Research Associate in Sensors for Antimicrobial Resistance

Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh (GB)
14 May 2018
End of advertisement period
24 May 2018
Contract Type
Full Time

Heriot-Watt University has five campuses: three in the UK (Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and Orkney), one in Dubai and one in Malaysia. The University offers a highly distinctive range of degree programmes in the specialist areas of science, engineering, design, business and languages.

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This project aims to develop new sensor technology to detect heavy metals, antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes and explore the relationships between co-selectors and the prevalence of AMR genes in case studies focused on a wastewater treatment plant in Chennai, India. The project brings together three UK institutions, combining sensor and microfluidic expertise in water and AMR at HERIOT-WATT UNIVERSITY

(HWU) with the materials and chemistry knowledge offered by the UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH (UoE) and the extensive experience of water catchment studies and AMR detection provided by JAMES HUTTON INSTITUTE (JHI). The two Indian partners, INDIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY MADRAS (IITM) and INDIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ROORKEE (IITR) provide complementary expertise in sensor systems, AMR catchment studies and water microbiology to the UK team.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) represents a major threat to modern healthcare while India, having one of the highest per capita use of antibiotics, faces very specific and alarming challenges. The World Health Organisation Global Action Plan on AMR recognises the important role water plays in the dissemination and transfer of resistance. However, while it is known that wastewater is an important reservoir for AMR genes and appropriate treatment is essential to control the spread/dissemination, there are relatively few studies in this area. Knowledge about the pollutants that promote horizontal gene transfer, co-selection, and thus overall enrichment of AMR and related genes is urgently needed for attenuating the environmental and clinical levels of resistance. It is important and relevant to determine the pollutants that promote horizontal gene transfer, co-selection, and thus overall enrichment of AMR and related genes. For example the presence of heavy metals is correlated with AMR although the underlying phenomena are still not understood completely. Likewise the wide scale use of compounds such as triclosan (e.g. in soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc.) and diclofenac, is known to increase the susceptibility of many pathogens to different antimicrobials, is linked to increase in AMR against a range of clinically important antibiotics, through cross-resistance and co-resistance mechanisms, which are likely to occur in aquatic environments since these compounds are not completely removed in wastewater treatment processes. In countries such as India, where antibiotic use is poorly regulated, the levels of both antibiotics and its co-selectors are likely to be high in wastewaters.

The need for a uniform approach to surveillance and adoption of analytical tools accessible to low-income countries was highlighted as an ‘essential finding’ in a recent WHO meeting on AMR in water2. Low-cost easy to use rapid sensors would enable improved field testing at higher volumes, while including more end-users and offer the ability to potentially continuously track presence of pollutants. This would develop the evidence base to enable effective action to attenuate AMR exposure via aquatic routes thus reducing risk of AMR infections. Additionally, the sensors would help in the evaluation of suitability of various treatment technologies and mitigation strategies. Thus, the efforts proposed herein would deliver case studies that investigate the interaction of pollutants and AMR and related genes in Indian surface and ground waters with the key to this delivery being the development of novel, robust, and affordable sensors. Key to the detection of pollutants in water is not only accurate sensing technology, but also effective pre-concentration approaches and we will integrate the sensors with microfluidics technology for sample processing.

Key objectives are:

The post holder is required to;

  • We are looking for a creative and highly motivated researcher willing to work as part of a team.
  • The ideal candidate will have a strong theoretical understanding and an experimental background in one or more of the following fields: electrochemical sensing, microfluidics, manufacturing, antimicrobial resistance.
  • Good communication skills and an appropriate publication record are essential. A working knowledge of design, manufacture and testing of sensors and microfluidics are desirable.
  • General tasks will involve scientific research; analysis and interpretation of data; daily oversight of the activities of postgraduate and undergraduate project students in the laboratory; communication with other investigators involved in this collaborative project; preparation of scientific papers; presentation of research at conferences.
  • The successful candidate will be expected to conduct and lead their own experiments whilst also supervising the activities of junior group members and PhD students.
  • Responsibilities will also include assistance in the day-to-day maintenance of the experimental facilities, liaising with companies and external collaborators.

The successful candidate is also expected to be involved in our outreach activities, with roles that can be tuned to the specific preferences of the candidate but will involve for example interviews, talks for the general public and preparation of experimental demonstrators.

Applications can be submitted up to midnight (UK time) on 24 May 2018

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and ethnic minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts at Heriot-Watt.

Use our total rewards calculator: https://www.hw.ac.uk/about/work/total-rewards-calculator.htm to see the value of benefits provided by Heriot-Watt University.

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