Hertfordshire Knowledge Exchange Partnership (HKEP) PhD opportunity


Qualification type: PhD

Location: Hatfield, United Kingdom

Duration: 4 years

Stipend: £15,009 per annum plus approved expenses

Student fees: All students will also receive a maximum contribution towards their individual tuition fees that is equivalent to the Home student fee in each year of registration.

Closing date: 31 March 2021. If you have not heard from us within three weeks of the application deadline, you have unfortunately been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Interviews: April 2021

Expected start: Summer 2021

Project description

The University of Hertfordshire invites applications for a PhD student to join our Hertfordshire Knowledge Exchange Partnership (HKEP) scheme. This four-year project requires a PhD student to undertake a collaborative research project with support from University academic supervisor(s) and company scientists.

The project requires your first year to be based at the company, the successful candidate will then start their PhD.

About the project

Opioid abuse is a great crisis of our time, with an estimated 118,000 overdose deaths a year. Rapid detection of the type of drug present in a patient is vitally important so that a healthcare professional knows which treatment to give. Identification of opioids is currently achieved using animal-derived antibodies which can bind specifically to the opioid. This project aims to develop tests for the presence of opioids in a patient without the need for these antibodies, avoiding the suffering of animals during their preparation. Specifically, the project will design and synthesise a molecular "host" sensor which doesn't require any instrumentation so that opioids could be identified rapidly in the field by a nurse or paramedic. This new type of sensor will be based on "smart" materials which can change their properties when presented with an opioid. This will allow for rapid diagnosis of opioid overdose giving clear advantages over the current methods which require specialist equipment without the need for animal suffering.

The project is in partnership with Animal Free Research UK, who fund pioneering animal free research that saves humans and animals and is forging a future where animals are replaced with modern, human relevant techniques.


  • Dr Michael Cook (primary), Dr Stewart Kirton, and Dr Jesus Calvo-Castro (University of Hertfordshire).
  • Dr Alpesh Patel (AFRUK)



Essential criteria:
  • the applicant must hold, or be about to attain, a first class or upper second-class (2:1) Honours degree, in the area of chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, biochemistry or similar subject with a substantial organic chemistry component.
  • IELTS 6.5 (or above with no less than 5.5 in any band)/TOEFL 79 (if international student)
  • ability to effectively communicate scientific findings, in writing and verbally
  • good time management skills
  • methodical approach and attention to detail
  • ability to deal with sensitive material with strict confidentiality
  • ability to work both independently and in a team.


Desirable criteria:

  • previous experience of synthetic organic chemistry through employment, placement or project work would be an advantage.
  • passion for animal replacement science
  • experience of computational chemistry, e.g. molecular modelling.

Application process

Applicants are required to provide the following documents:

  • a completed application form (PDF - 0.25 Mb)
  • two academic references to be provided by referee directly to the doctoral college
  • copies of qualification certificates and transcripts
  • a copy of passport photo page
  • Certification of English language competence (minimum IELTS 6.5 or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language

Please send completed applications to the Doctoral College at doctoralcollegeadmissions@herts.ac.uk, using the following format in the email subject line: HKEP Animal Free Research studentship.