Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering


PhD Studentship: Quantum sensing with nanodiamonds in biological systems

Project Title: Quantum sensing with nanodiamonds in biological systems

Primary supervisor: Dr Benjamin Miller

Co-Supervisor: Prof John Morton

A 4-year home fee funded PhD studentship (Home Fees, UCL minimum stipend and some funding for consumables) is available in the UCL Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering in an interdisciplinary quantum/biomedical engineering group.

Scientific Diagram

Project Background: Quantum sensors leverage quantum mechanical effects to probe their external environment. Nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centres in diamond are optically addressable single spins that are sensitive to magnetic noise, charge, electromagnetic fields, temperature, and pressure, promising impactful sensing methods for numerous biological applications. In addition to sensitivity, their nanometre size and fast dynamics convey high spatial and temporal resolution. NVs in diamond nanoparticles (nanodiamonds) can be functionalised and introduced into biological samples for localised, in-situ measurements with optical readout. Advances in the field include nanoscale rheology and thermometry, magnetic nanoparticle detection, T1 relaxometry for detection of free radicals, spin-enhanced diagnostics, measurement of neuron action potential, and nuclear magnetic resonance.

The work will take place between UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, and the London Centre for Nanotechnology, working in optics and wet labs.

Research aims: This project aims to develop nanodiamond quantum sensing techniques for measurements of large ensembles of randomly orientated nanodiamonds in biological samples for sensitive, robust, nanoscale characterisation of biochemical and biophysical processes.

This will involve manipulating and measuring nitrogen-vacancy spins in nanodiamonds using a variety of radiofrequency, microwave, and optical techniques, including instrumentation and optics design and automation. In addition to sensing, materials characterisation of spin properties (as above) and other physical properties (e.g. dynamic light scattering, electron microscopy) will be important, as well as surface chemistry (functionalisation) and various biological techniques (e.g. interferometry, immunolabelling, imaging) relevant to the biomedical applications. The work will primarily be experimental, supported by computational modelling, and will involve extensive cross-disciplinary collaboration with groups at UCL and externally, and industry.

There are a range of possible projects exploiting different sensing modes: magnetic resonance, optical spectrometry, relaxation, coherence time, lifetime; and biological applications including: biophysical measurements (in vitro and in vivo), understanding behaviour at the interfaces between biomaterials and cells, and accurate diagnostics and monitoring. There is also scope for extending this work to other optically addressable spins in diamond and other materials. The project specifics will be adapted to the interests of the student.

Student Eligibility:

  • This studentship is only open to Home Fee paying applicants. Overseas fee payers will not be considered. You can find out more information about Fee Status criteria here.
  • The PhD position would suit applicants with undergraduate or master’s degrees in physics, medical physics, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, or other relevant area, and have a 1st or 2:1 degree or equivalent.
  • Programming skills, lab work and scientific writing experience are desirable.
  • The applicant should be interested in acquiring new skills and knowledge in physics, optics, engineering, chemistry, and biology, towards working comfortably across disciplines.
  • Excellent problem-solving skills and the ability to work independently.
  • Excellent communication and team working skills to work in a collaborative multidisciplinary setting.
  • Commitment to high quality, rigorous research

How to apply: There is no set deadline for applications, the position is ongoing until filled so we advise you to apply early. Please complete the following steps to apply. 

  • Send an expression of interest and current CV to: ben.miller@ucl.ac.uk and medphys.pgr@ucl.ac.uk
  • Please quote Project Code: 23033 in the email subject line. 
  • Make a formal application to via the UCL application portal https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/research-degrees/medical-physics-and-bioengineering-mphil-phd. Please select the programme code Medical Physics and enter Project Code 23033 under ‘Name of Award 1’