Professor Karen Faulds holding a handheld Raman

My research involves developing the technique of surface-enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) for multiplexed bioanalytical applications.

Professor Karen Faulds

Raman involves directing laser light onto a molecule, which results in the light being scattered with a change in wavelength that is related to the structure of the molecules, providing a molecular fingerprint
that can be used for definitive identification. However, Raman is a weak process that can be greatly enhanced by absorbing the analyte onto the surface of metal (gold or silver) nanoparticles.

This technique allows us to develop bionanosensors for the specific detection of biomarkers related to disease. We are using this approach to detect bacterial pathogens related to meningitis; the onset of sepsis; indicators of cardiovascular disease; the detection and understanding of cancer and drug treatments; and to detect bacteria in both the healthcare setting and the food industry. We are also developing approaches with a view to measuring changes at depth inside the body, for example, related to cancer and bacteria biofilm formation.

I think I was always going to be a scientist or an engineer; always wanting to understand how things work. I was one of those annoying children that asked “why?” constantly at nursery and I carried out experiments and made terrible concoctions, usually involving my Mum’s perfume and flower petals! I enjoyed all the sciences at school but my true passion was always for chemistry. I need to carry out work where what I am doing has a purpose; where my research could have an impact on improving people’s lives or environment. My ambition is to be able to develop approaches that will allow earlier detection
of disease, which will enable faster and more patient-specific medical intervention and have an impact on patient care as well as reduce the cost of healthcare.

Karen is holding a handheld Raman spectrometer that can be used for point-of-use detection.

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