Sniffing for Answers: Rapid Profiling and Classification of Volatile Organic Compounds


Applications are invited for a self-funded PhD within the Mass Spectrometry and Instrumentation research group,

In this PhD project you will investigate a range of sensors, analytical instruments and digital tools to identify, quantify and classify mixtures of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Humans are able to smell a wide range of VOCs, but the sensitivity (i.e., amount required for detection) varies depending on the specific chemical properties of the compounds being ‘sniffed’. As humans we are well aware of the sensory properties (good or bad) that we associate with various drinks, food, personal care products, gasoline, building materials, etc. Ofcourse, this ‘sensing’ capability is best seen in canines. Dogs have long been used as living chemical detectors to locate and identify items such as explosive, narcotics, money, electronic goods, and even to aid in the detection of medical diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and others.

VOC sensing technologies offer great potential in healthcare, environmental monitoring, safety, food, agriculture, oil industry, and other industries. In this PhD you will be exposed to a range of VOC sensing technologies including state-of-the-art mass spectrometry (the gold standard).

Due to the nature of this PhD, there is scope to tailor the precise investigations of this PhD to match the interests and experiences of the PhD candidate. Candidates who have an interest and funding in place, are encouraged to enquire for further information.

Masters level students are encouraged to apply. If you have a relevant Bachelor’s degree or have relevant experience (e.g., prior project experience, work experience, publications, demonstrable interest in the topic, etc.), you are also encouraged to apply. In exceptional circumstances those with a non-traditional educational background will be considered dependent upon relevant experience. Applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you are interested, please email Prof Simon Maher ( with the project title in the subject of your email and include a copy of your CV.

Note: this is a self-funded project and requires that the applicant has their own source of funding (e.g., government scholarship, self-funding). Details about University of Liverpool PhD tuition fees can be found on the website: Postgraduate Research - University of Liverpool.


Please note: this project is open to applications year-round until a suitable candidate is found - therefore the listed deadline may be subject to change.


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Self-funded project

The project is open worldwide, to applicants of any nationality. Please note that this position is unfunded. Therefore, it is required that any applicant should have a funding source in place (e.g., government scholarship, self-funding), in which case they are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application and the project.

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and their living expenses, as well as a research bench fee of approximately £1250 per year.

Details regarding the PhD tuition fees (i.e., postgraduate research) can be found on the University website.