The University of Southampton

Optical Biosensors & Biophotonics

The Optical Biosensors and Biophotonics Group is led by Dr Tracy Melvin. The group's research is focused on the area of micro and nanofabricated devices for bioanalysis or for biomedical applications. These are either optical, microfluidic (Biological Micro Electro Mechanical Systems abbreviated as BioMEMS), or self-assembled devices.

Group webpage

PhD Projects:

Intra-operative surgical decisions assisted by laser technology

Supervisor: Dr T Melvin
Co Supervisor: Dr Ramsey Cutress (Cancer Sciences, Medicine)

Our aim is to create technology suitable for characterisation of breast cancer sentinel lymph node (SLN) status at speeds that would eliminate delays during breast cancer surgery, and through miniaturisation that would enable widespread implementation within existing space in operating theatres. Typically SLN-analysis involves time-consuming histology protocols, here it is proposed to use laser based approaches with 1250-1550nm light for tissue processing and visible wavelengths for analysis within an hour.

An EPSRC funded summer project (Health Sciences in the university) provided some support for three undergraduates (2 electronic engineering and 1 chemistry) to perform preliminary studies including building a bespoke processor controlled system for IR-laser illumination with success.

The PhD studentship proposed is aimed at developing a small, very fast ‘one pot’ SLN-analysis integrated system. The programme is suitable for an electronic engineering or physics graduate to work in collaboration with the clinical diagnostics team in the hospital.

Next generation optical technologies for sequencing

Supervisor: Tracy Melvin 
Co-Supervisors: Peter Horak and Gilberto Bramilla

The PhD student will join a team working on on-going BBSRC funded programme between the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and the ORC in Southampton to develop a new approach for epigenetic analysis. In Southampton we have been developing microfluidic strategies for unravelling long genomic DNA strands to thread them through channels for optical interrogation. Novel fluorescent probes that associate with specific DNA sequences are being developed by Prof. Tom Brown (Oxford University). The fluorescently labelled probes associated along the ‘unravelled’ single long genomic DNA strands will be interrogated in the fluidic channels containing gold structures using optical methods. The project will involve a combination of fabrication, optics and theoretical studies.

The project is suitable for someone with a background in physics, chemistry or an engineering topic, with a strong interest in the biosciences.

Structured nanoporous gold for DNA sequence analysis

Supervisor: Tracy Melvin 
Co-Supervisor: M Charlton (ECS)

Plasmon enhanced fluorescence enhancement is to be applied for the analysis of single DNA strands as they travel though nanopores. The project will build upon some results from a recently completed BBSRC programme with industrial input as well as some studies done by a completing PhD student in collaboration between Drs. Tracy Melvin and Martin Charlton (ECS).

So far two very different types of 3D structured gold membranes with nanopores were fabricated using the nanofabrication cleanrooms in the Zepler Institute and Physics. The proposed project will extend these studies to apply the results obtained so far and to involve some theoretical studies, but the majority of the project will involve nanofabrication, fluorescence measurements (single photon counting methods) and some straightforward preparation of DNA samples.

The project would suit a graduate in physics, chemistry, engineering (or a related field). Some experience of programming would be desirable.

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