What’s it like to do a PhD in Microbiology?
Studying a PhD in Microbiology, you’ll develop a range of specialist laboratory skills particularly in microscopy, aseptic technique, and cell staining. You’ll also become proficient in techniques such as pouring agar plates and have a strong understanding of health and safety that is essential when working with Bunsen burners, which are commonly used in Microbiology. When out of the laboratory, you’ll read the literature surrounding your research topic to identify gaps in the knowledge and discover new methods.
Some typical research topics in Microbiology include:
- Development of novel antibiotics
- Studying bacteriophages and their potential use as therapeutics
- Characterising the microbiome
- Development of point of care tests for infection diagnosis
- Investigating fungi life cycle and metabolite production
- Studying a particular virus
The vast majority of Microbiology projects are advertised with the main aims and general span of the project determined by the supervisor in advance. Many of these have full funding attached, though some may request you find your own funding. Self-funding can be challenging due to the cost of bench fees as well as traditional PhD fees.
Proposing your own research project is rare in Microbiology, partly due to the challenge of self-funding, partly because you must find a supervisor with interests that overlap with your project and who has adequate equipment for practical work.
On a general workday, you’ll be performing experiments in the laboratory, planning out your upcoming work, writing up results and chatting to your supervisor and colleagues about your work. At the end of your PhD, you’ll submit a thesis of around 60,000 words and defend it during your viva exam.