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PhD Position Available

19 Jun 2016

PhD in Hospital Aerobiology.

College of Medicine and Health and College of Science Engineering and Food Science, UCC: PhD in Hospital Aerobiology

This studentship is funded by the Healthcare Infection Society ( ). The position is open to candidates who meet residency requirements in Ireland or the EU. The studentship comprises an annual stipend for three years, in addition to fees at the EU level (approximately €6,000 per year). The current stipend is €18,000 per annum. The project is funded for 36 months with a start date of September/October 2016. The language of the laboratory is English.

PhD position

This studentship will investigate the capability of a novel portable instrument (WIBS-4) to detect and measure potential infectious airborne bacteria in different hospital environments. This instrument offers significant advantages over conventional techniques in atmospheric analysis of the external environment, and may offer a rapid way to assess air quality and the efficacy of air treatment processes designed to reduce infection in hospitals. The student will be jointly registered in the College of Medicine and Health and the College of Science Engineering and Food Science, University College Cork, Ireland. The student will be primarily based at UCC in the Department of Pathology, the School of Microbiology and the Centre for Research In Atmospheric Chemistry, with deployment of the instrument at Cork University Hospital.  The student may conduct some of their research in other laboratories and hospitals at various stages of the studentship.

Principal Investigator Team : Professor Michael B Prentice, Professor John Sodeau and Professor John Wenger (UCC) , Dr David O’Connor (Dublin Institute of Technology).

Unique reference number: RMBAP-1 Applications (as a single PDF) should include a covering letter, a detailed CV and the names and contacts of THREE referees. Applications will be accepted until 30th June 2016 5pm GMT. Applications and informal queries, by email only to Professor Prentice and Professor Sodeau at   
Please cite the unique position reference RMBAP-1 only in the subject of all emails related to the PhD

Project Title: Real-time Monitoring of Biological Airborne Particles in the Hospital Environment

Bioaerosol sampling in hospitals and other indoor environments is in limited use as a quality control measure, but recent research has shown it can be used to monitor and control airborne microorganism spread, guide epidemiological investigation of nosocomial infectious diseases, and monitor biohazardous procedures. A major limitation of current sampling methods of airborne bioaerosols in hospitals is a requirement for conventional culture- sampling by impact of an estimated volume of air with a culture plate over a few minutes. Results only apply to the brief period of observation and are not available until bacterial or fungal colonies have grown after 24-48 hours. A UV spectroscopy instrument such as the Wideband Integrated Bioaerosol Sensor (WIBS) offers real-time specific continuous counting and characterisation of living cells and spores in air, by detection of light-induced fluorescence of biological fluorophores. Continuous monitoring is the only way to detect intermittent sources of bioaerosols invisible to the narrow window of conventional culture-based sampling, and coupled with timeline observations greatly enhances source attribution. In a pilot collaboration between the College of Medicine and Health, the School of Microbiology and the Centre for Research in Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC) the prototype WIBS instrument at UCC (the only one in Ireland and one of nine in the EU) has provided useful information in pilot studies on operating theatre air quality and risks of airborne infection in a Cork hospital and was successfully transported to a Dublin hospital for proof of concept of portability.

The instrument uses a UV xenon source to excite fluorescence in individual particles to distinguish dust from bacteria, spores or plant pollen. Unlike UV lasers, the UV xenon source allows for the precise selection of particular UV wavebands. These wavebands have been selected to optimize detection of common bioaerosols (tryptophan and NADH). There is extensive expertise in using a WIBS prototype to measure external air quality in the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry, UCC (1,2). WIBS is robust, portable (13.6 kg) for use as a mobile resource with a standard domestic power supply. It provides remote telemetry via 3G dongle from any location. Once set in operation it continues observation and reporting without supervision (minimising operator requirements) for extended periods (days, weeks, months) as required.

The project will involve:

  • finalising validation of the WIBS against a conventional slit sampler
  • deployment in various different hospital settings with different air treatment processes and different patient loads.
  • advancing standard setting for indoor air quality in hospitals
  • evaluating risks of airborne disease and the technology claimed to reduce these risks


1.Healy DA, O’Connor DJ, Sodeau JR. Measurement of the particle counting efficiency of the “Waveband Integrated Bioaerosol Sensor” model number 4 (WIBS-4). J Aer Sci. 2012;47:94-99

2.O'Connor DJ, Daly SM, Sodeau JR. On-line monitoring of airborne bioaerosols released from a composting/green waste site. Waste Manag. 2015;42:23-30.


  • To conduct a specified programme of research under the supervision and direction of the Principal Investigators
  • To work with other partners/collaborators in achieving the research goals. ·To participate in the dissemination of the results of the research (oral and written) in which you are engaged, as directed by the Principal Investigators.
  • To contribute and produce high quality peer reviewed publications and other outputs. ·To present research progress and project outcomes at project meetings and relevant conferences

Selection Criteria

  • MSc degree in Chemistry, preferably with some past microbiology experience
  • or MSc Microbiology involving e.g. chemical analytics
  • Experience with Mathematica desirable
  • Highly motivated individual with a keen interest in human research
  • Keen interest in working on industry relevant research and gaining transferable skills
  • Have excellent laboratory skills, organisational and communication skills, report writing and data analysis
  • An ability to work independently to a tight schedule to deliver the milestones and
  • deliverables as set out in the project proposal
  • Have the ability to work effectively as part of a team to achieve results within the time frame of the project

To Apply:

Unique reference number: RMBAP-1 Applications (as a single PDF) should include a covering letter, a detailed CV and the names and contacts of THREE referees and should be sent by email to, quoting the reference number. Applications will be accepted until 30th June 2016 5pm GMT.

Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry

Lab B1, Kane Building, University College Cork, College Rd, Cork, Ireland