dr Norman Godinho PhD Studentship. Full tuition fees, for UK/EU students, and a tax-free stipend of £18,500 per year

Assessment: Nine month and 18 month reports, viva voce and thesis examination

Start date: Typically November 2017

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