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Sensing Success

by YPU Admin on May 2, 2014, Comments. Tags: biosensors, nanoscience, particles, and Research


I’m Chloë and I’m currently studying a PhD in Nanoscience through the North West Nanoscience Doctoral Training Centre (NoWNano DTC) at The University of Manchester. My project is working on developing a Luminescent Biosensor. The biosensor consists of a nanoparticle and an enzyme, which can communicate with each other using light. The intensity of light of the biosensor changes in the presence of certain molecules and so can be used to detect diseases.

I love science and I’m passionate about getting more people interested in the subject. So in addition to my research I also work as a Widening Participation Fellow with The University of Manchester and have my own business ‘Science Party-cles’. These two things allow me to work with the public and help make science more accessible.

In Depth

Before coming to Manchester I was at Sheffield Hallam University where I completed a BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science. I also completed a placement year where I worked in a Pharmaceutical Company, which helped me gain industrial experience. In my final year at Sheffield Hallam I worked on a short research project developing gold nanoparticles which started to develop my interest in nanoscience.

Nanoscience/ nanotechnology is a big area of research at the moment. When you get down to the nanoscale (a nanometer is almost a million times smaller than the width of a human hair) the properties of materials change. People are trying to use these novel properties to create new and interesting applications such as gloves that allow us to walk up walls like Spiderman.

A biosensor is a device that is used for the detection of analytes (specific molecules of interest). They are really important tools for the detection and treatment of diseases. One of the most common examples is the blood glucose (a type of sugar) biosensor used by people with diabetes to check their blood sugar level. Depending on the value given by the biosensor diabetics know whether they need to increase or decrease their sugar intake. 

The biosensor I’m trying to develop consists of a nanoparticle and an enzyme. Enzymes are very specific and can detect really small amounts of molecules. Therefore, they are very sensitive and useful in biosensors. My nanoparticle and enzyme are both fluorescent and can give off light. This means they can communicate together by a process called Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), where energy from the light of one molecule (my nanoparticle) is transferred to another molecule (my enzyme). In the presence of an analyte the energy transfer from the nanoparticle to the enzyme is altered and the intensity of the light changes. This change in light intensity can be monitored and allows for the detection of diseases.

While at Sheffield Hallam University I also got support from their Research and Innovation Office to help set up my own business: Science Party-cles. This business allows me to engage children and young people in science alongside my PhD and has helped me develop other skills which I wouldn’t be able to do just working in the lab.

Going Further

Find out how we can walk up walls like Spiderman in the news article here. The research was developed by researchers at The University of Manchester.

For a brief introduction to biosensors click here, but if you’re really interested here’s some in depth detail.

To find out more about the route I took you can look at the NoWNano DTC website here and my business website here. This is a good website to help you decided on what route you want to take.