Postgraduate research opportunities Portable screening of illicit drugs for forensic analysis


Key facts

  • Opens: Monday 2 March 2020
  • Number of places: 2
  • Duration: 36 months


Developing novel methodologies for portable detection of a variety of illicit substances including but not limited to drugs of abuse, explosives, gunshot residue and / or screening of bodily fluids at crime scenes.
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Relevant undergraduate degree in the field.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

Electrochemical sensors offer numerous features which make them excellent detection techniques. These features include the inherent sensitive, specificity and selectivity. Specificity is maintained through the precise energetic required to generate an electrochemical response. This research project will investigate the electrochemical properties of illicit drugs to elucidate an understanding of their electrochemical interactions. Therefore a rapid, sensitive and cost effective technique that can analysis these in real time is needed. There is also a need to explore detection of the metabolites of these illicit drugs to confirm use.

 In addition, new psychoactive substances (NPS) have rapidly emerged in the forensic drug market. These are primarily marketed as 'legal' alternatives to controlled drugs. The high number and wide range of NPS of diverse origin, effect and risk profile has been highlighted as a serious risk to the general public and as such, the UK has now brought the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 into effect to legislate against these substances. However there are some major challenges associated with the identification and analysis of these NPS. This project will utilise the ability of electrochemistry (EC) to monitor recognition events between chemical substances and chemical receptors. The modification of electrodes with these receptors would lead to recognition-event-detection and be utilized to develop a rapid, on-site (crime scene) method for screening for psychoactive compounds.

Results from experimental measurements will be used to develop an improved analytical model for the detection of these chemicals within complex biological matrices. It is hoped that this will allow for the detection of sub-mM of these analytes.

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Dr Lynn Dennany

Pure and Applied Chemistry

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Please email Dr Dennany ( if you would like to apply for this opportunity.

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Dr Lynn Dennany: