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Biosensors and arrays for detection of disease


The ability to attach functional proteins, antibodies and enzymes to surfaces underpins the development of the next generation of implantable medical devices, biosensors and protein arrays for disease screening and enzyme based chemical processing. This project brings together a multidisciplinary team of physicists, biochemists, biologists and medical practitioners to solve fundamental problems associated with the development of such devices and processes. Two Australian companies are directly involved and poised to bring the new developments to market.


Professor Marcela Bilek.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The attachment of bioactive proteins to surfaces underpins the development of biosensors and diagnostic arrays for detecting disease. We have developed and patented a plasma technology utilising high energy ions for activating polymer surfaces to attach proteins and retain their activity. We have demonstrated the technology with three enzymes and developed a theory for the chemical and physical mechanisms responsible for their enhanced attachment. In the next phase of the project we seek to test our theory by studying the effects of modifications to the surface chemistry on interactions with a new set of proteins and molecules. The interactions of the proteins with the new surfaces will be examined using a range of methods including infra-red spectroscopy, surface plasmon resonance, ellipsometry, neutron reflectometry and biological activity assays. There are a number of student projects available, all of which will allow the student to learn about the physics governing the response of protein molecules to surfaces and to become familiar with one or more analysis methods. In the course of the project students will interact directly with our research partners in biochemistry, anatomy, CSIRO and ANSTO and learn the research skills required to function effectively in a vibrant, multidisciplinary research environment.

Additional information

This research field is very large and rapidly evolving so there are a number of projects available for PhD, Masters and Honours students. Students involved in the work will learn how to work in an interdisciplinary team. They will become proficient in a number of state of the art techniques for the analysis of surfaces and/or biomolecules and cells. Some of the projects will involve direct interaction with industry. Top up scholarships are available for students with sufficiently high grades or other relevant experience. Projects which involve collaborations with industry partners will require the student to sign an IP assignment agreement.

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 708

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