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Daniel Smith   MChem, PhD, MRSC

Dr Daniel Smith


MChem, PhD, MRSC

Post Doctoral Research Associate

School of Medicine

Main Hospital Building, Room 6FT-164, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN


I am a post-doctoral research associate in the School of Medicine. My interdisciplinary work focusses on the development of electrochemical biosensors for the detection of microRNAs in urine for the diagnosis and prognosis of kidney diseases. Originally from a chemistry background, I am now at the School of Medicine and have gained skills in biosensor production and the discovery, validation and detection of microRNA biomarkers. These skills include but are not limited to synthesis of small polymerisable molecules for the attachment of DNA to electrode surfaces, microRNA extraction and subsequent qPCR and sequencing analysis from urine and plasma, cell culture, molecular biology techniques, TLDA analysis, data processing in R and Excel and patient sample handling.

Alongside this I am also a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the engagement committee of the Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER). I am thus very active in the outreach and engagement side of research dissemination and am often found running practical workshop demonstrations on DNA extraction and vitamin C analysis in fruits and the theory of biosensors, among others, to students and public from 8 to 80.








Research Interests

  1. Biosensor production
  2. MicroRNA biomarker discovery, sequencing, validation and detection
  3. Kidney disease diagnostics and prognostics
  4. Synthesis of DNA binding polymer materials
  5. Blood and urine analysis


My work focusses on the production of diagnostic and prognostic biosensors, with a view to the production of 'dip-stick' style, non-invasive urine tests. I predominantly work on the production of electrochemical biosensors using screen printed and glassy carbon electrodes which are modified using a DNA attachable polymer tether, DNA antisense strands and subsequent microRNA hybridisation. The production of these biosensors span a number of interdisciplinary interests, all of which I have active project interests in:

  • Synthesis of small electropolymerisable molecules with functional groups which allow the attachment of DNA antisense oligonucleotides. These molecules are often produced personally through simple functional group modification of commercially available compounds, however I also employ some which have been produced synthetically from scratch as a result of collaborative student projects with other schools.
  • Detection of microRNAs in biological matrices for subsequent use as a diagnostic/prognostic tool. The main focus of my work is the optimisation of conditions to allow for the highly specific and sensitive detection of microRNA species, initially in buffer solutions and then in biological matrices such as urine and plasma. Electrochemical measurements are employed in this detection, including cyclic voltammetry, chronocoulometry and differential pulse voltammetry.
  • Discovery and validation of microRNA biomarkers. Recently I have been heavily involved in an industrial project which seeks to analyse blood and urine samples of patients suffering from 1 of 3 types of nephropathy through RT-qPCR techniques in order to ascertain a microRNA profile for these patients. These are then compared to the profile of healthy volunteers in order to determine any potential microRNAs whose expression could be used as a biomarker for that specific disease or as a general nephropathy marker. This work employs my RT-qPCR techniques and skills, as well as sequencing methodologies and large dataset analysis using Excel and R.

Grants and Funding

ISSF3: Wellcome Trust Collaborator Award (£49,995) co-applicant -> Electrochemical detection of urinary microRNAs -> Dec 2017 to Feb 2019

ISSF3: Translational Kickstart Award (£49,974) co-applicant -> Development of novel electrochemical biosensors for quantification of microRNA biomarkers in peritoneal dialysis effluent -> May 2020 - April 2021.


• Electrochemical analysis
• Synthesis of organic and inorganic molecules
• Flow chemistry synthesis of energetic compounds
• IR, NMR, MS and UV-visible spectroscopy
• Chromatographic (HPLC, TLC and column) purification and identification

Molecular and Cell Biology:
• Urine and peritoneal dialysis effluent (PDE) handling
• Extraction of microRNAs from urine and PDE
• RT-qPCR based RNA quantification and analysis
• TLDA based RNA quantification and biomarker evaluation
• Tissue culture

Biosensor Production:
• Formulation of bespoke carbon inks for microRNA detection
• Screen-printing and surface modification of carbon electrodes
• Design of multi-active surface disposable electrodes


MChem chemistry Cardiff University (T. Wirth, 2013, Synthesis of Diazo Compounds via Continuous Flow Technology) PhD chemistry (2017, J. Redman and T. Bowen, Electrochemical Detection of MicroRNAs), PDRA Wellcome Trust ISSF3 Collaborator Award (Dec 2017-Feb 2019 Electrochemical Detection of Urinary MicroRNAs), UCB funded PDRA (Feb 2019 - Present, Discovery and Validation of MicroRNAs in Various Nephropathies and Biological Matrices).

Honours and awards

  • Winner, 2019 Best Oral Presentation, CITER ASM, Swansea, UK.
  • Winner, 2019 Excellent Shotgun Poster Presentation Award, 4th International Conference on Urinomics, Caparica, Portugal.
  • Winner, 2017 Protactinium Zone, Wellcome Trust-funded I’m a Scientist Get Me Out Of Here online forum for high-school student questions
  • Certificated Excellence award for contribution towards Spectroscopy In A Suitcase Engagement Scheme 2016-2017 (Royal Socicety of Chemistry)
  • Runner–up, 2016 Oral Presentation Award, Cardiff University School of Chemistry Bio-Organic Symposium
  • Winner, 2015 and 2016 Best Poster Presentation Award, Wales Kidney Research Unit (WKRU) Annual Meeting
  • Highly Commended, 2014 and 2015 Poster Presentation Award, Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER) Annual Meeting

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair (2014-present)
  • Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2009-present)

Academic positions

  • 2017-Present Post Doctoral Research Associate for Cardiff School of Medicine
  • 2013-2017 PhD Student demonstrator for Cardiff School of Chemistry

Committees and reviewing

  • Member of CITER engagement Committee Jan 2020-Present
  • Co-Lead, 2017 Atoms to Galaxies team of the Cardiff’s Inaugural Pint Of Science Public Engagement Event
  • Elected Chair of the CITER Postgraduate Student Society 2014-2015
  • Elected Chair of Cardiff University School of Chemistry Postgraduate Research Representatives (PGRR) for 2014-2016 (member for 2013-2017)


Working as part of the Wales Kidney Research Unit I have taken part in many outreach and engagement events. These range from public facing such as pint of science and Techniquest 'after hours'. To the more student facing such as science in health, open days and placement visits.


We have also produced a number of videos which can be found on Youtube at the following URL's