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Plasmonics for Protein Attachment


Plasmonics will be used in combination with ellipsometry to investigate the attachment of biomolecules to surfaces. The structure of the attached layers will be investigated using novel optical methods.
The research project is within a collaborative team that includes researchers in physics, biophysics andbiochemistry. Other researchers including students are working in related fields. The student would learn research techniques in optics, spectroscopy, microscopy and surface analysis. 


Professor David McKenzie.

Research location

School of Physics

Program type



The attachment of biomolecules to surfaces is a research area with many applications in biosensing and medical diagnostics. In a biosensor, a surface is prepared with sites that are specific to the molecular species that is being targeted. The target may be a toxin, an antibody or a protein specific to a disease. The attachment step is detected by means of a sensitive readout technology. In this project, the readout technology is optical and therefore does not interfere with the attachment process. The challenge is to make the detection sensitive enough so that very small amounts of the targeted species can be detected. We will use fundamental principles of optics that relate to the changes in the polarization state of the light that occur upon attachment of the target molecules at an interface. The polarization state of light is measured in a process known as ellipsometry, a technique in which the phase changes as well as the amplitude changes in a light beam are detected after reflection form a surface. In one version of the technique, a surface plasmon is created on a metal surface as a result of the interaction with light, and this gives a high sensitivity to the detection process. We will use both theoretical methods for calculating the effects of adherent layers on the reflected light beams as well as experiments in which the detection process is set up in the laboratory using a flow cell and our state of the art ellipsometer.

Additional information

There will be opportunities for publication in high impact factor journals and opportunities to present the results of the work at conferences. There are opportunities for Honours students in the project. A supplementary scholarship may be available for suitably qualified students.
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 823

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